Language, Education, and the Nepali Nation

- Uma Pradhan

Discussion Type: Research Seminar Series | Date: 27 Dec 2020 | Time: 03:00 PM


This presentation explores the interconnected issue of language, education, and nationalism, drawing on my book 'Simultaneous Identities: Language, Education, and the Nepali Nation'. This book is based on the premise that language dynamics in public places reveal a lot about the process of negotiation of symbolic power that is underway in any socio-political context. Here, I highlight two distinct but interrelated dynamics. On the one hand, everyday language practices in the schools display inward-looking characteristics by ensuring mother-tongue competency and conscious construction of unified ethno-linguistic identity. On the other hand, there were outward-looking dynamics of transcending ethnic boundaries and actively engaging with the broader national education system. The salience of these processes is the simultaneous membership to multiple groups, claims over public spaces and in the spaces of nationalism, hitherto associated with Nepali. Contrary to assimilationist ideas of homogeneity articulated in nationalist discourse and the ideas of difference espoused in ethnic activism, students made simultaneous claims to more than one social identity, which were considered neither incompatible nor binary opposites. Drawing on the everyday practices in the two schools, I illustrate that that social actors in minority language education did not necessarily select between minority identity and national identity, instead shifted the terms of engagement by discursively positioning ‘ethnic identity’ as ‘national identity’. This emerging narrative of simultaneities in minority language education may help us to appreciate the issues of nationalism and minority identity in a more open-ended way.

About the Speaker:
Uma Pradhan is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at Oxford School for Global and Area Studies, University of Oxford. Her research focuses on power-laden dimensions of education and examines the interconnection between state, society, and schooling.



- Uma Pradhan

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