Academic Papers / Undergraduate Ethnography Abroad

Evening the Score: CREST’s Destabilization of Caste-Structured Distribution of Capital In Contemporary Kerala

By Sam Tait

Long heralded as an oasis of ‘development,’ democracy, literacy, gender­equality, caste ­consciousness and political mobilization against the formalized caste system (Devika 2010; Steur 2009), in truth, structural inequality arranged across caste ­lines persists in Kerala (Mosse 2010; Nampoothiri 2009; Isac 2011). Dr. Susamma Isac, a project officer at CREST, asserts that in Kerala “the gap in literacy and education between non-­tribal and tribal people… is striking” (2011:7). D.D. Nampoothiri, CREST’s executive director, argues that in the context of economic liberalization, neoliberal trends including the privatization of education have “tended to reproduce the weak access of Dalit/Adivasi candidates to higher education opportunities… reflected in their relegation to largely uneconomic occupations such as agriculture/allied labour and unskilled work in post­independence Kerala” (2009:258­9).

While Kerala boasts universal literacy and near­universal enrollment in primary and secondary education (Nampoothiri 2009)inequality in education has deepened and broadened substantially…. [A] child’s caste/community, gender and class now determine which school is to be attended; a new hierarchy of access is in place” (258­60). This hierarchy of access is evidenced by the fact that many of CREST’s students are some of, and in some cases are, the first individuals from their communities to attain or pursue higher education. Lower rates of higher­ and post­secondary education in ST, SC and OEC (Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, and Other Eligible Communities) result in a lack of awareness of the mechanics of the institutional structures that must be navigated to realize individuals’ ambitions. The collusion of unequal access to quality education and a paucity of social actors living in these communities that have attended higher­ and post­secondary education constitutes a disproportionate lack of social capital endemic to ST, SC and OEC’ populations.

Read the full paper by Sam Tait here: Evening the Score – CRESTs Destablization of Caste Structured Distribution of Capital in Contemporary Kerala

 

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