Schooling Language: Marathi, the Middle Class, and Education in Pune, India
Jessica Chandras

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



The George Washington University

Primary Discipline

With a focus on the contemporary urban Indian linguistic landscape in the city of Pune within the state of Maharashtra I present an ethnography of the city through the lens of language use in and about education. By focusing on the contemporary educational and linguistic landscape in Pune, this dissertation examines the ways in which middle class residents assign meaning and value to Marathi (the regional language of the state), Hindi, and English use and how that significance shapes urban middle class subjectivities. While this ethnography portrays negotiations typical of many multilingual societies, Pune emerges as a unique case study due to the caste and class constitutions of the city and a historical significance in the region. In the first chapter of my dissertation, I demonstrate how language shapes social experience and how the meanings assigned to languages are also spatially appropriated. Then, I explore how education, especially a demand for English language education, creates formal and informal linguistic economies that play out in education. The complex manner in which residents choose how and when to use multiple languages in education assigns and transmits subtle messages about those languages to speakers. A formalization and standardization of Indian regional languages, specifically Marathi in this study, lends itself to pedagogical styles that instill and concretize matters of social capital gained from/assigned to language use which I examine in the third chapter. Finally, Marathi, English, and Hindi are intimately and intrinsically connected to aspects of identities. These aspects play out in formative ways in all levels of education but especially in higher education, which I address in the fourth chapter. In higher education more so than in other levels of education, students from more varied backgrounds and different geographic regions live and study together. Through education and in educational spaces, this dissertation documents and analyzes language ideologies and language shifts, viewing social change through the lens of language repertoires. This dissertation ultimately asks in what ways Indian regional languages are viable in contemporary urban multilingual Indian societies.
About Jessica Chandras
Jessica Chandras is a doctoral candidate in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology at the George Washington University. Her PhD research focuses on the intersections of socioeconomic class, education, and language in Maharashtra, India. Throughout her PhD Jessica has served as an instructor for the Anthropology of South Asia and a graduate teaching assistant for various courses in her department. In the two years prior to starting her graduate studies, Jessica worked as an English teacher in the Basque Country through the Spanish ministry of education, culture, and sport. She also holds a BA with honors from the University of Washington in Anthropology, where she completed a thesis in 2010 on the topic of language and identity among indigenous individuals in Oaxaca, Mexico. Her current scholarly interests extend beyond her dissertation and include multilingual and higher education pedagogy and broadening an understanding and use of ethnographic methods among university students.

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