Risk, rakhi and romance: learning about gender and sexuality in Delhi schools. Young people’s experiences in three co-­educational, English-­medium secondary schools in New Delhi, India

Iyer, Padmini (2016) Risk, rakhi and romance: learning about gender and sexuality in Delhi schools. Young people’s experiences in three co-­educational, English-­medium secondary schools in New Delhi, India. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Based on multi­‐method research with Class 11 students (aged 15-17) and their teachers at three English­‐medium, co-educational secondary schools in Delhi over nine months in 2013­‐14, this thesis explores how young people’s understandings and experiences relate to national and international understandings of gender, sexuality and education. The thesis examines the interplay between institutional practices and students’ agency within schools (drawing on Connell’s 2000 framework), while I use the concept of ‘sexual learning’ in order to consider young people’s experiences both within and beyond the classroom (Thomson & Scott 1991).

Study findings indicate the influence of concerns about adolescent sexuality on school curricula and on disciplinary practices, which sought to maintain gender segregation in co­-educational spaces. The thesis also reveals the ways in which narratives of girlhood and masculinities shaped young people’s lives; particularly in the wake of the December 2012 gang rape case in Delhi, these gender narratives were both contradicted and reinforced by seemingly ubiquitous stories of sexual violence. Stories of sexual violence also formed a source of gendered, risk­‐based sexual learning, which reinforced risk­‐based narratives of sexuality within formal and informal sources of sexual learning accessed by young people.

The thesis also reveals heterosocial dynamics within school peer cultures as an important source of sexual learning. Students proved adept at negotiating assumptions about ‘appropriate’ interactions such as idealized rakhi (brother-sister) relationships, and formed less restrictive heterosocial friendships and romantic relationships. In particular, stories about peer romances emerged as an alternative source of sexual learning, which undermined dominant risk­‐based narratives of young people’s sexuality and offered more positive understandings of pleasure and intimacy.

A key methodological contribution is the use of a narrative analytical framework in which Plummer’s (1995) sexual stories are considered in terms of Andrews’ (2014) political narratives. Using this framework, the thesis examines the text and context of ‘small stories’ told within research encounters, and the interrelations between these micro­‐narratives and macro-narratives of gender, sexuality and education in post­‐liberalization India. This framework facilitates the examination of interrelations between local experiences and national and international understandings in the thesis.

A key substantive contribution of the study is to address a lack of research on how young people learn about gender and sexuality in Indian schools. As the study largely captures the experiences of urban, middle­‐class young people, the thesis also contributes to the existing body of literature on middle­‐class experiences in post­‐liberalization India (e.g. Gilbertson 2014; Sancho 2012; Donner & De Neve 2011; Lukose 2009), and specifically underlines the importance of education as a site for middle­‐class young people’s negotiation of gendered and sexual politics.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The Family. Marriage. Women > HQ0012 Sexual life > HQ0031 Sex instruction and sexual ethics
L Education > LG Individual institutions (Asia. Africa. Oceania) > LG021 Asia > LG060 India. Pakistan. Bangladesh. Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar). Sri Lanka. Nepal
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2016 08:38
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2016 08:38
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/59533

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