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Pedagogy for Religion

Pedagogy for Religion: Missionary Education and the Fashioning of Hindus and Muslims in Bengal

Parna Sengupta
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 222
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  • Book Info
    Pedagogy for Religion
    Book Description:

    Offering a new approach to the study of religion and empire, this innovative book challenges a widespread myth of modernity—that Western rule has had a secularizing effect on the non-West—by looking closely at missionary schools in Bengal. Parna Sengupta examines the period from 1850 to the 1930s and finds that modern education effectively reinforced the place of religion in colonial India. Debates over the mundane aspects of schooling, rather than debates between religious leaders, transformed the everyday definitions of what it meant to be a Christian, Hindu, or Muslim. Speaking to our own time, Sengupta concludes that today’s Qur’an schools are not, as has been argued, throwbacks to a premodern era. She argues instead that Qur’an schools share a pedagogical frame with today’s Christian and Muslim schools, a connection that plays out the long history of this colonial encounter.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95041-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Pedagogical Frames and Colonial Difference
    (pp. 1-22)

    This book challenges one of the most compelling historical fictions: that Western rule secularized the non-West. I confront this idea by demonstrating how the sustained involvement of missionaries in the expansion of modern education ultimately reinforced, rather than weakened, the place of religion and religious identity in the development of Indian modernity. My research questions the conclusions drawn by theorists of historical and contemporary imperialism who describe the missionary role as a “self-consciously modernizing project . . . the Victorian ‘NGO.’ ”¹

    In describing missionary activity in this way, scholars are able to temper a general critique of Empire by...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Molding of Native Character
    (pp. 23-39)

    The title for this chapter comes from a study done in 1832 by the Unitarian missionary William Adam. Lord Bentinck, the governor-general of Bengal, had asked Adam to conduct a survey on the educational status of Bengal’s villages both to determine the level of literacy in the Bengal countryside and to find out how rural schools were funded.¹ Adam’s report was relatively comprehensive, detailing the different types of institutions for vernacular education, the levels of literacy, and information on school attendance. Adam had initially come to India as a Baptist missionary in 1818 but, under the influence of the early...

  6. CHAPTER 2 A Curriculum for Religion
    (pp. 40-60)

    In the traditional village school, thepathshala,the purpose of numeric and alphabetic literacy was to teach children a set of skills to meet “the practical demands of life.”¹Pathshalastaught account keeping and reading so students knew how to write letters and keep land and financial records.Pathshalasrarely employed books; instead, they taught through dictation, memorization, and writing on palm and plantain leaves. The few manuscripts used in thepathshalawere books on Hindu devotion or grammar—texts that students learned and then recited back to their teacher orguru.Thus, the introduction of schoolbooks into mid-nineteenth-century Bengali...

  7. CHAPTER 3 An Object Lesson in Colonial Pedagogy
    (pp. 61-80)

    The following lesson on rice appeared in the 1860 text,Object Teaching and Oral Lessons,by David Stow, the Scottish educator and evangelist. In the lesson, Stow describes the high starch-to-gluten ratio of rice, and its concomitant characteristic of being “less stimulating and nutritious.” Stow then gets to the heart of the lesson and encourages teachers to ask their students, “What nations live on rice—what is, in general, their disposition? Can you trace any connection between their soft, dull, phlegmatic temperament, and the food on which they live?”¹ Stow’s object lesson on rice assumes a fundamental connection between the...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Schoolteacher as Modern Father
    (pp. 81-101)

    The preceding observation by Bhudhev Mukhopadhyay occurs toward the beginning of his 1856 manual,Shikha Vidyak Prasatava,written for the Hooghly Normal School, a government-financed teacher-training institution headed up by Mukhopadhyay himself. In his manual, Mukhopadhyay bemoans the fact that while he would like to train the modernguru(teacher) to relate to his students as fathers relate to sons, the actual relationships in Hindu families make this impossible. For Mukhopadhyay, “mutual affection and understanding” should mark both the pedagogic and paternal relationship. But he sadly concludes that rather than awaiting a change in the behavior of native families, he...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Teaching Gender in the Colony
    (pp. 102-122)

    In a series of mid-nineteenth-century pamphlets, Mary Carpenter, the British social reformer, diagnosed and suggested remedies to “improve” and “extend” female education in India. Carpenter’s emphasis on training women teachers resonated with what had become the common belief in Britain: women instructors were essential to model “habits of neatness and order,” and other specifically gendered behavior and skills for female students.² Carpenter was disappointed by the limited nature of girls’ schooling and teacher training in Calcutta, which “ fell very far behind Madras, Bombay or even Ahmedabad.”³ This led her to press thebhadralok(upper-caste Hindu) reformers at the Bethune...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Mission Schools and Qur’an Schools
    (pp. 123-149)

    Abdul Karim was appointed in 1889 as the first Muslim school inspector in Bengal’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI), and the quote above appears in his subsequent book on the status of Muslim education in Bengal. Karim’s appointment to the DPI

    reflected the new visibility of the Bengali Muslim community after the 1870s. Scholars of South Asia have pointed to the crucial role of the 1872 census, along with other forms of “enumerative” governmental technologies, in constructing and giving material reality to various collective religious identities in the later nineteenth century. In Bengal, the census revealed that almost half of...

  11. Conclusion: Pedagogy for Tolerance
    (pp. 150-160)

    The global circulation of pedagogic theory in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries successfully propagated the notion that primary schools were an essential site for the production and dissemination of modern cultural forms. An example of this idea is a manual that figures prominently in this book, David Stow’s 1859 text,The Training System of Education.Stow’s text was widely distributed all over the British Empire and translated into multiple vernaculars, including Bengali. The highly practical nature of the text, describing a training system, belied Stow’s philosophical aspiration, which was to create a universal theory of subjectivity and cognition that helped...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 161-188)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-204)
  14. Index
    (pp. 205-211)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 212-212)