The science of childhood and the pedagogy of the state: Postcolonial development in India, 1950s

Arathi Sriprakash, Peter Sutoris*, Kevin Myers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
126 Downloads (Pure)


This article examines how, in the decade following India's independence, the psychology of childhood became a locus of experimentation, and an avenue through which approaches to postcolonial development were expressed. Tracing the ideas of educational reformers, psychological researchers and child welfare advocates, we show how a ‘science of childhood’ in this period emphasised both the inherent potential and the emotional complexity of India's young citizens. However, while identifying this potential, these actors at times circumscribed it by deploying culturalist assumptions about Indian childhood that were linked to a teleology of the new nation state. These were ideas that shaped a ‘pedagogic’ approach to postcolonial modernisation. Nation-building was not just a technocratic undertaking, but an educative project that was scientific, spiritual, and therapeutic in orientation. The article argues for greater attention to the pedagogy of the state in analyses of past and present state-citizen relations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-359
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Historical Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

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Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Comparative and International Research in Education


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