Negotiating Tensions Of Development: A Critical Ethnography Of Education And Social Reproduction In Contemporary Rural India

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This dissertation examines negotiations over development and social reproduction through the lens of education. Drawing on qualitative research conducted between 2006 and 2008 in the Aglar valley of Jaunpur, a rural mountain block in the Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand state, north India, I show how education serves as a pivotal practice and discourse through which modern development is constituted, reproduced and negotiated as an individual experience and social trajectory of improvement and change. Education is embedded in a long-standing modernist vision of being and becoming, but through the lens of critical ethnography, I examine how this vision takes on lived meanings in a particular context. In Jaunpur, school education is seen as key to mobility and improvement through employment and educated dispositions, and for futures without agrarian, manual labor. I use the term 'education-as-development' to capture how school education and development are interwoven as projects of postcolonial governance and as sites for the social construction of modernity. I thus locate education in the broader dynamics and cultural politics of development, showing how notions of inclusion and exclusion are structured by and reproduce middle class valorization and rural dispossession. I therefore argue that education as a process of uneven socialization into a dominant 'development subjectivity', as educators in both government and alternative schools, parents and community elders, and young women and men varyingly negotiate tensions of development as they manifest in and through school education. Such negotiations generate varied forms of educated subjectivity. As an analytic frame, tensions of development thus focuses on the dynamic, shifting relationships between liberal mandates of, and potentials for, socio-economic mobility and entitlement that development represents, and the reproduction of inequality, marginality and dispossession. These are tensions that resonate deeply in global histories of capitalist modernity and contemporary projects of neo-liberal development, yet also resonate with localized experiences, contestations and struggles over resources and values, over terms of change and social reproduction. By analyzing negotiations over education as a 'contradictory resource', this dissertation thus contributes to critical understandings of dynamics that shape cultural politics of development in contemporary India and beyond.

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development; education; India


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Union Local


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McMichael, Philip David

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Gold, Ann Grodzins
Feldman, Shelley

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Development Sociology

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Ph. D., Development Sociology

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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