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).

Children and childhood

What is a child? This may seem a simple question. Yet child studies research shows how children and childhood are continuously ‘being done’ or enacted in and through practice. Theoretically, I am responsible for the concept Child Studies Multiple. This concept opens up research which stays with the instabilities, mess, fluidity, relationality, hybridity and complexity which are all part of enacting children and childhood. Child Studies Multiple questions the assumption that children are consolidated and uniform, replacing it with the notion of the heterogeneous child who multiplies in all directions. Child Studies Multiple combines theories of child studies with visual studies and with Science and Technology Studies (STS), Actor Network Theory (ANT), and posthumanism. My research mainly concerns children aged from six to twelve years, examining the enactment of children and childhood in and through practices by both children AND adults.

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Anna Sparrman talks about her research on children, consumption, child culture and sexuality

In Anna Sparrmans research, theories of visual culture is combined with children, consumption, child culture and sexuality. She addresses how norms and values are enacted between children, adults, and the material world in children's everyday life practices.

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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.  

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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

Through the looking-glass: Alice and Child Studies Multiple

This is NOT an article about Alice in Wonderland. It is about the figure of Alice-the-child and an exploration of the contemporary theoretical research field of Child Studies. What if, I ask, Lewis Carroll’s Alice had been one of the sources drawn upon when forming child research theories? The idea is to explore how the fictive child character Alice in Wonderland enacts key theoretical concepts in Child Studies. Out of this exploration grows the idea of Child Studies Multiple.

Through the looking-glass


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CV in short

  • 2021
    Proprefect, Department of Themaic Studies, Linköping university.
  • 2013
    Professor in Child Studies, Linköping university
  • 2009
    Docent in Child Studies, Linköping university
  • 2002
    PhD in Child Studies, Linköping university


  • 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

Scientific Advisory Panel for MISTRA-SAMS


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