Visual Methods in Childhood Studies


I am so excited and pleased to have a chapter in April Mandrona and Claudia MItchell’s lovely new volume, Visual Encounters in the Study of Rural Childhoods. My chapter is titled “The story of Peter Both-in-One: Using visual storytelling methods to understand risk and resilience among transgender and gender-nonconforming young children in rural North American contexts.”  The piece is about rurality, gender and transgender childhoods, but also about innovations in using visual method, and interpreting children’s visual products, in childhood studies research. And here is a sneak peek from the introduction:

Now that more popular attention is being paid to young children’s diverse experiences with gender, and as bullying and school climate concerns have captured popular attention, understanding the self-definition and experiential trajectories of transgender and gender-nonconforming children is essential (Ehrensaft 2013). Given the psychosocial literature’s particular focus on these children’s traumatic school and social experience, scholars in childhood point to the urgency of capturing portraits of resilience across the varied contextual landscapes of childhood gender expression and experience (Luecke 2011; Holmes and Cahill 2004). The ethnographic study from which these analyses are drawn employed visual methods in the form of the Identity Scrapbook. This methodology is the primary innovation of this study, specifically designed to elicit pictures and ideas from children preschool aged and older. The Identity Scrapbook was used here to render a more fine-grained portrait of children’s resilience, as illustrated here in the composite vignette of a child who calls himself “Peter Both-in-One”.

You can purchase it on the Rutgers website. Enjoy this work!

Art, social justice, and the ethnography of childhood (and the new Shane!)

I am so honored and thrilled to be speaking about my work as an arts-based ethnographer of childhood at Kansas State University this February. This is going to be a very special talk about my work with transgender and gender-creative children, my interrogations of adult roles and power in childhood ethnography for social justice, and (drum roll please) unveiling some of the images from the brand new Shane book, out SOON (well, as soon as I can finish inking it! For real, an actual picture of me inking the book is below).

Art and Method at the AAAs

Next week is the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association! There are so many great papers and sessions, many of them through the Council for the Anthropology of Education. I’ll also be there, talking about art and method and hope in my paper/performance, “Not a mirror, but an icon: Ethnographic comic art in three acts.” This paper focuses on my ethnographic work with communities of transgender and other gender diverse children and their families. For those of you who witnessed our collective devastation and mourning at last year’s AAAs, I’m picking up the thread of resilience, resistance and the real power of doing creative good  in evil times.

Or just come for the comedy as I try to draw and talk at the same time! 🙂 

Mermaids and Metaphors

It was a fantastic couple of days attending the Island Studies conference on folklore, mermaids, islands and magic in beautiful Copenhagen. I learned so much from my lovely new interdisciplinary friends whose work spans the globe and touches on everything from new materialism to terrorism to identity work to Armenian fairy tales to the life and times of a real life working Paris mermaid. I spoke about Kinderculture and the mermaid as feminine credential and trans* pride symbolism for young children. More soon on that! 
I took lots of notes. 

Pulp Culture @Vermont Folklife Center

I am so honored to have been invited to appear at the one, the only, the amazing Vermont Folklife Center’s Pulp Culture Comic Arts Festival and Symposium. I’m simply beside myself with joy to be a part of this event. If you find yourself in the area on what will surely be a gorgeous stretch of fall weather leaf peeping goodness, comic art learning and reading and drawing, and all around good times, please do drop in and come visit me and the other ethnographers on our panel, Ethnography: Comics and Culture.  I can’t wait! 

The Artist as an Ethnographer

I’m going to be speaking about some of my work as an artist and ethnographer of childhood this coming Wednesday in the UMass Anthropology Department. I promise tales of wonder and terror and joy, and hope to impress upon all present that — in all its forms– art heals.

AND, here I am CAUGHT in the ACT! Thanks to Dr. Krista Harper for adding me to the honor roll of those colloquium speakers she has sketched herself!

Tales of Comfort

I’m so honored and delighted to have my work appearing in this brand new volume from Ethnography and Education, edited by Yaliz Akbaba and Bob Jeffrey.

My chapter, titled “Stealth practice: Early Childhood and Elementary Teachers Supporting Gender Diverse Children in the Context of Right-Wing American “Zoetrope Populism” appears in the first section. The abstract is below.

“Much research on transgender and other gender diverse children suggests that school contexts have the potential for the highest level of trauma and the lowest educational outcomes for that population. In the United States, the Obama administration issued guidance for implementing robust trans protections and inclusion in schools. However, the incoming Trump administration rolled back these protections within a matter of weeks after
taking office. Drawing from an ongoing ethnographic study of the school and home experiences of American gender diverse children ages 3-10, this paper explores their teachers’ stressful and resourceful experiences in the context of post-election right wing ‘zoetrope populism ” (West 2016). Many teachers responded to these stressors
by developing an array of practices designed to support gender diverse children in relative secret. While teachers were certainly afraid of being ‘caught’ providing these hidden supports, they persisted. This chapter presents two examples of supportive, but hidden, classroom practice in just such circumstances. Discussion of teachers’ practice and the transformation of the nature of teachers’ work– as both public intellectuals and
careworkers– in the current political context concludes the chapter.”

Everything we write, every story we tell, is another way we speak truth to power. As Tavis Smiley says, “Speaking truth to power means comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable.” I hope to provide comfort by telling these stories of teachers and families who themselves provide comfort every day, often at great risk to themselves.

You can learn more about this timely, incisive book, and order your own copy, here:

Brand New AEQ

As the summer winds to a close and the academic year hovers over us, take a moment to check out a brand new hot-off-the-presses volume of Anthropology and Education Quarterly. In this issue, we focus on gender, with pieces from Ayesha Khurshid, Catherine Ashcraft and Colleagues, Quaylan Allen, Sarah Winkler-Reid, Morghan Vélez Young‐Alfaro and more. The issue also includes Reflections from Joe Tobin and Akiko Hayashi and the CAE Presidential Address with commentaries. The issue may not be officially out until September, but thanks to Online First, you can read it now. Hooray!


Barcelona 2017! See you there!


The very nice people at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona have invited me back, ten years later, to give another opening keynote at The International Conference on Ethnography and Education. I’m so honored and excited to see old friends and make new ones over three brilliant days in sunny Cerdanyola de Valles, talking ethnography and slaying dragons. Read more about all the fun here:


Research in Pain

I’ve written in lots of other places about how difficult it has been to be a researcher in childhood and a parent since the ugly events of November 2016, and what the new American populism has meant for me personally and professionally. However, thanks to the supportive editors and reviewers at Anthropology News I’ve been able to explore that pain in pictures and words, here:

This is one of my few comics that are not funny, and do not feature Shane. This one is serious, and is about subjectivity, reflexivity, research, meaning, identity and most of all pain. It’s very personal. I have been very public about my writing process, so I’ll admit here that I wept the whole time I drew this piece. While I am used to a certain degree of vulnerability as a scholar-artist, and producing this kind of work does push one somewhat into the historical margins, I feel strongly that wading off the page and into the margins is an act of bravery for these times. We make new meaning when we expand our scholarship beyond what is smooth, knowable and digestible. Further, we defy fascism when we name its evils in pictures and words, with bright colors that say, unequivocally, we know what you are. Artists came to name names. Mind our swath.

Galman, S. (2017). Research in pain. Anthropology News, 14-17.