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Conservative force or contradictory resource?: education and affirmative action in Jharkhand, India

Higham, Rob and Shah, Alpa ORCID: 0000-0003-1233-6516 (2013) Conservative force or contradictory resource?: education and affirmative action in Jharkhand, India. Compare: a Journal of Comparative and International Education, 43 (6). pp. 718-739. ISSN 0305-7925

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Identification Number: 10.1080/03057925.2012.746897


This article explores the combination of education and affirmative action in challenging historic inequalities faced by adivasis, or indigenous peoples, living in a remote region of Eastern India. We show how the combined effects of education and affirmative action can act as a 'contradictory resource'. On the one hand, policies of affirmative action are enabling young educated adivasis - the children of subsistence farmers and manual labourers - to benefit from the creation of new, rural state jobs. We show how without affirmative action, such jobs may well have been monopolised by a local elite of higher castes. On the other hand, we argue several conservative processes have accompanied these changes. First, the reserved jobs secured by adivasis are relatively badly paid and insecure. Second, these jobs have not enabled relative progress for adivasis vis-à-vis traditional elites who are moving out of rural areas and diversifying their livelihoods. Third, young educated adivasis have begun to emulate the norms, values and ways of life of the local elite. This 'culture of emulation' is fostering new inequalities between educated adivasis and their poorer kin, who face increasing proletarianisation. The contradictory resource, we argue, concerns not only inequalities in accessing certain jobs, but also the creation of new forms of differentiation among historically marginalised people. We conclude by setting these findings within the wider complex relations emerging between caste, ethnicity and class in contemporary India.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 British Association for International and Comparative Education
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
University Structure > Language Centre
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2013 15:43
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 01:37

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