Dr Sarada Balagopalan discussed her book, Inhabiting 'Childhood': Children, Labour and Schooling in Postcolonial India, which ambitiously redresses these limits by drawing on the everyday experiences of street children and child labourers in Calcutta to introduce the post-colony as a critical, and until now absent, lens in theorising the 'child'. Through capturing a moment in which global, national and local efforts combined to improve and transform these children's lives through school enrolment and new discourses of children's rights, this ethnography makes a vital point about the complexity and contemporaneity of their extensive practices of dwelling generated by the exigencies of survival within postcolonial development. These modes of living labour are central to comprehending why these children, though desirous of the transition from labour to school, find this difficult to inhabit. The book argues that this difficulty, which can be neither dissolved through a cultural understanding of these lives nor resolved within a more technocratic policy norm, is in fact a very productive opening to re-thinking childhood.
Sarada Balagopalan’s research is on post-colonial childhoods. Trained in education and anthropology, her work foregrounds the tension between children’s work and schooling as a key site where discourses of colonial modernity, the developmental nation-state, late capitalism, and current transnational efforts around children’s rights get played out. Her related research on elementary education engages the contemporary policy regime in light of the experiences of first-generation school goers and their communities. She has a PhD from New York University and previously worked at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi.
Dr Sarada Balagopalan
Inhabiting 'Childhood': Children, Labour and Schooling in Postcolonial India by Sarada Balagopalan
The event was a one-hour seminar attended by 30 colleagues and students from the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex.