The production of distinction: a study of classed subjectivities in an international school in provincial India

Iyer, Suvasini Chandrasekharan (2020) The production of distinction: a study of classed subjectivities in an international school in provincial India. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis examines the production of classed subjectivities in an international school in provincial India. The relationship of schooling with social class is a relatively unexplored area in the Indian educational research context. Further, in addressing the everyday practices of an international school in provincial India, this study addresses a major research lacuna.
The thesis is based on an ethnographic study conducted within an International Baccalaureate school from August 2015 to May 2016. The chief participants were first year students of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in a school in Coimbatore district, a provincial region in Tamil Nadu. Its clientele comprised of professional, industrial and business families from the dominant caste groups of the region, including Gounders, Naidus, Marwaris and Brahmans. During the fieldwork I conducted extensive observations of classroom and wider school activities, as well as interviews with students, parents and school staff. I also used questionnaires to probe students’ perspectives on their education.
The analysis of my ethnographic data drew predominantly on post-structural theoretical perspectives that understand class as discursively produced and intersecting with caste and gender. The analysis highlights how sophisticated disciplinary technologies were deployed in the school to produce a ‘self-regulated’ subject. It describes the different practices in the school through which students gained distinction. These included speaking English in de-indigenised ways, demonstrating mastery over technology and constructing a self-narrative which valorised the self through claims to various capitals. Through such practices, a ‘good student’ subject was produced, constructed as capable of successfully navigating the globalising world. Here, while identification with western nations was central to students’ claims to distinction, the nation was conspicuously missing in their symbolic world. On the other hand, students’ family contexts remained significant to their educational and occupational imaginaries. These were markedly gendered and conformed to the dominant caste regimes in the region. Students’ aspirational imaginaries were also shaped by the dominant culture of privatised higher education in the region.
In addition to theoretical and methodological contributions, my study illuminates the educational practices of non-traditional middle classes in provincial India and underlines the need to situate the academic narrative about the Indian middle classes in specific contexts. It powerfully highlights the misrecognitions at work in the ways schooling contributes to the production of privileged identities, by unpacking how social hierarchies get re-written in the language of individual abilities. In presenting an intersectional analysis, my thesis also contributes to a complexified understanding of how schooling is related to larger forces of the state, market and traditional gender and caste regimes. Finally, it highlights the shifting truth regimes in this context where an understanding of education as a market commodity is fast gaining currency.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC0065 Social aspects of education > LC0068 Demographic aspects of education
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: 28 Jul 2020 10:52
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2021 07:53

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