Cultural Consequences of Standardization
Latika Gupta
LEGITIMISING STANDARD LANGUAGES: PERSPECTIVES FROM A SCHOOL IN BANARAS by Nirmali Goswami Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2017, 248 pp., Rs. 995
January 2020, volume 44, No 1

The book under review is second in the series on sociology and social anthropology of education in South Asia edited by Meenakshi Thapan. The series is dedicated to presenting research that brings out the lived context of classroom and school spaces. The aim is to deconstruct school as a space in which young children and teachers engage in various processes while the markers of their socio-cultural existence continually shape it. School, in this sense, does not remain the distribution post of a nation-state’s welfare agenda. It acquires a complex and dynamic existence in which norms and hierarchies get recreated and reaffirmed and also undergo a transformative process. Nirmali Goswami’s book is based on a study that deconstructs language variant—taught and promoted at school—as a site of socio-cultural reproduction of power relations. When language is taught in a classroom, it does not form a benign pedagogic site. All historical, educational and sociological wrangles come alive along with the reconciliatory social mechanisms. The historical dimension of being colonized by another country and the institutionalization of formal schools as per the colonizer’s systems has been dealt with adequately while the author has brought out the elements of power and ideology. She reminds us succinctly, right at the beginning, that in the 19th century, ‘the quest for identity was felt more in the domain of education, because education was the main site where cultural battles for representation and authority over what constituted appropriate knowledge were fought’ (p. 34). And, this is where the significance of the book lies.

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