Provincialism in Modern India: the Multiple Narratives of Education and their Pain

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History (CMC)

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‘Provincialism’, or the separation of inferior spaces from normative ones, is seen in this essay as a key trope for interpreting modern Indian history. I look at the case of education, and specifically of educational buildings and spaces to demonstrate this. I adopt the technique of multiple narratives to forefront different arguments regarding the nature of provincialism: narratives of the colonial state, of the community, and of the child,. The narrative of the state revolves around an inferiorization of Indian spatial practices, and of a shortage of funds to produce a new set of practices. The narrative of the community forefronts the indigenous school which continued to flourish in the site of the home, of the mother and early socialization, and of caste as a site of reproduction of skills and ethos. The narrative of the provincial child can be understood partly by contrast to the ‘presidency’ or metropolitan child, as one that does not discover the past or tradition, because he does not move away. The experience of the provincial child of an incomplete education, of the politics of the community, and of immobility, should be narrated as a double pain: the pain of a disciplining such as is the fate of all children, and the pain of social immobility in the future. I use history, anthropology, and fiction as my methodology and sources. The hypothesis and conclusions concern the nature of historical interpretation possible for this topic as much as they do the nature of provincialism itself.

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© 2011 Oxford University Press