Social Stratification and the Distribution of Capital in Kerala, India: Applying Bourdieu to the Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation

Sam Ira Tait

Abstract


Long heralded as an oasis of caste ­consciousness and political mobilization against the formalized caste system in India (Devika, 2010; Steur, 2009), in truth, structural inequality arranged across caste lines persists in the state of Kerala (Mosse, 2010; Nampoothiri, 2009; Isac, 2011). In Kerala, and in India more broadly, inequality is maintained through social categorization; social networks emerging from and mirroring the divisions between castes impart dis/advantages to their members. In the midst of India’s economic liberalization, neoliberal trends including the privatization of education have ossified structures of access to higher education and, as such, competitive employment opportunities (Nampoothiri, 2009). Members of the dominant or ‘upper’ castes continue to be awarded disproportionate access to that which their society values and the tools necessary to succeed while Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities operate at a structural disadvantage. This systemic unequal access is precisely what the Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation (CREST) - an autonomous institution that seeks to enhance the employability of ST, SC and other eligible communities in Kerala - aims to address. I situate the ethnographic fieldwork I conducted at CREST within the theoretical framework outlined in Bourdieu’s (1986) seminal work The Forms of Capital. This approach elucidates the mechanisms through which CREST prepares ST, SC and other eligible communities’ graduates to succeed in contemporary Kerala’s competitive job market. I demonstrate how CREST facilitates the cultivation, adoption and transmission of cultural and social capital among its students and their communities, effectively increasing their capacity for socio-economic mobility. Furthermore, I discuss the potential of CREST to encourage its students’ development of critical perspectives on caste-disparity in their home state.


Keywords


caste; inequality; disparity; Kerala; India; capital; social capital; cultural capital; Bourdieu; ethnography; social mobility; socio-economic mobility; economic liberalization; neoliberalism; poverty; social reproduction; scheduled tribe; scheduled caste

Full Text:

PDF

References


Appadurai, A. (2004). The capacity to aspire: Culture and the terms of

recognition. In R. Vijayendra, & M. Walton (Eds.), Culture and public

action (pp. 59-84). Stanford: Stanford University Press.

http://www.laboratorio-suigeneris.net/IMG/pdf/The_Capacity_to_Aspir

e_pre-pub_.pdf

Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook

of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241-258).

New York: Greenwood.

Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation (n.d).

Programs. Retrieved from http://crestcalicut.com/programs.php

Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation (2015).

PGCCPD batch 26 code of student conduct. Kozhrikode, KL: CREST.

Devika, J. (2010). Egalitarian developmentalism, communist mobilization,

and the question of caste in Kerala state, India. Journal of Asian

Studies, 69(3), 799-820.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0021911810001506

Isac, S. (2011). Education and socio-cultural reproduction: Development of

tribal people in Wayanad, Kerala. Rajagiri Journal of Social

Development, 3(2), 1-30.

https://ethnographylab.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/education-and-

sociocultural-reproduction-development-of-a-tribal-people-in-wayanad-

kerala.pdf

Mosse, D. (2010). A relational approach to durable poverty, inequality and power. The Journal of Development Studies, 46(7), 1156-1178.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00220388.2010.487095

Nampoothiri, D.D. (2013). Confronting social exclusion: A critical review of

the CREST experience. In Usha Z. (Ed.), Beyond inclusion: The

practice of equal access in Indian higher education (pp. 251-287).

London: Routledge.

https://ethnographylab.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/confronting-

social-exclusion- a-critical-review-of-the-crest-experience.pdf

Steur, L. (2009). Adivasi mobilisation: ‘Identity’ versus ‘class’ after the

Kerala model of development? Journal of South Asian Development,

(1), 25-44.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/097317410900400103

Tata Institute of Social Sciences (2010). Scheduled caste/scheduled tribe

cell. Retrieved from

http://www.aicte-india.org/downloads/SC_ST_Booklet.pdf

The Heart of Hinduism (2004). The Murti. Retrieved from

http://hinduism.iskcon.org/practice/308.htm


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2016 NEXUS: The Canadian Student Journal of Anthropology

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.