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Language, Identity and Education in South Asia


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Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs and Cornell University

South Asia Center presents 

Christina Davis

Associate Professor of Anthropology, Western Illinois University

Chaise LaDousa

Professor of Anthropology, Hamilton College

Language, Identity and Education in South Asia

In both the United States and South Asia, it is clear that the language of instruction and positive educational outcomes are inextricably linked. In both countries, many languages are spoken and differences between languages spoken at home and at school can become a burden for some students. However, school systems rarely consider the ways that students themselves reflect on these dynamics.  

Davis and LaDousa will draw on interviews conducted at a prestigious institute of higher education in India to show how students relate language to their home life, transition to school, and future career ambitions. Students talk about links between language and social identity through the concept of “mother tongue” – literally, the tongue of one’s mother to whom one has an absolute bond. By taking seriously students’ own reflections on language and identity, teachers and administrators might better understand what challenges their students face as they seek educational opportunities.

This talk is part of the Cornell- Syracuse South Asia Consortium “Global Voices in Education” series, designed to introduce faculty and students in Schools of Education international perspectives on education throughout South Asia.

For more information or to request accessibility arrangements, please contact Emera Bridger Wilson, 

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