Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
The emancipation of the others: Perceptions on untouchability and imperial education in 19th century India
Marcelo Caruso

Última modificación: 2017-07-17


The question of “untouchability” in South Asian cultures has always been a controversial question (Paik 2014). Although for some scholars, caste, hierarchy and the dichotomy between purity and impurity has a structural status (Dumont 1980), newer scholarship has stressed the impact of colonialism in reactivating and strengthening caste structure as a form of colonial governance (Dirks 2001). In many ways, colonial experience implied both an intensification and a fundamental criticism of the question of caste in general and of untouchability in particular (Dube 2001).  The coming of a Western type of education in India implied the idea of a common schooling. This included, in turn, the idea of a shared space and experiences that should involve morally acceptable body contact between pupils and their teachers. For some observers, offering common schools for all Indian castes proposed a space where emancipatory touching could be thinkable. The idea of principled equality of individuals was a centrepiece of the arguments in circulation, not only among the British (O’Hanlon 1985; Zelliot 2014). In this sense, dealing with Untouchability played a major role in the fashioning of Western culture as being more civilized than the South Asian one. At the same time, English colonizers were not particularly prone to touch indigenous bodies mixing racial and hygienic anxieties. Particularly, sexuality became a fundamental question in a cultural setting that could be characterized as an extended Victorianism in the colonies (Stoler 1995). The paper will present evidence about the conceptualization of untouchability in general and untouchability and education in particular, from the viewpoint of Western observations and data collection in South Asia. Drawing on an ample collection of published reports and archival materials, it will address the double discourse formation in which ritual and alien untouchability was strongly condemned and, at the same time, rationalized forms of limiting body contact prevailed. In this sense, the Western discourse on untouchability and education will mirror in some respects discourse formations taking place in the metropolis (England) and in the broader Western European cultural context.