S.CampbellGalman pic 

Dr. Sally Campbell is an anthropologist, writer, and performance and visual artist. Her research interests include the anthropology of childhood, early childhood studies, and gender studies. She is the Principal Investigator of the Gender Moxie Project. This project, generously funded by the Spencer Foundation, focuses on understanding transgender and other gender-diverse children’s experiences and resiliencies through an interdisciplinary and art-informed lens. Along with colleague Dr. Laura Alicia Valdiviezo, she is the Editor-in-Chief of Anthropology and Education Quarterly.  She is also an editor at Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures. Dr. Campbell was born and grew up in northern Japan, spent every summer of her life at the public library near her grandparents’ house in Jackson, Mississippi, and graduated from Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is Professor of Child and Family Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst


Abstract: Crooked is the line: Comics, graphic novels and unruly futures in qualitative research

While some suggest that comics occupy the intellectual margins, I would argue that increased accessibility is not the same thing as facile simplification for easier or faster or broader consumption. Indeed, drawing pictures in the context of qualitative research is about revealing heightened complexity and unruly, jagged possibility. Such work is complex, elegant, and deeply accessible while also sticking in your craw in all the right ways. In this way it is a game-changing genre that stands out even in the current era of expanding and exploding media types and qualitative methodologies.

For context: I’m the author of the Shane series, a three-volume set of how-to comics for qualitative researchers. I’m also an award-winning cartoonist, a Professor of Child and Family Studies, a working artist, an ethnographer and an illustrator. Rather than fragment these interwoven identities, I use comics in my work to make them all fit together as contiguous, complex whole, and also to speak to wider and more unruly publics. The American Anthropological Association 2014 annual meeting theme “producing anthropology” encouraged scholars across the anthropological landscape to reconsider dissemination formats, access and the diverse publics they hope to engage with their work. In many of my projects, the power of participant stories, and the urgency contained in those stories, has led me to think about ways to trespass the standard mechanisms of research dissemination and hopefully to find within them more public and powerful conversations.

In this paper I will talk about the experience of writing a series of successful ethnographic methods texts in cartoon format, and also about the twin tasks of using comics to conduct meaningful, reflective fieldwork and to disseminate unruly findings and reflections from the field, especially in my arts-based ethnographic research with young children. In addition to the story of how I got here, as an artist and an anthropologist, this paper presents implications for the academic practicalities of tenure and promotion, as well as an image of what communities of text and image more wholly centered on these “new publics” might look like, especially when those publics might include diverse participant communities. The paper concludes with reflections on the use of comics as a medium in qualitative methods teaching, both within and independent from arts-based or arts-informed work. This has implications for the changing academy, changing research and outreach outputs, and the new challenges of reaching new publics with richly descriptive data and new, every more complex, methodological considerations.