Caste/Tribe, Class and Education in Jharkhand, India.
Robert Higham, Education, Institute of Education, University of London
email@example.com. & Alpa Shah, Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London
Situated in the debate over the relationship between caste and class, this paper explores the ways in which the combined effects of increased educational opportunities and, in particular, policies of affirmative action, are enabling tribal youth to challenge the historical domination of higher castes in rural Jharkhand, India. Under the state’s current drive for universal elementary education, affirmative action has played a significant role in enabling contemporary tribal youth to benefit both from an expansion of education provision and the creation of reserved jobs for Scheduled Tribes in the rural areas through the recruitment for thousands of para teacher and Village Education Committee posts. Jobs which otherwise would have been monopolized by historically dominant higher castes are now increasingly accessed by tribals. However, weary of unequivocally cheering on reservations, the paper outlines how the transformation of embedded rural hierarchies is also accompanied by the production of new divisions and inequalities. Education and affirmative action nurture the seeds of a new tribal middle class with quite different values to its poorer counterparts. The paper explores how the new class of tribals are emulating the earlier dominant higher castes, sanskritising and as a result producing new hierarchies and sources of tension between generations, men and women, and in relation to their poorer illiterate kin. Affirmative action policies are thus simultaneously enabling the tribals to challenge established rural hierarchies and are leading to the production of class differentiation and new inequalities amongst tribals.