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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Exam time: Educational distress, psychological intervention and the middle classes in post liberalization Delhi
by Taubenberger, Simone, Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University, 2008, 220; 3309810
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates why, in a country with an educational system that has historically been reliant on exams, there is such a fevered pitch around exams in India today—and why suicide has become such a prominent response to unexpected or disappointing outcomes in exams. I examined what the discourses and practices around secondary school board [10th and 12th grades] exams are saying about the society and culture of urban North India at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This work highlights a relatively un-remarked stage of life and brings the experiences of middle class students to the fore. The experience of educational distress serves as a window through which to understand links between processes within family and school, and public culture, which generates discourses on adolescence and stress and depression.

This project offers an opportunity to trace the movement of international mental health imperatives to local settings, and to examine the expression of mental distress in a setting of rapid social and cultural change. This dissertation will study distress around education, and discourses about student suicide from the standpoint of students, families, and mental health practitioners—particularly NGOs concerned with student mental health. The English language press plays a role in the discursive formation of educational distress. The newspapers help set up conditions that make exams important, while at the same time running the risk of amplifying the problem of exam stress and student suicide.

Drawing from fieldwork carried in New Delhi, India from September 2001 to August 2002, I argue that discourses and practices around education serve multiply as idioms of distress and as part of middle class cultural practice at a time when a 'politics of visibility' has forced a greater publicity of otherwise unspoken aspects of educational practice. The distress around education communicates ambivalence over societal and cultural changes; it involves a fight over what is included in the ambit of consumption; and serves as a context through which arguments over the values that define one as a modern citizen are taking place—through which families stake their claim to a certain place in society.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Das, Veena, Khan, Naveeda
School: The Johns Hopkins University
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-A 69/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Educational psychology, Clinical psychology
Keywords: Delhi, Educational distress, India, Intervention, Liberalization, Mental health, Middle class, NGOs, Students
Publication Number: 3309810
ISBN: 978-0-549-57839-0
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