Isabel M. Salovaara
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationStanford U.
Grant numberGr. 10149
Approve DateApril 8, 2021
Project TitleSalovaara, Isabel (Stanford U.) "Markets for Aspiration: Supplementary Education and Social Mobility in India"
India’s rural and lower-caste citizens are increasingly investing in paid tutoring and pre-professional coaching despite endemic job scarcity that severely limits their chances of securing desired, salaried positions. My research asks why groups formerly excluded from higher education and high-status work invest their hopes and resources in supplementary education markets while opportunities for social mobility remain limited. I will study the aspirational orientations that enable the expansion of these education markets, and their collateral effects, through long-term ethnographic research in Bihar, India and on Indian EdTech platforms. India is the ideal site for this study because its pattern of economic growth without mass social mobility foreshadows the global future of knowledge economies characterized by widening divides between elite technical workers and the jobless or marginally employed. How do commercialized education services—which appear as a conduit between these disparate poles—subvert, reinforce, or reconfigure both hierarchies and solidarities of caste, class, and geography that create or contest marginality? Through online and in-person ethnography of supplementary education businesses in Bihar, a state historically marked by economic deprivation, I will explore how mobility strategies of students, tutors, and educational entrepreneurs from marginalized backgrounds shape the expansion of for-profit supplementary education and its social effects.