Being Ladakhi and Becoming Educated: Growing Up at the Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity

Presentation by Bonnie Richard

Friday, April 11, 2014
11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

This week in CAW we will listen to (and workshop) a draft version of Bonnie Richard's presentation, "Being Ladakhi and Becoming Educated:

Growing up at the Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity." This is based on her dissertation research. 


My research investigates how rural minority children in India negotiate pathways towards becoming educated, modern persons, while faced with uncertain economic outcomes, traditional family obligations, and socio-economic inequality. I address these issues through analysis of qualitative data from ethnographic research conducted in Ladakh, India, a remote region of the Western Himalayas. Ladakh has recently undergone a period of socioeconomic transformation, leading to a great increase in the emphasis on education for children in spite of low job growth and high rates of unemployment. While becoming an “educated person” is highly valued and prioritized, family characteristics as well as cultural attitudes complicate children’s educational pathways. First, a family’s resources (both material and symbolic) can substantially limit some children’s options and potential to realize their aspirations. Many children are among the first generation to attend school, which means that their families have limited cultural capital and ability to navigate the educational system as well as limited economic resources. This is a more common predicament for children from rural farming backgrounds. Second is a competing idea and value, the widespread and popular valorization of “traditional” Ladakhi identity and culture that can run at cross-purposes to the importance of being educated and modern. Being Ladakhi means children have obligations associated with familial roles, adding another level of potentially conflicting responsibility to children’s already time-consuming efforts at becoming educated modern individuals.

In order to develop a nuanced analysis of the roles of education and children within a shifting and uncertain socioeconomic landscape, this project utilizes anthropological theory on wellbeing as an analytical lens to view Ladakhi priorities for children and youth, in conjunction with theory in the anthropology of childhood and youth that emphasizes children’s potential for agency. Further, it engages social theory on the process of individualization and the move away from familial orientations in contemporary socioeconomic contexts, as well as theory and critique in cultural anthropology concerning economic development and institutionalized education in the global South. 


The Central Asia Workshop is an interdisciplinary discussion group sponsored by the UCLA Program on Central Asia. The goal of the workshop is to encourage research on Central Asia by creating a space where students, faculty, and affiliates can discuss research, theory and ideas with others who have experience or interest in the region. The workshop is a forum for exploring recent research and classical and contemporary theoretical perspectives that inform work in Central Asia. Weekly discussions are led by members on a rotating basis, and topics are determined by group interests.














Sponsor(s): Program on Central Asia