Writers as Educators: The Pedagogical Ideas and Experiments of Rabindrnath Tagore and Begum Rokeya

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and Begum Rokeya (1880-1932) are two of the most iconic South Asian writers. Tagore was the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize (1913) and the only person in history to have authored and scored the national anthems of two countries, India and Bangladesh. Rokeya, on the other hand, was a pioneering Muslim feminist writer and activist who launched recurrent scathing attacks on South Asian patriarchy and even turned it upside down by creating a fictional Ladyland (1905; arguably the first in literature), in which men are confined indoors and women run the state. However, despite their phenomenal literary success, they also enthusiastically engaged in educational activities, although both of them were autodidacts.

In this paper, I will investigate why these two celebrated writers took up their educational mission and how they sought to translate their ideas into reality by setting up institutions of their own – Tagore, a school (1901), a university (1921) and a centre for rural reconstruction (1922) and Rokeya, a school for girls (1911). I will also elucidate how their educational models compared with the colonial system of education and why we need to revisit their pedagogical enterprises as we witness a global proliferation of militant ethnic/nativist/parochial nationalism, religious strife, capitalist consumerism, class and gender discrimination and, especially in the context of Tagore, a worsening climate crisis.
Period19 Mar 2021
Event titleFlinders English and Creative Writing Seminar Series
Event typeSeminar