Colonial, postcolonial and global formations of elite schools

Room 524, School of Education Building R19
Research, Social Sciences, Students
Wednesday 4th December 2013 (12:30-16:15)
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This Symposium examined a range of issues relating to the colonial and post-colonial formations of elite schools – how their histories continue to shape many aspects of their work, and the ways in which they interpret and negotiate the pressures and opportunities associated with globalization. The discussion was based on the work of a major international project funded by the Australian Research Council. The project, 'Elite schools in globalizing circumstances', involves a multi-sited global ethnographic study of high status schools in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Barbados, South Africa, England, Argentina and Cyprus, each created in the nineteenth century in the image of British public schools. At this symposium, three leading researchers working on the project, discussed how new race, class and gender formations are emerging at these schools, shaped by global forces, connections and imaginations.

Speakers and presentations

Dr. Johannah Fahey, Monash University

Histories make Geographies, Geographies make Class: British colonialism and class making in an elite school in India

"The working class made itself as much as it was made." E P Thompson

Thompson points out that class making and class analysis are fundamentally historical processes. Furthermore, precisely because class is constituted by history it neither develops in isolation nor is it a static entity; rather it needs to be thought of relationally and as always in process. I examine how class is made (and unmade) in relation to history. I seek to multiply the horizons of understandings of class by looking at the ways in which British colonialism, as a particular historical moment with ongoing effects, shaped class making in one elite school in India. Using Ripon College as the context of my analysis, I theorize the unique relationship between caste, class and history by mobilizing Appadurai’s (2013) notion that ‘histories make geographies’. I will argue that colonialism is a global historical force that intersects with already existing histories to create new histories in India. I will also suggest that the confluence of these histories in Ripon College means that class is manifest in a particular way, and that the legacy of this class making colonizing process still lives on in part today.

Appadurai, A. (2013) The Future as Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition, Verso books

Thompson, E. P. (1991) The Making of the English Working Class. Toronto: Penguin Books.

Professor Fazal Rizvi, Graduate School of Education, Melbourne University

Indian Aristocracy and the Colonial Formation of Elite Schools in India

In this paper, I will examine the role that the Indian aristocracy played in the formation of elite schools in India in the late nineteenth century. I will describe how the formation of these schools took place at the political intersection of the attempts by the British colonial authorities to exploit the cultural and symbolic capital of the Indian aristocracy and the complicity of the Indian aristocracy to cooperate with the British, in order to preserve its status and privileges within the traditional caste system in India. Since independence, most of the trappings of the Indian system of aristocracy have ceased to exist, with the formal abolition of the titles, such as Nawabs and Maharajahs, along with the privy purse, the Government grants to former ruling families. However, using data from a large international project on elite schools in globalizing circumstances, I want to argue in this paper, that aristocratic privileges continue to play a significant role in social constitution of an elite school in India, albeit in forms that are no longer so overt. In particular, I will show how the governance of this school continues to reflect aristocratic interests, and how the school in its covert curriculum still celebrates many of the values that were developed during the British Raj.

Professor Cameron McCarthy, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Scholars on Their Way to Entrepreneurs: Barbadian Elite School Youth as Postcolonial Argonauts

My presentation will direct attention to a critical but neglected concern in the area of globalization studies: that is, the role of schooling—in this case elite secondary schools in the former British colony of Barbados—in transnational class formation and the preparation of highly-mobile school youth for globalizing futures. Specifically, I will report on some of the early findings related to a multi-sited ethnographic study of two Barbadian elite secondary grammar schools and the way they are preparing young people for globalizing futures. Based on early findings derived from semi-structured interviews, document analysis, and policy evaluation, the central organizing claim of my research is that the reproduction of transnational elites in the Barbadian schools is a complex and deeply conflicted process. As the post-independence Barbadian educational system strikes out a path of indigenization and national ownership of education away from a British colonial inheritance, it must contend with the powerful crosscurrents of the policy imperatives and pressures of globalization and the real existing circumstance that Barbadian young people are culturally orienting to the United States and Canada, immigrating in large numbers to pursue their professional futures in North America.