Controlling Minds, Disciplining Bodies

Geetha B. Nambissan and S. Srinivasa Rao

in Sociology of Education in India

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780198082866
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199082254 | DOI:
Controlling Minds, Disciplining Bodies

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This chapter examines the disciplinary mechanisms adopted by the Madrasa Ashrafiya Misbahul Ulum in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India, and analyses what strategies are used and what they mean to students. The cultural notion of sakhti (strictness)—pervasive both among the families who send their children to madrasas as well as within the madrasas themselves—is described. According to this reasoning, learning is unnatural, and children need to be strictly disciplined so that they are able to study. Besides adherence to strict rules such as deference to elders, corporal punishment, the recitation of the namaz etc., students are taught the disciplining and control of their own bodies with a view to increasing the mastery of each individual over his own body. Senior male students are specifically taught the necessity of control over bodily passions. The author points out that such disciplining increases the students’ agency because they learn about their life and bodies even as a particular form of Islamic (manly) behaviour is internalized. This makes them reject their ‘uncivilized’ ways of behaviour before coming to the madrasa. Through what the madrasa teaches and does, the students—usually from poor families—feel empowered to become part of ‘civilized’ society. The association with madrasas gives them status, which they would not have enjoyed in their earlier life in the villages and small cities from where they came.

Keywords: disciplinary mechanisms; madrasa; Islamic behaviour; sakhti; student discipline; Uttar Pradesh; madrasa education; controlling bodily passions; student agency

Chapter.  8748 words. 

Subjects: Sociology

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