Accepted paper:

The aesthetics of conversion to school education in rural Chhattisgarh

Authors:

Peggy Froerer (Brunel University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is about this process of ‘conversion’ to a pro-schooling perspective, the aesthetics that have accompanied this process, and the significance that this phenomenon has had for both those who have converted (Christians and Hindus alike) and those who have not.

Paper long abstract:

In Mohanpur, a mixed Christian/Hindu adivasi village in rural Chhattisgarh, formal education was introduced three decades ago with the construction of the village primary school. For two decades following this, schooling held little value for most local people, as it was perceived to offer little in the way of practical returns. In the past 10 years, there has been a significant shift in people's perspectives on the utility of schooling, which is broadly linked to government campaigns that promote education throughout India. It is also related to initiatives taken by the Church and the RSS. This shift from anti- to pro-schooling can be viewed as a kind of 'conversion' that is underscored by the adoption of a new set of beliefs related to the positive valuation of education. In association with these beliefs, schooling has come to be viewed as valuable, but mainly in terms of locally-defined forms of utility (literacy, marriage) - not in terms of the potential for economic gains. Accompanying this conversion is a kind of aesthetics, which sets 'converts' apart from 'non-believers'. This aesthetics is manifested by dress and comportment, but it also takes less material forms that are manifested by confidence, self image, and the propagation of a particular kind of world view. This paper is about this process of 'conversion' to a pro-schooling perspective, the aesthetics that have accompanied this process, and the significance that this phenomenon has had for both those who have converted (Christians and Hindus alike) and those who have not.

panel P05
Aesthetics of conversion