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Paper 81

Situating Knowledge: Towards an Anti-caste Pedagogy

Dr Anandita Pan, Assistant Professor of English, India Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India


The Reservation Policy in India claims to address caste discrimination by promoting equality through economic and educational opportunities. Equal opportunities, however, do not often translate into equality. The inherent fallacy in dominant educational methods lies at viewing education as a vessel to impose dominant culture, as opposed to education as a means of empowerment. My query into caste and pedagogy emerges from such lacunae. Education remains one of the most prominent tools used to disseminate dominant ideologies and perpetuate oppression. Whether it is the Brahmanical control over Vedic knowledge or the colonial validation of English education as a superior form of knowledge, education inculcates among the oppressed the legitimacy of oppression. Curriculum-building in India has been impacted by the realities of colonialism and India’s independence from it (Batra, 2020). Macaulay’s policy of creating a new group of the colonized who are ‘Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect,’ gave birth to building a syllabus introducing English literature to the colonies. Since curriculum is intrinsically linked with nation-building, the Brahmanical patriarchal tendencies prevailed in the nationalist approaches to anti-colonial education as well.

The important contrast between the anti-colonial and the anti-caste discourses towards education lies in their portrayal of a unified national identity by the former, and its fracturing by recognising caste as an intrinsic problem by the latter group. The return to the ‘glorious past’, as a method to formulate anti-colonial knowledge, strategically erased anti-caste movements that laid bare the fractures within the nation. With reference to pedagogy, casteism serves two purposes: firstly, it instills casteist values and practices as norm, and secondly, it erases the histories of violence on dalits and opposition by dalits. Traditional method of education suffers from what Paolo Freire calls ‘narration sickness.’ In this form of imparting knowledge there is usually a teacher who narrates/implants knowledge on the patient, silent, objectified students.

A dalit critique of knowledge systems reveals pedagogies and pedagogical practices in relation to Brahmanical canonisation. How can this dominance be challenged? How to create a space for alternative pedagogies to emerge? Any discussion on pedagogy needs to begin by situating it within the larger frameworks of power relations. How to bring the real world into the classroom? How to convert classrooms into spaces for engaged discussions about real life? For this we need to rephrase ‘education’ as ‘situated knowledge’. A conscious pedagogy needs to combine an inquiry into dominant social practices and pedagogical practices within classrooms. This paper argues that the challenges towards an egalitarian pedagogy emanate from the social identities rooted in caste that travel across the classrooms. By linking education with the nexus of networks of exclusion, this paper aims to offer possible ways to achieve an alternative, emancipatory pedagogy.

Keywords: Pedagogy, Caste, Situated Knowledge, Banking Model, Education

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