Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies

Committee Chair

Melissa Sherfinski

Committee Co-Chair

Ann Oberhauser

Committee Member

Sharon Hayes

Committee Member

Carol Markstrom

Committee Member

Audra Slocum


This dissertation is a critical feminist analysis of the discourses, narratives and hegemonic power structures that define Dalit women's lives in Kerala, India. It focuses on intergenerational narratives of women and girls to illuminate how Dalit communities navigate development by specifically focusing on their educational narratives. To explore Dalit narratives, I conducted fieldwork in Kerala using in-depth interviews, photovoice, and participant observation as primary data. I coupled my primary data with secondary data sources such as development reports, trend data and newspapers to document how Dalit needs are framed. This research uses postcolonial feminist theory as it applies to the Kerala context along with intersectionality of identities as a conceptual framework to understand how gender, class, caste and religion shape Dalit women's education across different generations.;The findings of this study speak to three specific themes: (1) the material and social locations held by women and girls in the Dalit communities, (2) the neoliberal forces shaping Kerala's education, and (3) the patriarchal forces in the context of marriage and gender-based violence in Dalit homes, communities and schools. This research exposes the gendered subjectivities and vulnerabilities that Dalit women navigate through resistance, agency and power. Thus, by offering a contextualized place-based study of Dalit lives in Kerala, I argue that the discourses and practices of development in Kerala have failed to attend to Dalit needs.