My research interests are primarily in the areas of family life, gender, food practices and social inequalities. I am passionate about using qualitative research methods including ethnography, interviews, focus groups and creative and visual approaches to research.
I joined the University of Surrey as a Senior Lecturer in Sociology in August 2017. Prior to this I worked at Royal Holloway, University of London for 12 years as a Lecturer/ Senior Lecturer.
I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. At the University of Surrey I am the Programme Director for BSc Sociology.
Areas of specialism
University roles and responsibilities
- Programme Director for BSc Sociology
- Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender
Affiliations and memberships
In the media
My research interests centre around family life, gender, food practices, social inequalities and social identities (particularly gender, social class and ethnicity). Current and recent projects have focused on:
- ballroom dancing and gender
- parents’ perspectives on preparing lunchboxes for their children
- mothers’ perspectives on feeding the family on low and reduced incomes
- changing notions of 'good digital parenting' prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic
- domestic violence, liminality and possessions
- the experiences of interracial families
- the changing nature of grandparenting
- food practices in women’s prisons.
More information on selected projects can be found below:
This project analyses the experience of food in women’s prisons using an intersectional approach. It adopts an innovative suite of mixed qualitative methods in four prisons in order to gain insight into women’s experiences of this aspect of prison life. The study will open up wider conversations about food in prisons through an exhibition of prisoners’ art run in partnership with Koestler Arts.
Using observations and interviews, this study explores the way in which food contributes to the experiences of prisoners and their families in the prison visiting room of a women's prison.
Indicators of esteem
Consumer Culture Theory Conference ‘Best Competitive Paper Award’ to Cappellini, B. Harman, V. Parsons, E. Marilli, A. for ‘Intensive Mothering in Hard Times: Foucauldian Ethical Self-Formation and Cruel Optimism, Odense, Denmark, July 2018.
International Sociological Association RC13 Young Leisure Scholar Award to Harman, V. for ‘Leading the Way? Male Ballroom and Latin American Dancers’, Vienna, Austria, July 2016.
Postgraduate research supervision
I would be keen to receive proposals for doctoral work in any of the following areas: family life; mothering; grandparenting; food practices.
I have previously supervised five PhD students to the successful completion of their research projects.
I am currently supervising three PhD students.
Find out more about the Sociology PhD Programme
Harman, V. (2019) The Sexual Politics of Ballroom Dancing, Palgrave: London.
This book presents an engaging sociological investigation into how gender is negotiated and performed in ballroom and Latin dancing that draws on extensive ethnographic research, as well as the author’s own experience as a dancer. It explores the key factors underpinning the popularity of this leisure activity and highlights what this reveals more broadly about the nature of gender roles at the current time. The author begins with an overview of its rich social history and shifting class status, establishing the context within which contemporary masculinities and femininities in this community are explored. Real and imagined gendered traditions are examined across a range of dancer experiences that follows the trajectory of a typical learner: from finding a partner, attending lessons and forming networks, through to taking part in competitions. The analysis of these narratives creates a nuanced picture of a dance culture that is empowering, yet also highly consumerist and image-conscious; a highly ritualised set of practices that both reinstate and transgress gender roles. This innovative contribution to the feminist leisure literature will appeal to students and scholars of anthropology, dance, sport, gender, cultural and media studies.