Profile: Karishma Desai

Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations

Karishma Desai is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. Her research employs anthropological and transnational feminist lenses in the study of gender, globalization, and education to understand contested ways in which norms about gender and childhood are consolidated, translated, and negotiated in educational sites predominantly in South Asia and its diaspora. Her primary project investigates how desired subjectivities and knowledges are forward within gendered development regimes of skilling and empowerment with particular attention to the values, aspirations, and affective orientations that are made available and simultaneously reproduce inequities. She is also interested in how these embodied skills are measured and constructed as data. This transnational ethnographic project examines neoliberal feminist interventions in New Delhi and New York City. 

Dr. Desai has published in Curriculum Inquiry, Gender and Education, and Harvard Educational Review, and co-edited a special issue on citizenship and education for Curriculum Inquiry.

Her research and teaching investments in the politics of knowledge and aspirations stem from her time as a classroom teacher in New York City and Chicago, and work with educators and curriculum in the United States, South Asia, and East Africa. Karishma holds a B.A. in Sociocultural Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis, an Ed.M. in International Educational Development, and a doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University.


Doctorate, Teachers College, Columbia University (2017)

Masters of Education in International Educational Development, Teachers College, Columbia University (2017)

B. A. in Sociocultural Anthropology, Washington University in Saint Louis (2004)

Expertise & Research Interest

Gender and Education
Anthropology and Education
Critical Development Studies
Comparative Education 

Recent & Selected Publications

Desai, K. (2019). Letting girls learn, letting girls rise: Commodifying girlhood in campaigns for secure global futures. In K. Cheney & A. Sinevro (Eds.) Disadvantaged childhoods and humanitarian intervention. Palgrave Book Series on Children and Development. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sanya, B.N., Desai, K., Callier, D.M., & McCarthy, C. Eds. (2018). Educative practices and the making of(non)citizens [Special Issue]. Curriculum Inquiry.

Desai, K. (2016). Teaching the ‘Third World Girl’: Girl Rising as a precarious curriculum of empathy. Curriculum Inquiry, 46(3), 248-264.

Desai, K. & Sanya, B. N. (2016). Towards decolonial praxis: Reconfiguring the human and the curriculum. Gender and Education, 28(6), 710-724.

Desai, K. (2015). Adharshila Shikshan Kendra: An experiment to reconstitute possibilities for Adivasi children. In E. Sumida Huaman and B. Sriraman (Eds.), Indigenous universalities and peculiarities of innovation (149-168). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.


Honors & Awards

  • Gerardo Marin Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of San Francisco
  • Faculty Development Fund Award, University of San Francisco
  • Dean’s Fellowship for Research, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Dean’s Fellowship Program for Teaching & Diversity Award, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Minority Scholarship, Teachers College, Columbia University

Professional Affiliations

American Anthropological Association (AAA)

American Educational Research Association (AERA)

Comparative and International Education Society (CIES)

National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)



  • Phone: 
    (848) 932-0722
  • Office Address: 

    GSE Room 36C

  • Ed.M. Program (Education, Culture, & Society Concentration)

    Ed.D. Program (Education, Culture, & Society Concentration)

    Ph.d (Theory, Organization, and Policy)

    Faculty Affiliate, South Asian Studies Program

    Faculty Affiliate, Center for Security, Race and Rights