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The Cosmos of a Public Sector Township: Democracy as an Intellectual Culture

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Abstract

By interviewing children of public sector workers, who have started their own careers, I explore the importance of the public sector township in India. The public sector township provided opportunities to children to access urban life in democratic ways. The public sector township not only offered the possibility of inhabiting modern urban spaces, but also provided the opportunities for being initiated into intellectual cultures. The sense of community, solidarity, everyday gossip and sociality offered within the public sector township enables children to grow as citizens. They begin to discuss issues, access public libraries, read, form opinions and debate them. Two recent trends have initiated an assault against the ethics of the public sector township. The first is the colonization of children’s times by a schooling system that individualises them to a great extent and leaves very little time for reading. The second is a de-intellectualisation of mass media which again limits the ability of children to be initiated into intellectual cultures. By engaging with memories of the children of public sector workers from a township in Bengaluru, I argue that intellectual cultures require public spaces for conversation and reflection. Without these intellectual cultures, the very possibility of democracy is threatened as citizens become deprived of collective vocabularies of critique, questioning and dissensus.

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