Skip to main content

Véronique Benei
Schooling India
Hindus, Muslims, and the Forging of Citizens

This book explores an important yet often overlooked aspect of nationalism—its embodied and emotional dimensions. It does so by focusing on a neglected area, that of elementary education in the modern state.

Through an ethnographic study of primary schools in western India, Véronique Benei examines the idioms through which teachers, students, and parents make meaning of their political world. She articulates how urban middle- and lower-class citizens negotiate the processes of self-making through the minutiae of daily life at school and extracurricular activities, ranging from school trips to competitions and parent gatherings.

To document how processes of identity formation are embodied, Benei draws upon historical and cultural repertoires of emotionality and language-use. Her book shifts the normal focus of attention away from apocalyptic communal violence—she looks instead at everyday or ‘banal nationalism’. Attentive to the formulation of ‘senses of belonging’, she explores the sensory production and daily manufacture of nationhood and citizenship, as well as how nationalism is nurtured in a nation’s youth.

Historians, sociologists, students of politics and nationalism as well as educationists will be enriched by this careful and detailed study of the often ignored nuances involved in the making of communities such as Hindus and Muslims within the framework of the Indian nation.

VÉRONIQUE BENEI is Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics, Department of Anthropology where she has taught since 1997, and holds a permanent position as Senior Research Fellow with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (LAIOS/IIAC). She has also taught at Princeton University and Yale University.

“Benei's compelling ethnography is much more than a book about schooling; it’s about schooling in the service of the nation, how schooling functions to create citizens, and how nationalism is inculcated in our youth. I have seldom read a more powerful, beautifully written book.”—Susan Wadley

“ … a major contribution to the study of nationalism and to the burgeoning field of anthropology of emotions … a rich ethnographic study of mundane educational practices based on a deep understanding of their historical context. She pays meticulous attention to the details of language use, to songs and to the everyday disciplines of schooling … analyses emotions and the corporeal, while also reminding us that language is at the heart of cultural and political passions: what matters is how, when, and in which style, one declares one's love for the nation.” —Thomas Blom Hansen

“ … examines the role played by schooling in the production of nationalist identities … a highly nuanced account of political acculturation. She skilfully illustrates how her ideas mesh with other theoretical work and intersperses her detailed account with reflections on the wider comparative implications of her study … looks beyond the immediate and sometimes superficial changes that accompanied the rise of Hindu Nationalism …”— Craig Jeffrey

Hardback / 368pp with 19 b/w pix / Rs 695 / ISBN 81-7824-263-X / South Asia rights / Copublished with Stanford University Press / June 2009

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

THE GREAT AGRARIAN CONQUEST by NEELADRI BHATTACHARYA

BUY THE PAPERBACK       FROM THE REVIEWS   Review in SOCIAL HISTORY, USA by Benjamin Siegel The Great Agrarian Conquest represents a massive intervention into the contemporary historiography of South Asia, elaborating upon some conventional wisdom but upending a great deal more of it. Readers might well place this book in conversation with works like Ranajit Guha ’ s A Rule of Property for Bengal (1963) and Bernard Cohn ’ s Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge (1997), to which The Great Agrarian Conquest owes some preliminary inspiration. Yet what Bhattacharya o ff ers is a wholly original account of the transformation to agrarian colonialism . . .   Few volumes in South Asian history have been more awaited than this monograph, Neeladri Bhattacharya ’ s fi rst. One of the most celebrated mentors and researchers at New Delhi ’ s Jawaharlal Nehru University, Bhattacharya retired in 2017 after a decades-long career. His formal scholarly output, limited to sev

"Every nationality has its own distinct stench": by G. Kanato Chophy

A wonderfully written and deeply moving new book on society and history in Nagaland over the past couple of centuries has just been published by Permanent Black and Ashoka University in collaboration with the New India Foundation. Its young author, G. Kanato Chophy, is one of the brightest Naga scholars on the Indian horizon from the north-east. Permanent Black asked Kanato to reflect on what’s in his book and why he wrote it. For some time now I’ve been wanting to work on a book called “constitutional Indians” – a concept that I have briefly touched upon in the conclusion of the book you’ve just published. My argument in it is that, for a putatively renegade ethnic community like the Nagas, the “idea of India” hangs precariously in the balance, supported by a piece of paper, the Indian Constitution, which we have until recently understood as a guarantee of equal rights to Indian citizens irrespective of religion, ethnicity, class, and gender. I belong to an emerging class of educated

Dhriti K. Lahiri Choudhury

We are very sad to know that Professor Dhriti K. Lahiri Choudhury has passed away. He died on Friday morning in Calcutta.  Dr Lahiri Choudhury, born in 1931, did many things: with a PhD from Leeds in English Literature, he combined his work with elephants with teaching at Rabindra Bharati University. He was a member of the IUCN elephant group and of Project Elephant. It was a joy for us to publish his Trunk Full of Tales: Seventy Years with the Indian Elephant -- the editorial sessions involved long, old-style sessions of story-telling which should have been around a campfire. He would tell of his many hair-raising journeys across Assam, Meghalaya, Bengal, the Barak Valley and elsewhere, in search of rogue elephants or on arduous elephant surveys, when the evenings always began with emptying blood-soaked boots of leeches; he would talk lovingly of the elephants in his childhood home in Mymensingh -- now in Bangladesh -- their names and foibles; and of drinking elephant milk