Organized Panel Session
In recent decades, countries throughout Asia have witnessed the rise of an urban middle class and a broadening of educational opportunities for both men and women. Education is often recognized as key to achieving aspirations and schools can be places where hope flourishes. However, anthropological studies of education have shown that schooling often reproduces the social distinctions it claims to erase; that the capacity to hope is not evenly distributed; and that sometimes educational achievements come with new limitations and social pressures on both young men and women. This panel considers these themes through the lens of religiously-minded subjects in South and Southeast Asia. A case study of Buddhist social outreach programs in urban Vietnam illustrates how religious training is being tailored to the perceived social ails of the contemporary market economy. In an elite Indonesian Islamic boarding school for girls, learning to embody a sense of personal motivation is explicitly tied to the social obligations of young women to their religious and national communities. Drawing on similar themes of gendered social duties, a case study from India illustrates how a young woman navigates the new opportunities afforded her by a college degree while adhering to Hindu guidelines of feminine respectability. A final paper turns to a private Catholic school in Sulawesi where Christian values are viewed as key to ensuring a corruption-free Indonesia. Each of the papers takes up the varied roles of hope and aspiration in cultural and religious messages about education and achievement among middle-class Asians.