An Object Lesson in Colonial Pedagogy

Parna Sengupta

in Pedagogy for Religion

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780520268296
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950412 | DOI:
An Object Lesson in Colonial Pedagogy

Show Summary Details


This chapter provides an overview of Stow's lesson on rice to demonstrate the peculiar mix of empiricism and cultural prejudice that structured the popular nineteenth-century pedagogic technique. Just as nineteenth-century educational theory linked literacy to the molding of religious character, similarly the object lesson, an otherwise fairly ordinary pedagogic method, came to be seen by evangelical and bhadralok educators as fundamental to the transformation of religious epistemology. The abstractions that children were meant to learn from objects in British and Indian classrooms ranged from systems of Linnaean classification to the “truth” of Protestant Christianity and the cultural models of a reformed upper-caste Hinduism. The chapter traces the ways mission teachers tried to use object lessons to wean Hindu children from what they perceived as fetishistic and idolatrous practices. Subsequently, the chapter explores how teacher trainees and schoolchildren in mid-nineteenth-century Bengal were introduced to object theory through translations of British object lesson books and the incorporation of object lessons into training manuals. This reflected the broader religious reform efforts of mid-century bhadralok who were invested in emphasizing a more “enlightened” Hinduism, one that rejected backward religious rituals and unthinking idolatry.

Keywords: object lesson; colonial pedagogy; empiricism; evangelical; bhadralok; enlightened

Chapter.  8056 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.