New Polities and New Men
Climbing the Coconut Tree: Three South Indians Use Their Personal Memories of Colonial Education to Influence the Decolonisation of Education after Independence (Catriona Ellis)
Climbing the Coconut Tree: Three South Indians Use Their Personal Memories of Colonial Education to Influence the Decolonisation of Education after Independence
Abstract The chapter addresses strategies in late colonial schooling through the lens of the autobiographical accounts of three different Southern Indian authors. It highlights the potential of autobiographical sources in recovering marginalised voices. The author shows how self-testimonies, beyond simplistic concepts of authenticity, can help to open a ‘ground-level’ dimension of liberation struggles and decolonisation. The analysis brings to light common traits as well as differences: the experience of late colonial schooling, including questions of discrimination, as well as the dichotomisation of time – between ‘those days’ and the present – all appear as resources used by the authors to strategically position their narratives in the post-colonial context. This proposes a double approach to these critical sources: accordingly, one should consider not only their referential value with regard to late colonial education. Rather, she convincingly argues that it is their character as carriers of meaning that defines their high strategic value as an indicator for educational discourses in a post-colonial context.
Keywords: India, autobiographies, narrative, liberation struggle, late colonial schooling
K. Sreenivasan, a textile manufacturer who became Director of the South Indian Textile Research Association, wrote about his educational experiences in an autobiography entitled “Climbing the Coconut Tree” in 1980. Quoting both a favourite teacher and a local deity Padmanabha, Sreenivasan asked “how far can you support a man climbing...
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