Visual Studies

Theories of visual culture and visual studies provide the main umbrella concepts for my research. As a form of social and cultural theory, visual studies questions and analyzes taken for granted, everyday visual practices. My research asks questions such as: Who can look at whom and who is allowed to be seen? 

The broad theoretical scope of visual studies brings together images, gaze, materiality, visualization, and the institutionalization of the visual in the everyday life of both humans and non-humans. A particular focus is on the ways in which norms and values are reproduced in and through the visual.

I research visual culture in combination with the topics of child culture, consumption, sexuality, materiality, children and childhood and visual research methods. I am especially interested in the ways in which these topics intertwine, entangle and cut against one another (see below).

ResearchShow/Hide content


Upcoming book: Children, Sexuality and Visual Culture: Enacting the Pedophilic Gaze (Palgrave).

What do children know about sexuality? Do they know anything? What should they know? Recent research points out that even young children between six and twelve years old relate to the topic of sex and sexuality on an everyday basis. My interest in young children and sexuality concerns so-called "normal" sexuality. Theoretically, my research is part of Sexuality Studies, the research field which emphasizes social and cultural understandings of sexuality. 

A key concept and research topic is pedophilication and the normalization of the pedophilic gaze. My key proposition is that the pedophilic gaze has become a norm, on the basis of which children’s and adults’ worlds are ordered and structured in practice. I focus on and unpack this topic in my forthcoming book: Children, Sexuality and Visual Culture: Enacting the Pedophilic Gaze (Palgrave).

Research articles 

Sparrman, A. (2015). Seeing (with) the ‘sexy’ body: young children visual enactment of sexuality. In Emma Renold, Jessica Ringrose and Danielle Egan (Eds.), Children sexuality and the ‘sexualization’ of culture, pp. UK: Palgrave.

Sparrman, Anna (2014). Access and gatekeeping in researching children’s sexuality: Mess in ethics and methods. Sexuality & Culture, 18(2): 291-309.



Visual research methods

Visual methods have become more or less a research field in itself. Methodologically I work with (visual) ethnography, video recordings, photo-elicited focus group discussions, scrap books, children's drawings, visual analysis of images from all genres, GPS, and visualizations on Internet. 
I am also interested in the productivity of research methods, that is, what methodological dilemmas can tell us about the topics we are researching. For example, what do our experiences in using ethnographic methods tell us about child culture or sexuality? This interest can be described as researching about research. Theoretically and methodologically my analytic work brings together  visual culture with ideas from Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Deleuze
Eye with blue pupil
Video lins
Technology is important when making visual ethnography Istock Photo
Little girl selling lemonade
Children as consumers and producers. Istock Photo
A doll in a backpack
The material child culture. Istock Photo
Research article by Anna sparrman
Sparrman, Anna, Samuelsson, Tobias, Lindgren, Anne-Li and David Cardell (2016). The ontological practices of child culture. Childhood, 23(2): 255-271.     Sparrman, Anna (2014). Access and gatekeeping in researching children’s sexuality: Mess in ethics and methods. Sexuality & Culture, 18(2): 291-309.  

PublicationsShow/Hide content

Children’s sexual citizenship Changing notions of the sexual child

“It seems as though a dark view of children and sexuality has arisen since the political changes of the 1980s. Our own contemporary worries about the omnipresent paedophile limits the case for sexual citizenship for children because it refutes the political space and agency that needs to be created for this to happen.”

Anna Sparrman, “Children’s sexual citizenship: Changing notions of the sexual child” in Changing Childhoods, 22 September 2020.

Making culture - Children’s and young people’s leisure cultures

Making culture is a research anthology focusing on children’s and young people’s leisure culture. Nineteen researchers from the Nordic countries have been invited by the Nordic Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis (Kulturanalys Norden) to explore, describe and analyse how children and young people act as cultural ‘doers’. The anthology provides researchers, policymakers and practitioners with insights and analyses on children’s and young people’s culture.

Download or order the book: Making culture

CVShow/Hide content

CV, assignments & networks

CV in short

Professor in Child Studies, Linköping university
Docent in Child Studies, Linköping university
PhD in Child Studies, Linköping university


Child Studies, Master´s Programme
International online-master in Child Studies- Sociological perspectives on children and childhood and Children, gender and sexuality

PhD Programme in Child Studies


Member and  Chairman of Nordic Culture Point, Culture and art programme and VOLT Nordic Culture Point. Volt is a language and culture programme for children and young people up to the age of 25.

Academic Council of Experts. The Ombudsman for Children in Sweden.

Advisory board för the Childism Institute

Advisory board, DYNAMUS

Editorial board for Sociology of Children and families

Previous assignments

  • Board member of Department of Thematic Studies, Linköping University
  • Board member of the Swedish Arts Council.
  • Board member of Advanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden (ACSIS)
  • Board member of the research council at the Swedish Museum of technology, Stockholm.
  • Scientific Advisory Panel for MISTRA-SAMS

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