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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Distorted Mirrors: Decentring Representations of the 'Illiterat Indian Village Woman' in Print Media

Priti Chopra.

I try to reflect on processes involved in ways of knowing women. How women feature as objects of knowledge? How are their realities written out in other people’s representations? What processes are involved in understanding women as subjects of knowledge? What are the subjective processes through which women, as different, understand , use and create knowledge to write themselves into multi layered representations? My focus is on some issues, for women’s education and adult education programmes in Sitamarhi district, Bihar. I explore ways in which the relationship of women to adult education programmes, in one village, can be read as ‘transformative’, through self representation. Within this I situate influences of caste and gender divisions on access, ownership and use of education provisions. This paper aims to challenge certain representations of the ‘illiterate Indian village woman’ and establish, through personal narratives, that: 1) A village is not an insular cohesive geographical space ‘fixed’ in time and devoid of a history of communication practices involving reading and writing. 2) The ‘illiterate’ villager is not a homogenous ‘entity’. There are many different women and men whose(un) successful engagement with communication practices is interlinked with their material realities. Engagement that is influenced by power relations maintaining gender and caste divisions. 3) An exploration of adult education, provided in the conceptual and physical space of a ‘centre’, as transformative practice. Education practice through which different women develop, use and create knowledge, to write (act) in their voices on their realities.


Priti Chopra  (United Kingdom)
Researcher, King's College, London

I work as Teacher Co-rodinator for study skills at City Lit adult education college. I am also working part time as a researcher for King's College, University of London. I am in the process of completing my Ph.D. in Education form King's College. My research focuses on an ethnographic study of communication practices and literacy programmes in two districts of Bihar, north India.

  • Representation
  • Gender
  • Literacy

(30 min Conference Paper, English)