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Title: Subaltern literacies : writing, ethnography and the state
Author: Maddox, Bryan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 4945
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2001
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The thesis explores the theme of 'literacy and subalterneity' in two linked contexts; colonial Bengal and contemporary Bangladesh. It draws both from my ethnographic field research in the rural north-west of Bangladesh and from archive-based research, and in doing so provides a critical historical perspective which reflexively informs my representations of the colonial past and the ethnographic present. The thesis begins by presenting a theoretical framework for the study. In doing so it draws from two contrasting academic fields - contemporary ethnographic writing on literacy (informed by anthropological theory and research), and the historically focussed studies presented in the journal 'Subaltern Studies: Writings on South Asian History and Society' and associated writing. I argue that these two academic fields present radically contrasting views of literacy. Whereas ethnographic writing tends to emphasise the cultural diversity of social uses and meanings of literacy, I argue that the 'subaltern studies' writing has largely presented literacy as a singular and repressive phenomenon in its representations of literacy in colonial India. The first part of the thesis locates the study in Bengal, and sets out the theoretical framework of the study including an extensive discussion of literacy, subalterneity, representational power and commodity fetishism. The research data used in the first part is developed from close readings of nineteenth century archive material and Indian census reports. The second part of the thesis expands on these themes in relation to my own ethnographic research in Bangladesh. In doing so I reflexively link the historical themes developed in the first part of the thesis to the context of contemporary ethnographic research. As a result of this reflexive historical and contemporary analysis I develop new perspectives on literacy and ethnographic research, gender and power, religious practice and economic development.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available