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Title: Contemporary Muslim girlhoods in Assam : questions of recognition and redistribution in education
Author: Hussain, Saba
ISNI:       0000 0004 6423 6805
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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Based on empirical research in Nagaon, India, this study offers a post-colonial feminist analysis of subjectivities available to Muslim girls in contemporary Assam and the ways in which these girls inhabit and negotiate these subjectivities. To understand the subjectivities made available to Muslim girls, I first investigate how government policies for education authorize certain types of subjective possibilities for Muslim girls. I then analyze the narratives of teachers and parents to understand how gender, class, ethnicity and religion intersect in different ways to confer certain subjectivities as well as to challenge and reinforce the conferred subjectivities. Finally, I discuss Muslim girls’ reconstructions of self through a combination of resistance and conformity to the conferred subjectivities. The study begins by locating this research in the context of the wider sociological literature highlighting Muslim women’s overall invisibility, key gaps in understandings of contemporary Muslim girlhoods and the limitation of the liberal feminist conception of agency as resistance. Methodologically, the study combines an analysis of educational equality policies, data from interviews with Muslim girls, their teachers, and parents, and focus group discussions across five different types of schools in Nagaon. The conceptual framework has been drawn from the scholarships of Nancy Fraser’s perspectival dualism and Pierre Bourdieu’s cultural authorization, as appropriated by feminist scholars. Fraser’s perspectival dualism approach and the distinction between affirmative and transformative justice provide tools to understand various types of injustices at different levels (inter and intragroup) in the lives of school going Muslim girls. Feminist appropriations of Bourdieu help to think through discourses about class, gender, religion and ethnicity through which subjectivities are conferred upon Muslim girls. The Muslim girls’ responses to these conferred subjectivities are understood using the concepts of reflexivity, and agency conceptualized as resilience. The thesis concludes that the equal opportunity policy framework constitutes and normalizes the subjectivities of Muslim girls as economically subordinate and as culturally different. These abstract policy pronouncements are made real in the schools through teachers’ perception of deficit in culture, morality, merit, and language. Muslim parents challenge the teachers’ and policy perspectives through their investment in the idea of good girlhood that serves as a marker for ‘good families’, symbolically authorizing them as middle-class. Muslim girls resist and conform to the subjectivities conferred in the policies, by teachers and parents using their reflexive abilities. Mostly these negotiations are based on ad-hoc individual gains, rather than a transformative, collective feminist politics. They enable these girls to disrupt and negotiate the narratives ‘about’ them. Overall this thesis offers an alternative to identitarian politics or cultural explanations of Muslim women’s educational ‘backwardness’ in India, by applying insights from Fraser and Bourdieu to Muslim women’s intersectional educational disadvantage. The thesis also directs focus upon Muslim girls’ agency as encompassing their ‘reflexive’ articulation of suffering, conformity, and resistance to the subjectivities conferred upon them. This study offers an original contribution to the study of gendered minorities, institutions and relationships in the post-colonial contexts.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University of Warwick
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HM Sociology