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

Academic background

I am a social anthropologist whose work focuses on the intersection of digital technologies, ageing, and wellbeing. I received my PhD from University College London in 2022 and am currently a Junior Research Fellow in Anthropology at Christ Church, University of Oxford. I have held visiting research fellowships at The University Osaka and The University of Jyväskylä and was a Leach Fellow in Public Anthropology at the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (RAI).

Research interests

I am currently working on my first solo-authored book that provides a critical overview of how experiences of later life are changing in Japan in the context of an ageing society, internal migration, and the uptake of the smartphone. Based on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the Kansai region and in rural Kōchi Prefecture, I show 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. I argue that digital visual communication is becoming integral to practices of proximity and community in a rapidly depopulating Japan. The book includes various graphic experiments including collaborative comics, drawings by research participants, and my own illustrations.

I am fascinated by graphic ethnography and the potential of drawing to reveal insights about our feelings and inner lives. I co-curated the exhibition Illustrating Anthropology with support from the RAI, attracting over 20,000 online visitors and gathering a community of scholars who are experimenting with graphic ethnography.

During my fellowship at Oxford I am working on a new project, ‘Feeling at Home in a Digital World’, with ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Finland. The aim is to understand how the interaction of digital and physical spaces impacts on conceptions of home, in particular on how older adults craft spaces of wellbeing. This project centres graphic methods as a way to understand the affective dimensions of wellbeing.

Featured publications


• Haapio-Kirk, L. (forthcoming, 2024). 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

Other interests and activities

I enjoy painting, drawing and baking in my spare time.