Picturing education, poverty and childhood from the perspectives of yak herder children in Bhutan

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

The 'Poor Child': The cultural politics of education, development and childhood


Taylor and Francis Inc.


Hopkins, L. & Sriprakash, A.


School of Arts and Humanities




Hopkins, L. & Sriprakash, A. (2015). Picturing education, poverty and childhood from the perspectives of yak herder children in Bhutan. In L. Hopkins, & A. Sriprakash (Eds.), The 'Poor Child': The Cultural Politics of Education, Development and Childhood. United Kingdom: Routledge.



In this chapter I add to this analysis by examining how discourses of poverty and education are negotiated by children within a migratory yak herding community in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. The chapter draws on research I conducted in early 2014 in a village school. My research suggests that constructions of education and poverty circulating within development discourses work unnecessarily to establish and reinforce binaries between modernity and tradition; urban and rural life; and mental and menial work; and to construct for children an imagined future subjectivity that is often unattainable yet to which children continue to aspire (Balagopalan 2008). My research has found that rural or 'poor' children who are potentially positioned in terms of deficit and failure by dominant discourses of education and poverty are perfectly capable of rehearsing and articulating tl1e binaries underpinning these discourses. However, when invited to reflect on their own lives and schooling, those same children are simultaneously able to render the relationship between education, poverty, modernity and subjecthood far more complex than is permitted within the binary thinking of dominant development discourses.

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