In the field of English language teaching, there has been increasing interest in the way literacy development is influenced by institutional and community practices, and the way power is implicated in language learners’ engagement with text. In this paper, I trace the trajectory of my research on identity, literacy, and English language teaching, informed by theories of investment and imagined communities. Data from English language classrooms in Canada, Pakistan, and Uganda suggest that if learners have a sense of ownership over meaning-making, they will have enhanced identities as learners, and participate more actively in literacy practices. The research challenges English teachers to consider what pedagogical practices are both appropriate and desirable in the teaching of literacy, and what practices will help students develop the capacity for imagining a wider range of identities across time and space. Such practices, the research suggests, will necessitate changes in both teacher and student identity.