Landscapes of (Im)possibility: A Comparative Case Study of the Civic Identities, Literacies, and Learning of U.S. and Indian Urban Migrant Girls
Ankhi Thakurta

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Pennsylvania

Primary Discipline

Literacy and/or English/Language Education
In cities across the U.S. and India, the world?s two largest democracies, girls from migrant communities face comparably converging barriers to civic inclusion. These include sociocultural factors, urban inequalities (e.g., housing precarities), and gendered hierarchies. Concomitantly, these youth are also drawing on their meaning-making repertoires to negotiate local constraints through processes like digital engagement. Thus, they are also asserting emergent civic identities. In and beyond education, prior research has found that critical, literacy-based civic education programs can promote the sociopolitical belonging of U.S. and Indian urban migrant youth. However, scholarship has mostly analyzed nation-specific programs centering these young people as wider demographic groups. We consequently know little about how urban migrant girls in and across these two major democracies engage with critical civic learning. Comparative research into this area is necessary to develop transnational civic education programs that are informed by the place-specific, yet similarly intersectional challenges these uniquely situated actors face. This Comparative Case Study addresses this gap by foregrounding urban migrant girls from two prominent U.S. and Indian cities who participate in two virtual civic education communities. It uses interviews, document analysis, and practitioner methods to comparatively explore how youth already view and enact civic identities, and how they engage with critical civic education. Besides generating comparative knowledge about U.S. and Indian urban migrant civic girlhoods, this research will lay foundations for trans-urban education programs that prioritize the civic flourishing of migrant girls from the city scale.
About Ankhi Thakurta
Ankhi G. Thakurta is a Ph.D. candidate in the Reading/Writing/Literacy program at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Informed by her own experiences as an Indian American, her transnational research draws on critical literacy scholarship, theories of transnational girlhoods, and critical urban studies to explore the civic identities, meaning-making (literacies), and learning of urban migrant girls. Her aim is to expand our understanding of these youth as already significant civic actors, and to shape the creation of participatory civic education programs that nourish their vast potential in and across their home cities. Ankhi has held various roles in the education field. After college, she supported undergraduate writers as a Global Academic Fellow in the United Arab Emirates at New York University in Abu Dhabi. Next, she taught eighth grade English Language Arts at a New York City public school. At Penn, she has managed Dr. Gerald Campano and Dr. MarĂ­a Paula Ghiso?s Philadelphia-based research practice partnership which is dedicated to exploring issues of educational equity and access alongside culturally and linguistically diverse communities in the city. Her work has been published in various journals including the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy and Urban Education. She is also a visual artist who is interested in how arts-based methods can be utilized in processes of data collection and analysis. Ankhi holds a B.A. from Swarthmore College, an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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