Cover of Schooling Passions by Véronique Benei
Schooling Passions
Nation, History, and Language in Contemporary Western India
Véronique Benei

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2008
368 pp.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804759052
Paper ISBN: 9780804759069

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Schooling Passions explores an important, yet often overlooked dimension of nationalism—its embodied and emotional components. It does so by focusing on another oft-neglected area, that of elementary education in the modern state. Through an ethnographic study of schools in western India, Véronique Benei examines the idioms through which teachers, students, and parents make meaning of their political world. She articulates how urban middle- and lower-class citizens negotiate the processes of self-making through the minutiae of daily life at school and extracurricular activities, ranging from school trips to competitions and parent gatherings. To document how processes of identity formation are embodied, Benei draws upon cultural repertoires of emotionality.

This book shifts the typical focus of attention away from communal violence onto everyday "banal nationalism." Paying due attention to the formulation of "senses of belonging," this book explores the sensory production and daily manufacture of nationhood and citizenship and how nationalism is nurtured in a nation's youth.

About the author

Véronique Benei is Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics, Department of Anthropology where she has taught since 1997, and holds a permanent position as Senior Research Fellow with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (LAIOS/IIAC). She has also taught at Princeton University and Yale University.

"Benei's presence as an observer [makes] apparent the role of emotion and embodiment in the making of patriotic citizens. She observes the passion evoked by, and represented in, singing, speaking properly, the sartorial self-fashioning of students and teachers, and bodily comportment during everyday rituals of nationalism--a passion that is in large part lost to the historian. For most historians of education, the reconstruction of emotion and embodiment will involve imagination and speculation. Schooling Passions is an excellent guide to such worthwhile work."

—Christopher Bischof, H-Net

"This book builds on and yet challenges much of the concept-driven work on nationalism. Its interconnection of the topics of language ideology, embodiment, gender, story, schooling, nation, and patriotism is unique and quite persuasive. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in nationalism, education, embodiment and emotion, language and multiculturalism, or South Asia. It is extremely well written, up to date with theory and scholarship, and demonstrates nuanced interpretations of eld experiences with young children, their teachers, and their families."

—Susan D. Blum, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Veronique Benei has written an elegant and tantalizing book, impressive in its finely engraved argumentation."

—Nita Kumar, Journal of Asian Studies

"Véronique Benei presents her fieldwork on a richly laid out disciplinary plain constituted by an impressive familiarity with scholarship in social history, anthropology, political theory, and post-structural aesthetics, not to mention Marathi language, literature, and cinema. The range of disciplinary interests and territories covered in the book is not merely impressive: it establishes the nature of challenge involved in studying institutionalized education as a political process."

—Krishna Kumar, Economic and Political Weekly

"Benei's compelling ethnography is much more than a book about schooling; it's about schooling in the service of the nation, how schooling functions to create citizens, and how nationalism is inculcated in our youth. I have seldom read a more powerful, beautifully written book."

—Susan Wadley, Syracuse University

"Schooling Passions is a major contribution to the study of nationalism and to the burgeoning field of anthropology of emotions. Benei's book is a rich ethnographic study of mundane educational practices based on a deep understanding of their historical context. She pays meticulous attention to the details of language use, to songs and to the everyday disciplines of schooling in western India. Benei's broad theoretical scope enables her to analyze emotions and the corporeal, while also reminding us that language is at the heart of cultural and political passions: what matters is how, when, and in which style, one declares one's love for the nation." —Thomas Blom Hansen, University of Amsterdam

"[A] superb book. Schooling Passions cements Benei's reputation, reorienting debates on religious nationalism away from a sole focus on riots towards an analysis of more everyday, embodied, and experiential spaces of nationalist identification." —Craig Jeffrey, Progress for Human Geography