Open Defense of Thesis by Ms. Anupama M on 'Growing up Gifted: Class, Social Advantaging and Schooling Practices'
National Institute of Advanced Studies
Indian Institute of Science Campus
OPEN DEFENSE OF THESIS
Title: Growing up Gifted: Class, Social Advantaging and Schooling Practices
Candidate: Ms. Anupama Mahajan
School of Social Sciences
Advisor: Prof. Anitha Kurup
Date: Thursday, January 28, 2021
Time: 11:00 am
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‘What made these children with extraordinary abilities misfits in a formal schooling system that encouraged and awarded high academic achievement?’. This and several such questions plagued me for the longest time while I was teaching a class of 11th and 12th graders, in an international school in Bangalore. With the quest to delve deeper into the lives of such children recognised as gifted, I embarked on the thesis journey. The ethnographic study largely began as an attempt to centre the voices of gifted children to get insights into how they use their agency to navigate their worlds. Through the study/fieldwork, I realised that the child’s voice was largely eclipsed by that of other social interlocutors such as parents, teachers, school management, and researchers of gifted education, by their diverse ways of ‘seeing’ giftedness in the child. Such insights from the field, based on over 18 months of fieldwork, shaped the analyses as an explication of how ‘giftedness’ as a concept was being produced and practiced on the child, in international/elite schools and enrichment centres, by members of a particular social class, who mostly dominated these spaces. As the complex nature of the concept became apparent in my study, I illustrate how class, social advantaging, and schooling practices played a large role in enabling children to ‘grow up gifted’. I argue that parents become early cultivators of ability, by reconfiguring their familial roles and through their ways of dealing with anxieties and challenges, negotiated advantages for their child. To such parents, the child came to be seen as a set of abilities, a project to shape the performance of ‘giftedness’. In the process, such collective performances led to the institutionalisation of one form of ‘giftedness’. Educational institutions such as enrichment sites and elite schools commonly recognised ‘giftedness’ as academic brightness, in particular STEM subjects, and they framed their practices to assess, train and improve these particular academic abilities, which were sometimes referred to as ‘gifted’. My study was mostly amongst the middle-class; a social class that navigated and standardised ‘giftedness’ in schools to advantage their children. I suggest that the means by which such advantaging was negotiated was by framing the project of ‘giftedness’ as producing tomorrow’s nation builders. The nation building discourse seemed particularly relevant for the middle-classes, as it provided legitimate justification for their project of ‘giftedness-making’ by nurturing excellence in STEM disciplines in their children. This thesis has contributed to the scholarship, that shows linkages between notions of intelligence/ giftedness and social class.
All are invited to attend