More Snakes Than Ladders: Mass Schooling, Social Closure, and the Pursuit of Tarraqi (Social Mobility) in Rural Pakistan

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The international educational agenda that drives the educational expansion in the Global South makes universalist assumptions about the role of education in reducing poverty and promoting social mobility. Challenging these assumptions, this paper asks whether educational expansion in such contexts reduces social inequality across generations by offering individuals, from whatever background, educational opportunities and access to higher status livelihoods. By using Weberian and Bourdieusian theoretical frameworks, and drawing upon the perspectives of the families in rural Punjab, the paper contributes to the literature by revealing how local rural power relations in landownership, caste systems, religious identity, and political patronage, and their manifestation in the cultural realm, enact a form of social closure that closes off resources and opportunities for the disadvantaged to pursue social mobility through schooling. These power relations not only place limits on the assumed equalizing role of education in rural Punjab, but they also tend to perpetuate inequality in and through education. The paper argues that a sociological understanding of the role that education plays in the everyday rural life is crucial for designing a nuanced educational agenda capable of engaging with, rather than assuming away social and economic inequality in hierarchal societies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages29
JournalRural Sociology
Publication statusAcceptance date - 17 May 2024

Data Availability Statement

The data that support the findings of this study are available with the corresponding author. However, the participants of the research did not consent their data to be shared publicly.

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