Miriam Thangaraj

Areas of Interest & Expertise

  • Anthropology of Education/​Education Policy
  • Comparative and International Education
  • Child Labour and Child Rights
  • Gender and Learning-and-Livelihood Trajectories
  • Southern Childhoods
  • Informal and Non-formal Education and Apprenticeships
  • Ethnography


Miriam researches how education and development policies construct particular spaces, persons, and trajectories in the Global South as appropriate for learning-and-living. As children, teachers, and communities encounter national and global policy approaches– from Right to Education (RTE) to quality/​relevant education or learning objectives – what possibilities for learning-and-living emerge even as other’ ways of living and learning are erased? And, in the process, what cultural-political-economic relations (including gender and generational relations) are transformed, and to what ends?

Her work pursues ethnographically-informed answers that seek to bear witness to the challenging yet inventive lives and logic of children and youth in marginalised circumstances. 

Her dissertation, Silk, Schools, Special Economic Zones, foregrounds the experiences, aspirations and trajectories of child apprentices on Kanchipuram’s silk handlooms as they were rescued and rehabilitated” in school. 

Winner of The Comparative and International Education Society’s Gail P Kelly Award for outstanding doctoral dissertation that addresses social justice and equity issues in an international context, Miriam’s research was supported by fellowships from the National Academy of Education (NAEd) /​Spencer Foundation and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).

Prior to joining the University, Miriam held teaching and research positions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Most recently, she spent over 20 months at a government school serving Adi-Dravida communities in rural Tamil Nadu, as part of a multi-site, mixed-methods study of secondary education at Michigan State University. 

Miriam continues to draw on this rich, comparative data to collaboratively develop thick’ accounts of youth — and their expectations, excitements, and anxieties — as they navigated classroom and community spaces in challenging post-COVID-19 times.

Miriam received her PhD in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018. She also has a Master’s in Education from Harvard University and a Postgraduate Diploma from XLRI (Xavier School of Management), Jamshedpur.



Chapters in Edited Books

Research Project