Dr Laura Haapio-Kirk

laura haapio kirk

Junior Research Fellow, Christ Church


BA Archaeology and Anthropology (University of Bristol)
MSc Visual Anthropology (University of Oxford)
PhD Social Anthropology (University College London)

Academic Background

My current project, ‘Feeling at Home in a Digital World’, is an ethnography of how digital and physical domestic spaces interact, paying attention to how people craft spaces of wellbeing. This research builds on a key insight from my PhD: the home as a central site for care is now supplemented by digital spaces that allow for people to better calibrate closeness and distance, autonomy and dependence. I am drawing on my doctoral research with older adults in Japan to provide a comparative perspective with new ethnography conducted in Finland. This research contributes to urgent global debates around population ageing, digital participation, and the crisis of care. I am developing graphic research methods to investigate the affective dimensions of wellbeing and producing a graphic novel, alongside academic outputs. My work draws on the anthropology of ageing, material culture studies, digital anthropology, and studies of visual culture.

I completed my PhD in 2022 at University College London (UCL), with a thesis titled ‘Ageing with Smartphones in Japan: reimagining care in a visual digital age’. I am currently writing and illustrating a monograph based on my thesis. My doctoral work examines how experiences of later life in Japan are changing in the context of an ageing society, internal migration, the uptake of the smartphone, and the rise of visual digital communication. The research considers how older women and men negotiate oppressive structures within society, looking at how the smartphone at once challenges and perpetuates gender-based norms around care.

In the course of my doctoral studies I received several awards and fellowships including a Leach Fellowship in Public Anthropology from the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (RAI), the UCL-Osaka Strategic Partnership Fund, and a research affiliation with Osaka University. In 2020, with support from the RAI, I co-curated the exhibition ‘Illustrating Anthropology’, attracting over 20,000 online visitors and gathering a community of scholars who are experimenting with graphic ethnography.

Research Interests

Visual Anthropology; Ageing; Digital Technologies; Care; Wellbeing; Graphic Ethnography; Material Culture Studies.



• Haapio-Kirk, L. (forthcoming). Ageing with Smartphones in Japan. UCL Press

• Haapio-Kirk, L. (2022). ‘Illustrating Anthropology.’ Theorizing the Contemporary, Fieldsights, July 28. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/laura-haapio-kirk
• Haapio-Kirk, L. (2020). ‘Staying connected: Coronavirus in Japan’, entanglements, 3(2): 69-78
• Haapio-Kirk, L. (2020). Book review: ‘Making meaningful lives: Tales from an aging Japan’ by Iza Kavedžija (2019). International Journal of Care and Caring, 4(3), 449-450.
• Haapio-Kirk, L. (2018). Book Review: ‘Fassin, Didier (ed.). If truth be told: the politics of public ethnography’. 358 pp. Durham, NC.: Duke Univ. Press, 2017. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 24(2), 415-416.
• Haapio-Kirk, L. (2017) ‘Why We Post: Digital Methods for Public Anthropology’, Teaching Anthropology: A Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 2017 Vol 7, No.1 pp 33-44.


• Miller, D., Rabho, L.A., Awondo, P., de Vries, M., Duque, M., Garvey, P., Haapio-Kirk, L., Hawkins, C., Otaegui, A., Walton, S. and Wang, X., (2021). The Global Smartphone: Beyond a Youth Technology. UCL Press.

• Wang, X and Haapio-Kirk, L. (2021) ‘Emotion work via digital visual communication: A comparative study between China and Japan’ Global Media and China
• Miller, D., Costa, E., Haapio-Kirk, L., Haynes, H., McDonald, T., Nicolescu, R., Sinanan, J., Spyer, J., Venkatraman, S. and Wang, X. 2017 ‘Contemporary Comparative Anthropology’ in Ethnos
• Miller, D., Costa, E., Haapio-Kirk, L., Haynes, H., McDonald, T., Nicolescu, R., Spyer, J., Venkatraman, S. and Wang, X. 2016 ‘Taking Anthropology to the World’ in Anthropology News (American Anthropological Association) 08.09.2016.

Book chapters
• Miller, D. and Haapio-Kirk, L. (2020) ‘Making Things Matter’. In Carroll, T., Walford, A., and Walton, S. (eds.) Lineages and Advancements in Material Culture Studies: Perspectives from UCL Anthropology. Bloomsbury.
• Coates, J. and Haapio-Kirk, L. 2019 ‘Chapter 23 Gender in Digital Technologies and Cultures’. In Coates, J., Fraser, L., & Mark, P. (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Gender and Japanese Culture. Routledge
• Miller, D., Costa, E., Haapio-Kirk, L., Haynes, H., McDonald, T., Nicolescu, R., Spyer, J., Venkatraman, S. and Wang, X. March 2018. In Tong, V. C. H., Standen, A. and Sotiriou M (eds.) ‘Involvement of students’ Connecting Research and Teaching: Students as Partners in Shaping Higher Education. UCL Press.

Laura's profile on the Christ Church website