Professor Allison James

Professor of Sociology (BA, PhD, AcSS)

Photo of Allison James


Academic Profile

Born in 1954 I grew up in Birmingham and then moved north to Durham University where I took a joint degree in Sociology and Anthropology. This sparked my fascination with the overlap between these twin disciplines. It was at Durham that I also first became interested in children and childhood - my BA dissertation for sociology compared the images of childhood to be found in Victorian children´s books with those more contemporary ones of the late 1970s.

Awarded an SSRC scholarship I stayed on at Durham to do my PhD in Social Anthropology and carried out research with children and young people in a small mining community in the north-east of England. I was keen to explore the potential of `anthropology at home´ and have continued to carry out fieldwork with children in British society.

In 1989 I was awarded a three year British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, held at South bank Polytechnic, and then moved to the University of Hull to take up a full-time teaching post in 1992. Having been made Reader in Applied Anthropology in 2002 I then moved to Sheffield as Professor of Sociology in 2003.

I have worked in the sociology/ anthropology of childhood since the late 1970s and have helped pioneer the theoretical and methodological approaches to research with children which are now central to the field of childhood studies. My work focuses on children as social actors and my research has included work on children´s language and culture in relation to theories of socialisation, children´s attitudes towards sickness and bodily difference and children's experiences of time at home and at school. I also have research interests in the fields of the anthropology of law and policy, medical sociology, the life course and the sociology and anthropology of food.

  • Professor II appointment at NOSEB, Norwegian Centre for Child Research, Norwegian University for Science and Technology, Trondheim
  • Member of Advisory Council, Centre for Childhood and Adolescence, Cyprus College
  • Academician of the Social Sciences (2011)


I have carried out a number of field research projects with children and about childhood, some of which are listed below (see Funded Research Projects).

I have also carried out desk based research exploring issues around ageing and identity across the life course, representations of food, and work which has helped develop new theoretical approaches to the study of children and childhood.

My research interests include:

  • children’s culture
  • theoretical approaches in childhood studies
  • medical sociology, especially in relation to children and childhood
  • life course , narrative analysis and and biography
  • sociology and anthropology of food
  • interdisciplinary research methods and research writing
  • the sociology/anthropology of everyday life
Funded Research Projects
Date Sponsor Details
2012-15 Sheffield Children's Hospital NHS Trust Beyond family centred care ( with P. Curtis)
2012-14 University of Sheffield Advanced Fellowship
2011-12 Lindum Turf/Sheffield University My Green Roof (with P. Curtis). Sponsor
2006-08 Leverhulme Children as family participants: negotiating food practices in everyday life. (with P. Curtis)
2005-07 ESRC Space to Care: Children’s
Perceptions of Spatial Aspects of Hospitals. (with P.Curtis)
2001-03 ESRC Constructing Children´s Welfare: a comparative study of professional practice (with A.L.James)
1997-00 ESRC Changing Times: children´s perception and understanding of the social organisation of time (with .P. Christensen, and C.Jenks)
1995-97 ESRC `Family Based Conceptions of Dependency´: a cultural construct?' (with J. Hockey)
1988-91 British Academy The Classification of Handicap as `significant difference´ in Children´s Culture

Publications since 2005

edited with C. Smart and J. Hockey (forthcoming 2014) The Craft of Knowledge: experiences of living with data Basingstoke: Palgrave

(2013) Socialising Children Basingstoke: Palgrave

(2013) ‘Home Talk: Girls talking about family togetherness’, Home Cultures, 10(3):313-326

(2012) 'Constructing the sick child: the cultural politics of children’s hospitals', The Sociological Review 60 (4): 754-773.

(2012) ‘Seeking the analytic imagination; reflections on the process of interpreting qualitative data’. Qualitiative Research, 1-16

(2011) ‘Child-centredness’ and ‘the child’: the cultural politics of nursery schooling in England’ in A.T. Kjorholt and J. Qvortrup eds. The Modern Child and the Flexible Labour Market: early childhood education and care. Basingstoke; Palgrave McMillan.

with P. Curtis and H. Stapleton (2011) 'Intergenerational relations and the family food environment in families with a child with obesity’, Annals of Human Biology, 38(4): 429-437

with P. Curtis and K. Ellis (2010) 'Children's snacking, children's food: food moralities and family life', Children's Geographies, Vol. 8:3, pp. 291-302. doi: 10.1080/14733285.2010.494870

with P. Curtis (2010) ‘Family displays and personal lives', Sociology, vol. 44:6, pp. 1163-1180. doi: 10.1177/0038038510381612

(2010) ‘To be (come) or not to be (come): understanding children’s citizenship', Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 633:1, pp. 167-179. doi: 10.1177/0002716210383642

edited with A. Khorholt and V. Tingstaad (2009) Children, Food and Identity in Everyday Life. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 232pp.

(2009) ‘ Agency’ . In J. Qvortrup, G. Valentine, W. Corsaro, M. Honig eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Childhood Studies. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp 34-45.

(2009) ‘“She’s got a really good attitude to healthy food … Nannan’s drilled it into her”: intergenerational relations in families’, 18pp In P. Jackson ed. Changing families, Changing Food. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

edited with A.L. James (2008) European Childhoods: Culture, Politics and Childhood in the European Union. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 250pp

edited with P. Christensen (2008) Research with Children: perspective and practices. 2nd Edition London: Falmer Press, 295pp

with A.L. James (2008) Key Concepts in Childhood Studies. London:Sage

(2008) ‘Day Care or Early Education? Perspectives on the institutional provision for the construction of a “good”childhood for young children in the UK?’ In G. Robinson ed. Contexts of Child Development: Culture, Policy and Intervention. CDU Press.

with A.L. James (2008) ‘Changing childhood: reconstructing discourses of ‘risk’ and ‘protection’. In A.L. James and A. James eds. European Childhoods: Culture, Politics and Childhood in the European Union. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

with P. Curtis & J. Birch (2008) Care and control in the construction of children’s citizenship. In J.Williams and A. Invernizzi eds. Children and Citizenship. London: Sage

edited with P. Christensen (2007) Research with Children: Perspectives and Practices, Routledge (2nd edition), 296pp

(2007) Giving voice to children’s voices: practices and problems, pitfalls and potentials. In American Anthropologist, 109 (2):

with J.Birch and P. Curtis (2007) ‘In search of the child-friendly hospital’ Built Environment 33 (4)

with J. Hockey (2006) Embodying Health Identities Basingstoke: Palgrave, 199pp

edited with J. Goddard, S. McNamee, A.L. James (2005) The Politics of Childhood. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 280pp

(2005) `The Standardized Child: Issues of Openness, Objectivity and Agency in Promoting Child Health´, Anthropological Journal on European Cultures, vol. 13, pp. 93-110.

(2005) Life times: children’s perspectives on age, agency and memory across the life course. In J. Qvortrup (ed) Studies in Modern Childhood: Society, Agency and Culture. London: Palgrave.

with A.L. James & S. McNamee (2005) ‘Family law and the construction of childhood in England and Wales’. In J. Goddard, et al. eds The Politics of Childhood. Basingstoke:Palgrave

with Univ. of Hull, BRMB, University of York team members (2005) Evaluating the Application Process for the Local Network Fund for Children and Young People – Getting the Money, DfES Research report 683.

with Univ. of Hull, BRMB, University of York team members (2005) Evaluating the Impacts of the Local Network Fund for Childnre and Young People –Using the Money, DfES Report 684.

with Univ. of Hull, BRMB, University of York team members (2005) National Evaluation of the Local Network Fund Conclusions and Policy Proposals - Was the Money Used Well? DfES Research Report, 685.

A full list of publications can be downloaded by clicking the link on the right of this page.