ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Negotiating Street Space Differently

Muslim Youth and Alternative Learning

An ethnographic study of Muslims in Hyderabad builds on two strands of research findings: the relative backwardness of Muslims on various social indices; and the confinement of Muslim communities into secluded, insular enclaves/neighbourhoods with minimal civic amenities. The multitude of ways in which young Muslim men in a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood, with little to no formal secular schooling, and hailing from the lower/working class, navigate the street space is examined, to reveal how street space is used as an avenue for informal alternative learning by participating in communities of practice.

The author thanks Kalpana Kannabiran, Director, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad, and the anonymous reviewer for their insightful critiques on an earlier draft of the paper.

This paper presents an ethnographic study of Muslims1 in Hyderabad. It builds on two strands of research findings. The first one concerns the relative backwardness of Muslims on various social indices such as employment, education and socio-economic conditions. The second concerns the confinement of Muslim communities into secluded, insular enclaves/neighbourhoods2 with minimal civic amenities. The study focuses on the second one, that is, on the multitude of ways in which young Muslim men with little to no formal, secular schooling navigate the street space. I show how young Muslim men from a lower/working class, predominantly Muslim neighbourhood, use street space as an avenue for informal (Illich 1971), alternative learning, by participating in what Lave and Wenger (1991) termed as community of practice.

Prem Nagar is a lower-income Muslim neighbourhood located at the cusp of New and Old Hyderabad. The main road that connects Prem Nagar to the rest of the city cuts through a commercial area lined by rows of shops (grocery shops, meat shops, sweet shops, restaurants, tailoring shops, etc), workshops (vehicle repair shops, scrap shops, furniture and hardware shops, etc), scores of repousse and chasing units, two mosques, and one Urdu-medium high school. On either side of the main road, and a little inwards, lies the residential area with a range of houses: from old, decrepit dwellings to new brightly coloured houses; from single-room units to double-storeyed dwelling-cum-workshops, and in the midst of all these there are corner tea stalls, small snack shops, general stores, and two madrasas. The by-lanes and alleys criss-cross at several intervals, making the neighbourhood appear spatially compact and insular. The front and back alleys are used by the residents for plying and peddling their respective wares. A by-lane leads to one desolate patch of land bordering the graveyard that is used by children as a playground, and by older boys as a meet-up venue (that is, adda3), away from the adult gaze.

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Published On : 13th Dec, 2018

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