Of Nation and State: Language, School, and the Reproduction of Disparity in a North Indian City

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Fall 2007

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Anthropological Quarterly

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Banaras, a city located in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, offers its residents many types of schools for pre-university education. This article argues that only some schools, those bifurcated by a distinction between ones that utilize Hindi and ones that utilize English, cater to those people who belong to what a large number of media venues and scholars call India's "new middle class." By using the growingly salient notion of language ideology, this article explores the ways in which particular constructions of the Indian nation and state emerge from discursive reflection on schools in Banaras. When reflecting on the language in which classroom practice occurs in a school, people in Banaras foreground the nation as an organizing idiom, whereas when reflecting on school practices such as the collection of school fees and the affiliation of a school with an administrative board, people in Banaras foreground the state. By tracing the very different parameters of moral judgment that emerge within the two domains, this article calls for the study of constructions of the nation and state that illustrate the possibilities of their conceptualization in tandem.

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