Two of the four major pillars of education in the 21st Century as described in the UNESCO document Learning the Treasure Within are “Learning to Be” & “Learning to Live Together”. But how can India’s youth be considered truly educated on the global platform without learning to be & learning to live together irrespective of difference based on gender and sexual orientation? Since the Queer activist movement picked up in India with the historic Delhi High court decision decriminalising homosexuality in July 2009 “ news like, “Designer duo Dev and Nil: We want to adopt a girl ” Or “In a first, Gurgaon court recognizes lesbian marriage” are now being published without homophobic bias in English daily newspapers. The explosion of global media through internet, social networking sites and globalized Bollywood is raising more questions about gender and sexuality in the minds of young Indian youths. However, such issues are still taboo at home and in educational institutions. There are only four universities in India – to the best of my knowledge – that offer a course in or including Queer Theory or Gay and Lesbian Studies: University of Hyderabad, University of Pune, Jadavpur University and Indira Gandhi National Open University. One cannot overestimate the need for such courses in India and especially in rural India – where my university is situated – because gender and sexuality are issues that are so central to the way in which societies are organised. But no critiquing of these constructs is ever encouraged in India’s highly patriarchal society.
Since 2009 I have been also teaching a course called “New Gender Studies”. There was already a course called “Women’s Writing”. But I chose to call mine “New Gender Studies” because it would deal with the ways in which gender and sexuality were being theorised since 1990. This meant that my course would consist of two broad areas of study: queer and masculinity. However the course I offer at the University of Kalyani is different because it contains a section on Masculinity Studies – a field of gender study not found in other universities’ English Department syllabi. Sixty-four students signed up for the course in 2009. This year, the third year that I’m teaching the course, it was almost fully subscribed. 34 seats out of 35 were filled up the day the course was announced.
In introducing my students to a whole spectrum of genders and sexualities that one can find in any society I have encouraged them not to continue identitarian binarisations but to constantly be aware that there is some Self in every Other and some Other in every Self. Realisation that identities can never be hermetically exclusive of one another has helped my students understand better those identities that are not heteronormative and have been stigmatised by society as “unnatural” and “abnormal”. Not only do I have to constantly answer questions from students to whom minority sexualities and theorisations of masculinity are new epistemological terrains, but they discuss issues raised by the course even with their family members and friends. This manner of dissemination can only be beneficial to society and contribute towards the evolution of a societal psyche that does not operate in terms of identitarian binaries as far as gender and sexuality are concerned. Students are shown how we are accepting of some changes in our identities, such as change of nationality, marital status, and religion, but not of changes in sexuality and gender. They are asked to question why sexuality and gender should be sacrosanct.
Since I have begun teaching this course, several students have reported to me how their attitude to sexual and gendered minorities has changed. Further, they have informed me about how they are talking about it to their parents, siblings and friends. The course has also helped two students to accept their sexuality and feel legitimate. Moreover, my course is taught at a rural university; since the urban, metropolitan subject is regarded as being more liberal, the rural is constructed as the binarised Other: conservative, bigoted, close-minded. But some of my most receptive students hailed and continue to hail from remote townships, far removed from Calcutta. Enabled by knowledge provided by books such as Same-Sex Love in India by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, they are now combating widespread homophobia which often masquerades as patriotism. The constant reference to homosexuality as a foreign invasion not indigenous to India is countered by the information they gather from this course.
As can be imagined, students have a vast number of questions related to gender and sexuality that need answering. Since it is not possible for me to answer all the questions while I am in the department, I set up a Facebook account called “New Gender Studies” in June 2010, where students can post their questions. Although I have, till date, taught the course to no more than 130 students, most of who do not have access to computers, the “New Gender Studies” Facebook page had 393 members at last count. Also 50% of my 130 students are members and they access the group page at least once a week from some cyber cafe. The page has attracted the interest of various scholars and academics from outside West Bengal and even India, who regularly discuss issues of gender and sexuality on the New Gender Studies Wall. I believe a course such as mine is necessary at all Indian universities because it helps destabilise the gendered hierarchy on which patriarchy depends and it arms the students with theories to combat homophobia, transphobia and sexism in the society at large.
Indian Universities to officially ban caste discrimination on campus reports DailyMail
New bill on innovation universities goes to parliament reports University World News
Private Players accused on stalling education bills in India reports University World News
Australia relaxes VISA rules for international students reports Hindustan Times
Indian Students fall victim to Burgeoning “fake” universities reports University World News
Marginal Higher Education Budget Rise Does Not Match Ambitions reports University World News
“Leeds-Met University, Quit India!”- Grassroots Protests erupt against first foreign campus reports University World News
Victoria to help drive India’s Higher Education Revolution reports The Conversation
43% more Indians are taking Graduate Record Examination (GRE) reports Deccan Chronicle
India makes plans to boost Social Science Research reports University World News
Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Kolkata IIMs make it to Asia Pacific top again reports The Times of India
Higher Education: Students forced to play numbers game reports University World News from the Financial Times
Knowledge Network to expand learning in India reports University World News
UGC 12th pan proposes greater autonomy for colleges with potential for excellence reports Indian Express
Delhi University announces 4 year undergraduate degree plan reports University World News
Do women scientists in India still face discrimination? check report at Smart Planet
Research Collaboration: Will this be new beginning of India-Pakistan friendship? check report in University World News
Indian students re-thinking study abroad with sharp decline in rupee reports University World News
Lawyers to protest Higher Education Bill in India reports University World News
High Education Bills sparks fear of “police raj” reports reports University World New
Student access soars, but still Indian Higher Education faces major challenges reports University World News
Desperate for higher education, Indian students turn to high-tech cheating reports University World News
INDIA: Implications of the foreign education bill reports University World News
Report to the People 2011 by National Innovation Council
INDIA: State seeks greater role for private sector reports University World News
INDIA: Government to link higher education institutes reports University World News
IIT Mumbai and Amity University submit bids for engineering campuses in New York City reports The Economic Times
INDIA: Improvements key for collaboration to work reports University World News
Challenges Facing Indian Higher Education, from The Fearless Nadia Occasional Papers
Can’t get seat in Delhi University, can make it to Ivy League, reports The Economic Times
Australia makes significant changes student visa requirements, reports the Times of India
Weak rupee to cost Indian students dear reports Business Standards
Second cutting-edge Max Planck Centre opened in India reports University World News
Foreign Universities Bill – corpus requirements may be amended, reports Business Standard
IMs changes admission strategies to increase diversity, reports the Times of India
2012 Annual Comparative Education Society of India (CESI) conference, 10-12 October 2012, University of Jammu, Jammu, Jammu & Kashmir, India. Conference Theme: Education for a Changing World, Deadline for abstract and panel submission: 30 June 2012: Please scroll down this page to find detail CFP: http://www.wcces.net/events/index.html
Diaspora and Development: South Asian Diaspora Engagement in South Asia Organiser: Institute Of South Asian Studies (ISAS) & National University Of Singapore, Singapore, 25 – 26 September 2012. National University Of Singapore, Submission Deadline: Feb. 15, 2012: http://
Upcoming International Seminar on “Inclusion: Understanding children with disabilities to build inclusive communities”, January 11-12, 2012, Department of Social Work, Assumption College, Kerala, India, co-sponsored by Adelphi University, USA. For detail please contact: email@example.com
The Comparative Education Society of India’s annual conference will be held from 16-18 November, 2011 at Hyderabad in India.
The 40th Annual Conference on South Asia will be held on October 20 – 23, 2011 at the Madison Concourse Hotel, 1 West Dayton St., Madison, WI 53703. The Conference is hosted by the Center for South Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The 4th International Conference on Measurement and Evaluation in Education (ICMEE) occurs from 9-12 October 2011 in Penang, Malaysia. Visit website.
The 5th International Conference on Distance Learning and Education (ICDLE 2011) will be held in Singapore from September 16-18. Visit website.
The 5th Asia Pacific Conference on Educational Integrity (5APCEI) will be held in Perth, Australia, from September 26-28. Visit website.