South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Educating the Poor: Colonial Classrooms and Pedagogies in Kerala

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Maple, Lower Ground Floor

The emergence of the colonial school classroom in Kerala cannot be located in the idea of the 'local' alone. As a product of transregional encounters, the colonial classroom was transformed by a range of actors, among whom, European Christian missionaries in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were the most significant. Armed with the Bible and resources of literacy, they began establishing different schools for colonized children but were unable to transcend prevalent hierarchies of power. These missionaries, located at a lower class status within their own societies, targetted colonized children in order to forge 'model' Christian communities. But who should learn and how much were also undercut by inequalities of gender, race, and dominant caste relations existent in colonial Kerala, which these missions schools reconfigured to gain a unique position for themselves. A Christian education was targetted at transforming the self and inscribing markers of colonial modernity. But the poor, namely the untouchable castes of Kerala, became subjects of an experiment that produced new inequalities. A school education, thus, moved beyond immediate aims of religious conversion became the plank on which individual and community identities, faith, and moral registers were formed with related tensions and ambiguities. This was also reflected in the adoption of certain missionary pedagogies which treated the laboring poor as the burden of a 'double' civilizing mission- one of moralizing the colonized, in general, and the other, that of reforming the savage poor, in particular.

Divya Kannan

University of Delhi, India

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1 - Educating the Poor: Colonial Classrooms and Pedagogies in Kerala



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