‘Interstices of Education, Religion and Politics: A Paradigm Shift in Higher Education in Kerala, India’

Partly in response to the global imperatives and partly specific to its historically evolved social structures, higher education in Kerala – known the world over for its high level of social development – is now experiencing radical changes. The transformation that has ensued is a derivative of the confrontation/compromise among religious/caste groups, political parties and civil society mediated through the state and state-like formations, with liberal and social democratic regimes alternating in power. Given the fact that the state has been experimenting with various combinations of educational regimes – aided, partially aided, self-financed and so on – the emergent scenario remains rather obscure particularly on issues such as privatization of higher education, capitation fees, the reservation and quota systems, the right to have educational institutions, the competitiveness among self-financed colleges, and the overall control that the dominant social forces exert over higher education. The demand for greater autonomy for the emergent governance structures has led to a crisis situation wherein religious and caste groups have declared their intention to launch a second ‘liberation struggle’, the first one having been staged in the immediate post-independence phase and having succeeded in pulling down the communist government which had brought in state-led educational reforms in 1959 (Raman 2009).

While at Cambridge, it would be my aim to focus on the distinctiveness of this paradigm shift and to try and visualise what higher education and thereby the future university would look like within a historically evolved social setting, when religious and caste groups act as key transformative players as opposed to the state.
I am the author of Global Capital and Peripheral Labour (Routledge 2010), editor of Development, Democracy and the State (Routledge 2010) and co-editor of Corporate Social Resposibility (Palgrave 2010).


Dr Ravi Raman (Anthropology, University of Manchester) is a Visiting Fellow at CRASSH, Easter 2011.


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