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Daughters of the lesser god: Dalit women's education in postcolonial Pune

By Shailaja Paik


'Daughters of the Lesser God: Dalit Women's Education in Postcolonial Pune' examines the nexus between caste, gender and state pedagogical practices in relationship to Dalit (exuntouchable) women ofPune (India). Based on interviews with three generations of Dalit women, it examines the ways in which they have experienced and made use of their formal education in schools and colleges. It traces their lives as they have over the generations migrated from rural areas to the cities, and from city slums to, in some cases, middle-class neighbourhoods. The women belong to two Dalit communities - the Mahars and the Matangs - who are traditionally rivals and competitors. It is argued that the education system discriminates against Dalit women in ways that mirror their socio-economic and religious disabilities. Dalits valourise institutes of formal education for escaping their historical and contemporary degeneration. They look upon education as a primary means of gaining employment, and of advancing economically and socially. Nonetheless, the process of education frequently subjects Dalit girls to humiliating experiences that smothers the hopes of many. These are described and analysed in detail, revealing how the caste system subjects Dalit in general, and Dalit women in particular, to the· 'physical and mental violence' of constant indignities and humiliations. Although the recently burgeoning writing by Dalits has a lot to say on the experience of Dalit men, Dalit women are largely neglected in this literature - something that this thesis seeks to rectify. The thesis also interrogates the ways in which culture is deployed and represented, showing how the process of subjectivation works to produce not merely forms of domination but also complicity and dissent. In recent years, increasing numbers of Dalit women have found ways of resisting the prevalent hegemony, and the research pinpoints the ways in which some have managed to use the education system to their advantage. Wider questions are raised about the ways that the Dalits, and specifically Dalit women, create spaces and sites for their own self-assertion and betterment, and how they engage with modernity in other ways. The dissertation is concerned with contributing to and furthering the dialogue on gendering education and caste. Dalit lives are built on a long history of suffering, anxiety, desire, and struggle, and the creative visions of social justice put forward by Dalits can continue to inspire and shape the consciousness of local and transnational participants in their battles against oppressive and exploitative systems

Topics: DS
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:1157

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