We Can Tell More Than One Story: Comic Making Locates Researcher and Children’s Voices in Co-Representing Childhoods in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Keywords: child-centered methods, voice, representation, COVID-19, comics


Childhood studies’ long concern with elevating children’s perspectives has focused attention on “voice” rather than researcher-participant dialogue, precluding critical attention to the normative adult researcher voice. This article investigates how cocreating comics with children about the COVID-19 pandemic engaged a different researcher voice and produced different representations of pandemic childhoods. Making comics with children aged 7–11, I asked: What does it mean for researchers to speak in speech? I suggest that shifting researcher voices can help researchers recognize the conventions that allow adults to colonize spoken conversation with children, denaturalizing adult voice and allowing us to tell more than one story.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Alanen, L. (2011). Editorial: Critical childhood studies? Childhood, 18(2), 147–150. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568211404511

Alcoff, L. M. (2008). The problem of speaking for others. In A. Y. Jackson & L. A. Mazzei (Eds.), Voice in qualitative inquiry: Challenging conventional, interpretive, and critical conceptions in qualitative research (pp. 117–135). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203891889

Alderson, P. (1995). Listening to children: Children, ethics, and social research. Barnardo’s.

Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Duke University Press.

Berman, E. (2019). Talking like children: Language and the production of age in the Marshall Islands. Oxford University Press.

Bluebond-Langner, M. (1978). The private worlds of dying children. Princeton University Press.

Bluebond-Langner, M., & Korbin, J. E. (2007). Challenges and opportunities in the anthropology of childhoods: An introduction to “Children, Childhoods, and Childhood Studies.” American Anthropologist, 109(2), 241–246. http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/aa.2007.109.2.241

Borneman, J. (2009). Fieldwork experience, collaboration, and interlocution: The “metaphysics of presence” in encounters with the Syrian Mukhabarat. In J. Borneman & A. Hammoudi (Eds.), Being there: The fieldwork encounter and the making of truth (pp. 237–258). University of California Press.

Chin, E. (2007). Power-puff ethnography/guerrilla research: Children as native anthropologists. In A. L. Best (Ed.), Representing youth: Methodological issues in critical youth studies (pp. 269–283). NYU Press.

Clark, C. D. (2003). In sickness and in play: Children coping with chronic illness. Rutgers University Press.

Das, V. (1989). Voices of children. Daedelus, 118(4), 262. https://www.jstor.org/stable/20025273

Davie, R., Upton, G., & Varma, V. (1996). The voice of the child: A handbook for professional. Falmer Press.

Derrida, J. (1976). Of grammatology. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Gallacher, L-A., & Gallagher, M. (2008). Methodological immaturity in childhood research? Thinking through “participatory methods.” Childhood, 15(4), 499–516. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568208091672

Hacking, I. (1986). Making up people. In T. Heller & C. Wellbery (Eds.), Reconstructing individualism: Autonomy, individuality, and the self in western thought (pp. 222–236). Stanford University Press.

Hasemann Lara, J. E. (2022). Care in ruination: Accessing children’s critiques of health through playwriting. Medical Anthropology, 41(5), 546–559. https://doi.org/10.1080/01459740.2022.2053966

Hunleth, J. (2011). Beyond on or with: Questioning power dynamics and knowledge production in “child-oriented” research methodology. Childhood, 18(1), 81–93. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568210371234

Hunleth, J. (2017). Children as caregivers: The global fight against tuberculosis and HIV in Zambia. Rutgers University Press.

Hunleth, J. (2019). Zambian children’s imaginal caring: On fantasy, play, and anticipation in an epidemic. Cultural Anthropology, 34(2), 155–186. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca34.2.01

James, A. (2007). Giving voice to children’s voices: Practices and problems, pitfalls and potentials. American Anthropologist, 109, 261–272. https://doi.org/10.1525/aa.2007.109.2.261

James, A., & Prout, A. (1990). Constructing and reconstructing childhood: Contemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood. Falmer Press.

Komulainen, S. (2007). The ambiguity of the child’s “voice” in social research. Childhood, 14(1), 11–28. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568207068561

Lareau, A. (2003). Unequal childhoods: Class, race, and family life (2nd ed.). University of California Press.

Leitch, R. (2008). Creatively researching children’s narratives through images and drawings. In P. Thomson (Ed.), Doing visual research with children and young people (pp. 37–58). Routledge.

Lomax, H. (2012). Contested voices? Methodological tensions in creative visual research with children. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 15(2), 105–117. https://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.2012.649408

Lomax, H., Smith, K., McEvoy, J., Brickwood, E., Jensen, K., & Walsh, B. (2022). Creating online participatory research spaces: Insights from creative, digitally-mediated research with children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Families, Relationships, and Societies, 11(1), 19–37. https://doi.org/10.1332/204674321X16274828934070

Mazzei, L. A., & Jackson, A. Y. (2008). Introduction: The limit of voice. In A. Y. Jackson & L. A. Mazzei (Eds.), Voice in qualitative inquiry: Challenging conventional, interpretive, and critical conceptions in qualitative research (pp. 1–26). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203891889

Mazzei, L. A., & Jackson, A. Y. (2012). Complicating voice in a refusal to “let participants speak for themselves.” Qualitative Inquiry, 18(9), 745–751. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800412453017

Mitchell, L. M. (2006). Child-centered? Thinking critically about children’s drawings as a visual research method. Visual Anthropology Review, 22(1), 60–73. https://doi.org/10.1525/var.2006.22.1.60

Park, H. (2020). Drawing together: Towards a relational ethics of ignorance. In C. Schulte (Ed.), Ethics and research with young children: New perspectives (pp. 37–48). Bloomsbury Academic.

Park, H. (2021). Queering innocence in child art. In C. Schulte & H. Park (Eds.), Visual arts with young children: Practices, pedagogies, and learning (pp. 61–72). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003020776

Rosen, R. (2015). “The scream”: Meanings and excesses in early childhood settings. Childhood, 22(1), 39–52. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568213517269

Ruby, J. (Ed.). (1982). A crack in the mirror: Reflexive perspectives in anthropology. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Spray, J. (2020a). The children in child health: Negotiating young lives and health in New Zealand. Rutgers University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvvh85fc

Spray, J. (2020b). Towards a child-centred public health: Lessons from rheumatic fever prevention in Aotearoa New Zealand. Children & Society, 34(6), 552–566. https://doi.org/10.1111/chso.12389

Spray, J. (2021). Drawing perspectives together: What happens when researchers draw with children? Visual Anthropology Review, 37(2), 356–379. https://doi.org/10.1111/var.12244

Spray, J. (2022). Disruption in bio-psycho-social context: Children’s perceptions of the COVID-19 pandemic in Aotearoa New Zealand. Anthropological Forum, 32(4), 325–350. https://doi.org/10.1080/00664677.2022.2113501

Spray J., & Hunleth, J. (2020). Where have all the children gone? Against children’s invisibility in the COVID-19 pandemic. Anthropology Now, 12(2), 39–52. https://doi.org/10.1080/19428200.2020.1824856

Spray, J., & Samaniego, S. (2023). The public-in-waiting: Children’s representation and inclusion in Aotearoa New Zealand’s COVID-19 public health response. Critical Public Health. https://doi.org/10.1080/09581596.2023.2227334

Spyrou, S. (2011). The limits of children’s voices: From authenticity to critical, reflexive representation. Childhood, 18(2), 151–165. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568210387834

Spyrou, S. (2018). Disclosing childhoods: Research and knowledge production for a critical childhood studies. Palgrave Macmillan.

St. Pierre, E. A. (2008). Decentering voice in qualitative inquiry. International Review of Qualitative Research, 1(3), 319–336. https://doi.org/10.1525/irqr.2008.1.3.319

Sweis, R. K. (2021). Paradoxes of care: Children and global medical aid in Egypt. Stanford University Press.

Vintimilla, C. D., & Kind, S. (2021). Choreographies of practice: Mutualities and sympoetic becomings in early childhood teacher education. In C. Schulte & H. Park (Eds.), Visual arts with young children: Practices, pedagogies, and learning. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003020776

How to Cite
Spray, J. (2024). We Can Tell More Than One Story: Comic Making Locates Researcher and Children’s Voices in Co-Representing Childhoods in the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Childhood Studies, 37-56. https://doi.org/10.18357/jcs21134
Articles from Research