SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

‘Ora Et Labora’: Education and the Basel Mission in the 19th and 20th Century Malabar

Divya Kannan (JNU)

Date: 20 May 2014Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 20 May 2014Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B104

Type of Event: Seminar

The state of Kerala, in south-western India, has always enjoyed high literacy growth. The role of Protestant missionaries in this development since the 19th century has been widely acknowledged. However, critical analyses of the Protestant agenda of schooling and their pedagogical practices have been missing. This paper is part of a larger attempt to explore the social history of education of the labouring poor. Using missionary records alongside government archival material, this study seeks to analyse the discourses of education and poverty, in which Protestant missionaries played an important part. The provision of literacy skills differed along the axes of gender, caste, race and class and has had important social consequences for the region. While Kerala has positively witnessed the emergence of anti-caste reform movements, mass literacy campaigns, breakdown of feudal practices and inclusion of groups hitherto excluded marginalised groups in the public sphere, an examination into the history of elementary education reveals the ambiguities, tensions and contradictions underlying these processes. This paper looks at the educational activities of the Basel German Evangelical Mission Society in Malabar (northern Kerala) and the ways in which they shaped changing notions of work and poverty through schooling for over a century.

Organiser: Dr Roy Fischel and Dr Shabnum Tejani