Akanksha Awal is a social anthropologist working on the anthropology of gender and social change in Ghaziabad district, north India. Her research analyses the shifting conceptions and experiences of social freedoms available to educated young people in India in order to understand cultural transformations in South Asia.
Her doctoral research in anthropology (Oxford, 2019) examined education as a site for political engagement over women’s social and sexual freedoms in contemporary India. Through ethnographic research with college-going young women, she illustrates the role of free emotional expression in constructing vernacular ideas of freedom in India and she contributes to debates that unsettle conventional views of social institutions, of gender, caste and class, within anthropology as a whole.
She is at the beginning stages of her next project, which examines the ecological dimensions of urban cultural change. In particular, she will look at how rising air pollution affects social conceptions of freedom-constraint in urbanising India.
Her research at Oxford was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council and St John’s College. From 2016-18, Akanksha served as a contributing editor for Cultural Anthropology. Before joining Oxford, she worked as a journalist for the Financial Times where she covered large-scale protests against corruption from Delhi, which inspired her doctoral research.