IISER Mohali, Knowledge city, Sector 81, SAS Nagar, Manauli PO 140306

‘Taleem-yaftaladkiyan’ (Educated Girls): Schooling, Identity and Aspirations among Muslim women in Old Delhi

Dr. Madhulika Sonkar (Faculty Candidate), Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi

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Location Online
The question of Muslim education in India has been debated and discussed in the context of minority rights and the marginalization of Muslims within India, particularly in the decade after the findings of the Sachar Commission were published. As Muslim women were represented through the tropes of purdah, polygamy and personal laws, it subsequently rendered them as singular.

Departing from the assumption that Muslim women need saving (from Muslim men and from their religious habitus), my talk will focus on the multiple axes of education, aspiration and mobility that structure the everyday lives of Muslim women in Ballimaran, a historic neighbourhood in Old Delhi. Based on the ethnographic study of a four-decade old English-medium, Muslim minority girls’ school in Old Delhi, the talk will analyse the minutiae of Muslim women’s educational trajectories in the making of educated womanhood.

I will examine the possibilities of the category ‘taleem-yafta’, or educated, generated as Muslim women in Old Delhi find themselves negotiating the complex terrain of class,beraderi, Islam, state and gender in the course of their educational pathways. Becoming ‘taleem-yafta’ is then situated as a far more dynamic social process – perceived as a strategic response to everyday processes involving decision-making in family, occupational choices, marital aspirations and intergenerational mobility. I argue that the meanings of educated womanhood that young Muslim women derive from a certain kind of schooling exceed the institutional structure of formal educational system.

Through the structure-agency paradigm and an intersectional feminist framework, my study posits gender and education as discursive sites for construction and reconstruction of identities across diverse contexts. The study counters the long-standing imagery of the Muslim woman as passive and docile by building on the voices and narratives of the women themselves. This kind of an approach further helps broaden the scope of understanding Muslim women’s education in sociology through a nuanced analysis of women’s distinct social locations and self-definitions of acceptance, subversion, rejection, and negotiation in everyday life.

The talk hopes to go beyond the binary distinctions of educated-uneducated, employed-unemployed, and madrasa-western schooling that constantly define Muslims in South Asia.

Meeting ID: 929 6703 2438
Passcode: 042551
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