Susan Thomas

Susan Thomas
Associate Professor
Phone: 315.443.9075
Address: 362 Huntington Hall
Academic Program Area Focus: Cultural Foundations of Education

Susan Thomas is Associate Professor of Cultural Foundations of Education. Trained as an educational anthropologist, her work exists at the intersection of international education, migration studies, and critical university studies, with a particular emphasis on South Asia and South Asian diasporas.

Thomas pursues lines of inquiry that deploy transnational, comparative, and transdisciplinary approaches. Building on her scholarly interest in the fraught inclusion politics of university life as it becomes transformed by neoliberalization, Thomas’ first book project, Indebted Mobilities, interrogates the racialized, gendered, and classed practices underlying the encounters between the Indian student-migrant figure and the internationalizing university. Contending that indebtedness and US exceptionality are central logics in the configuration of the global educational landscape, this critical ethnography examines how such logics mark the migratory lives of Indian middle-class youth. Indebted Mobilities is published with the University of Chicago Press.

A second interrelated line of inquiry broadly concerns geographies of violence and the possibilities for solidarity and collective resistance that emerge from them. Specifically, Thomas is working on a 3-piece essay series that explores comparatively race and caste politics in the context of education. The first of these essays was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. Related to this broader area of interest, she is also co-editing a volume entitled Genealogies of Anti-Asian/Asia Violences, which emerged out of a symposium she co-organized in Spring 2022. The volume is currently under contract with Fordham University Press.

Thomas is a Senior Research Associate with the SU South Asia Center. From 2021-2023, she also served as the Co-Chair of the Global Migration Special Interest Group for the Comparative and International Education Society.


  • Ph.D. Education, Culture, and Society, University of Pennsylvania
  • B.A. International Affairs, The George Washington University


Research & Scholarship

Research Focus:

Susan Thomas' research and teaching interests include international education, transnational migration, South Asia/South Asian diaspora, debt, precarity, race and caste politics, student resistance, violence, and ethnographic inquiry

Recent Publications and Talks


  • Thomas, Susan (2024). Indebted Mobilities: Indian Youth, Migration, and the Internationalizing University (University of Chicago Press).
  • Thomas, Susan, and Antonio Tiongson (Eds.). Genealogies of Anti-Asian/Asia Violences (under contract with Fordham University Press).

Articles and Chapters

  • Thomas, Susan. 2021. Difference and Dissent in the Neoliberal University: Relational Geographies of Race, Caste, and Violence. [Published online 2019] Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 42(3): 368-380.
  • Thomas, Susan. 2018. Student-Migrants and the Diasporic Imagination: Educational Migration, Nationhood, and the Making of Indian Diaspora in the United States. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 21(2): 255-272.
  • Thomas, Susan.  2017. The Precarious Path of Student Migrants: Education, Debt, and Transnational Migration among Indian Youth. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 43(11): 1873-1889.
  • Thomas, Susan.  2014. The Neoliberal Turn in US Higher Education: Implications for Indian F-1 Students’ Negotiations of Belonging. In J. Koyama & M. Subramanian (Eds.), Education in a World of Migration: Implications for Policy and Practice. New York: Routledge.
  • Thomas, Susan. 2013 [Review of the book Paradise Redefined: Transnational Chinese Students and the Quest for Flexible Citizenship in the Developed World, by V. Fong]. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 44(2).

Invited Talks and Presentations

  • “Indian Student-Migrants and the Indebted Imaginaries of Diasporic Worlds.” Migration: Points of Entry, Points of Departure Symposium, Wolf Humanities Center, University of Pennsylvania 2022.
  • “Transnational Solidarities: Race, Caste, Education.” Anthropology of Caste, IIT-Gandhinagar, Gujarat January 2020.
  •  “Learning the Ropes of Race: Student-Migrants in Post-9/11 America.” American Studies Association, Honolulu, HI 2019.
  • “Sociality and Reciprocity among Indian Student-Migrants.” South Asia Center Speaker Series, South Asia Center, Syracuse University February 2018.
  • “Student Mobility, Cultural Exchange, and Neoliberal Education.” Global Voices in Education Speaker Series, South Asia Program, Cornell University October 2017.

Professional Affiliations

  • Comparative and International Education Society
  • American Studies Association
  • American Anthropological Association
  • Association for Asian American Studies