Shifting Science Identities and Appropriate Femininities at a Pharmacy College in India
Leya Mathew

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Ahmedabad University

Primary Discipline

With long established ideals of "proper"? Indian womanhood now in transition, from modesty and home centeredness to assertive consumerism and aspirations for the self, this project will examine how shifts in dominant femininities affect higher education in science in India. Established in 1947, the same year that the nation gained independence from colonial rule, and currently patronized by a diverse group of students, the AG College of Pharmacy offers the longitudinal and cross-sectional depth necessary for this study. The project will compare how expectations of 1) demureness in the post-independence period and 2) assertion in the post-economic reform decades impact the educational opportunities and experiences of diverse women students, especially, non-elite, first-generation women students. The historic component of the inquiry is geared towards examining founding discourses about science, science people, and women; shifts in diversity over seven decades; and historical science identities and appropriate femininities. Following, an ethnographic inquiry will document present-day science identities and consumerist femininity and how these impact the educational aspirations and experiences of differentially positioned women students. This comparative inquiry of historically specific dominant femininities in a postcolonial context under radical transition will complicate assumptions of science education research, much of which is based on Euro-American experiences.
About Leya Mathew
Leya Mathew is an Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences division of the School of Arts and Sciences at Ahmedabad University. She has a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research is focused on understanding the socio-cultural transitions that have accompanied economic liberalization in India. She has examined the transitions of liberalization across multiple sites in her dissertation and postdoctoral work. Her dissertation explored non-elite private English schooling as a socio-political expression of aspiration in a new consumer society. This project was awarded an AIIS (American Institute of Indian Studies) Junior Fellowship and a NAEd/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. Her work has been published in Anthropology and Education Quarterly and TESOL Quarterly. Her post-doctoral work at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru (2016-18) focused on the emergence of middle-class feminisms in the context of expanding employment opportunities for women in science and technology.

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