Dr Vicki Harman

Senior Lecturer
BA, MPhil, PhD, GradCert
+44 (0)1483 686964
32 AD 03

Academic and research departments

Department of Sociology.



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 and then Senior Lecturer. I have a BA (Hons) Social Policy from the University of Sussex, an MPhil in Criminological Research from the University of Cambridge and a PhD from Royal Holloway.

Research interests

My research interests include family life, gender, food practices and social inequalities. My research has been published in journals including Sociology, Sociology of Health and IllnessFamilies, Relationships and SocietiesInternational Journal of Consumer StudiesYoung Consumersthe European Journal of Marketing and Ethnic and Racial Studies. With Benedetta Cappellini and Charlotte Faircloth I am the co-editor of Feeding Children Inside and Outside the Home: Critical Perspectives (Routledge, 2019). I have also written a book on gender and ballroom dancing (Palgrave, 2019).

Vicki's current research projects investigate: 1) the changing nature of grandparenting  2) transnational grandparenting 3) gender and dancing.


Current Teaching:

Semester 1 Current Sociology (SOC1037) Cultures of Race and Racism (SOC3033)

Semester 2 Social Divisions and Social Identities (SOC1049) and Families and Societies (SOC3034)

Previously I have taught a range of subjects including social problems and social policy, qualitative field methods, consumption and social identities.

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students in any of the areas above or related areas. For more details about the Sociology PhD programme at Surrey please see here.

Departmental duties

I am the Programme Director for BSc Sociology.


I am a member of the British Sociological Association and International Sociological Association. I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

University roles and responsibilities

  • Programme Director for BSc Sociology

    Previous roles

    02 February 2018 - 31 August 2018
    Director of Learning and Teaching
    Department of Sociology

    In the media

    School lunch boxes
    Thinking Allowed, BBC Radio 4
    The Sexual Politics of Ballroom Dancing
    Thinking Allowed, BBC Radio 4
    Gender and Ballroom Dancing
    BBC London News
    Strictly Come Dancing/ research discussion
    BBC Radio Surrey

    Research projects

    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.

      My publications


      Harman, V. (2018). The Sexual Politics of Ballroom Dancing, London: Palgrave
      View abstract View full publication
      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.
      Harman, V. Cappellini, B. and Faircloth, C. (eds) (2018). Feeding the Children Inside and Outside the Home: Critical Perspectives, London: Routledge
      View abstract View full publication
      This cross-disciplinary volume brings together diverse perspectives on children’s food occasions inside and outside of the home across different geographical locations. By unpacking mundane food occasions - from school dinners to domestic meals and from breakfast to snacks - shows the role of food in the everyday lives of children and adults around them. Investigating food occasions at home, schools and in nurseries during weekdays and holidays, it reveals how children, mothers, fathers, teachers and other adults involved in feeding children, understand, make sense of and navigate ideological discourses of parenting, health imperatives and policy interventions. Revealing the material and symbolic complexity of feeding children, and the role that parenting and healthy discourses play in shaping, perpetuating and transforming both feeding and eating, this volume shows how micro and macro aspects are at play in mundane and everyday practices of family life and education. This volume will be of great interested to a wide range of students and researchers interested in the sociology of family life, education, food studies and everyday consumption.
      Feeding Children Inside and Outside the Home
      Pirani, D. Cappellini, B. Harman, V. (2018). ‘The Italian breakfast: Mulino Bianco and the advent of a family practice (1975-1995)’ European Journal of Marketing
      View abstract
      : This article examines how Mulino Bianco, an iconic Italian bakery brand has reshaped the symbolic and material aspects of breakfast in Italy, transforming a declining practice into a common family occasion. A socio-historical analysis of the iconisation process has been undertaken with a framework investigating the symbolic, material and practice-based aspects of the brand and their changes over time. Archival marketing material, advertising campaigns and interviews with brand managers constitute the main data for analysis. Three crucial moments have been identified in which thebrand articulates its relationship with the practice of breakfast. During the launch of the brand, the articulation was mainly instigated via the myths of tamed nature and rural past, and the material aspect of the products reinforced such an articulation. In the second moment, the articulation was established with the brand’s materiality, emphasised through the use of promotional items targeting mothers and children. In the last phase, a cementification of the articulation was achieved mainly via the symbolic aspect of the brand – communicating Mulino Bianco as emblematic of a new family life in which the ‘Italian breakfast’ was central. Theoretically this paper advances our understanding of the pervasive influence of brands in family life, showing how they do not simply reshape existing family food practices, rather they can re-create new ones, investing them with symbolic meanings, anchoring them with novel materiality and equipping consumers with new understandings and competences.     breakfast, family food practices, Mulino Bianco, iconisation process, Italy.
      PurposeMethodology:Findings: Originality: Key words:
      Cappellini, B. Harman, V. and Parsons, E. (2018). ‘Unpacking the Lunchbox: Biopedagogies, Mothering and Social Class’. Sociology of Health and Illness.
      View abstract View full publication
      This study investigates how mothers respond to school surveillance of their children's packed lunches. In a context where increasing attention is focused on healthy eating, we adopt a biopedagogical approach to illustrate different positions and strategies which mothers occupy in relation to feeding their children in the school setting. We use photo‐elicitation interviews and focus groups to trace both the discursive and practical significance of these biopedagogies. We find that the subjective experiences of feeding children at school are infused with classed notions of mothering in public. Our analysis highlights two broad positions. Firstly, there were those with strong distinctions between home‐food and school‐food, which was associated more clearly with middle class families. Secondly, there were those with more fluid boundaries between home‐food and school‐food. This was more commonly encapsulated by working class mothers who were seen to place more emphasis on their children as autonomous decision‐makers. Overall the findings document localised and classed practices of resisting the school's normalising gaze.
      Harman, V. and Cappellini, B. (2017). ‘Boxed up? Lunchboxes and expansive mothering outside home.’ Families, Relationships and Societies.
      View abstract View full publication
      This article unpacks the experiences of 30 British women making lunchboxes for their children, and their opposition to opting for school dinners. Findings emerging from photo-elicitation interviews and focus group discussions show how mothers consider themselves the only social actor able to make a ‘proper lunchbox’. School dinners are considered a risky option for their children, and fathers’ interference in preparing lunchboxes is viewed with suspicion. The article shows how lunchboxes can be viewed as an expansion of intensive mothering: a way of making home away from home, stretching the intensive domestic care used for toddlers to school-aged children. Expansive mothering is characterised by mothers’ mediating role that places them between the child and the outside world. This role is mainly performed as a risk management activity aimed at recreating the domestic security outside the home, yet it also reinforces the message that feeding children is a mother’s domain.
      Nguyen, K., Harman, V. and Cappellini, B (2017). ‘Playing with class: Middle‐class intensive mothering and the consumption of children's toys in Vietnam’ International Journal of Consumer Studies, 41 (5) pp. 449-456
      View abstract View full publication
      This article explores the way in which Vietnamese mothers purchase, gift and share toys with their children. The study utilises a qualitative design comprising semi-structured interviews with 10 Vietnamese middle-class professional working mothers of children aged between 5 and 9. This research highlights the way in which toys defined as “good” by mothers need to fulfil a number of important practical and social functions: they act as an investment in the child's future, as a reward, and as a means for mothers to buy time for themselves. The findings illustrate how these functions are influenced by Confucian and Western discourses of intensive mothering, generating a localized style of middle-class intensive mothering, characterized by what we have called the ideal of the triple excellent and intensive mother.
      Cappellini, B., Parsons, E., and Harman V. (2016). ‘Right Taste, Wrong Place’: Local Food Cultures, (Dis)identification and the Formation of Middle-class Identity’, Sociology, Volume 50 (6): pp. 1089-1105.
      View abstract View full publication
      This article investigates how culinary taste contributes to the formation of middle class identity in a working class context in the UK. We explore practices of food consumption among a group of individuals working at a UK university located in a working class city. We find a rather limited and discrepant cosmopolitanism, in which culinary practices are evaluated in terms of those worth engaging in, and those not worth engaging in, based on their ‘user friendliness’ for cosmopolitan middle class dispositions. Depictions of the local food culture as lacking are also dominant, used as a negative ground against which these dispositions are hierarchically formulated. Here middle class culinary tastes seem to be driven by disengagement with the wrong sort of place and a relatively closed alignment with the ‘proper’ and the ‘safe’ rather than by any open creative individuality.
      Harman, V. and Cappellini, B. (2015). ‘Mothers on Display: Lunchboxes, Social Class and Moral Accountability’, Sociology, 49 (4): pp. 764-781
      View abstract View full publication
      This article explores middle class mothers’ narratives on their daily routines of preparing lunchboxes for their children. In this study lunchboxes are understood as an artefact linking together discourses and practices of doing and displaying mothering, media and government discourses of feeding children and broader issues of care and surveillance in private and public settings. Drawing on semi-structured, photo elicitation interviews and a focus group discussion, this article illuminates how mothers feel on display through the contents of their children’s lunchboxes.
      Harman, V. Sinha, S. (2014). ‘Moving Racisms, Shifting Targets: Comparing Racism Experienced by Mothers of Mixed-Parentage Children with Racism Experienced by Young People Seeking Sanctuary in Britain’, Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 21, (5) pp. 498-515.
      Harman, V. and Cappellini, B. (2014). ‘Unpacking Fun Food and Children’s Leisure: Mothers’ Perspectives on Preparing Lunchboxes’ Young Consumers, Volume 15 (4) pp.312-322
      View abstract View full publication
      Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between lunchboxes, fun food and leisure. Looking beyond concerns focusing solely on health and nutrition, this article unpacks how mothers seek to provide lunchtime food that is also a source of leisure and pleasure. Design/methodology/approach – Photo-elicitation interviews and a focus group were conducted with 11 mothers who regularly prepare lunchboxes for their children aged between 9 and 11 years. Findings – Mothers intend the food they provide to act as a leisure experience and a break from the pressures of school. Mothers understand that lunchboxes must fit with children’s other activities taking place in their lunch-hour. Lunchboxes should support children’s future leisure opportunities by providing nutrition and variety to support their growth and development. The discussion of lunchboxes also shows that fun food is not simply understood in opposition to healthy food. Mothers have a wider understanding of the transgressive nature of fun through food, which goes beyond the market offer and understanding of fun. Research limitations/implications – As the study is based on a small sample of relatively affluent families in the UK, caution is needed in generalising the findings to wider groups. However, the study offers qualitative insights and highlights the connections between leisure, fun food and lunchboxes that can be explored in further research. Originality/value – This is the first paper to explore the interconnections between lunchboxes, fun food and leisure. It provides valuable insight into mothers’ views about food prepared at home for consumption at school.
      Barn, R. and Harman, V. (2013). ‘Editorial: Mothering Across Racialised Boundaries’ Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36, (8) pp. 1265-1272
      Harman, V. (2013). ‘Social Capital and the Informal Support Networks of Lone White Mothers of Mixed-Parentage Children’ Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36 (8) pp.1323-1341
      Harman, V. (2010). ‘Experiences of Racism and the Changing Nature of White Privilege Among Lone White Mothers of Mixed-Parentage Children’ Ethnic and Racial Studies, 33(2) pp.176-194.
      Harman, V. (2010). ‘Social Work Practice and Lone White Mothers of Mixed-Parentage Children,’ British Journal of Social Work, 40(2) pp.391-406.
      Barn, R. and Harman, V. (2006). ‘A Contested Identity: An Exploration of the Competing Social and Political Discourse Concerning the Identification and Positioning of Young People of Inter-Racial Parentage’, British Journal of Social Work, 36(8) pp.1309-1324.
      Harman, V. Cappellini, B. and Faircloth, C. (2018). ‘Introduction’ in Harman, V. Cappellini, B. and Faircloth, C. (eds) Feeding the Children Inside and Outside the Home: Critical Perspectives, London: Routledge.
      Harman, V. and Cappellini, B. (2018). ‘Intersectionality and migrant parents’ perspectives on preparing lunchboxes for their children’ in Harman, V. Cappellini, B. and Faircloth, C. (eds) Feeding the Children Inside and Outside the Home: Critical Perspectives, London: Routledge.
      View abstract
      In order to analyse the way in which food provision is shaped by social identities including gender, social class, ethnicity and migration, this chapter examines the narratives of migrant parents interviewed as part of a broader study of parents preparing lunchboxes for their children. We focus on three cases; Jasmeen, originally from India, who gets up at 5am to prepare home-made chapatis for her daughter’s lunchbox, Danijela a mother from Croatia who hates lunchboxes and sees them as ‘very English’ but continues to prepare them, and Luiz, a middle-class father originally from Latin America whose involvement in preparing nutritious lunchboxes is symbolically crucial to his claim as a ‘good father’ within his household. By exploring these accounts, we can see how the biographies of family members intersect with cultural and structural influences such as gender, social class, ethnicity and migration, to influence the food going into children’s lunchboxes.
      Cappellini, B. Faircloth, C Harman, V. (2018). ‘Concluding thoughts’ in Harman, V. Cappellini, B. and Faircloth, C. (eds) Feeding the Children Inside and Outside the Home: Critical Perspectives, London: Routledge.
      Pirani, D, Cappellini, Benedetta; Harman, V. (2018). ‘Who takes the first bite? A Critical Overview of Gender Representations in Food Advertising’ in Kravets, O.; Maclaran, P.; Miles, S. and Venkatesh, A. The SAGE handbook of consumer culture, Sage, p. 316-332.
      Harman, V. and Cappellini, B. (2017). ‘Lunchboxes, Health, Leisure and Well-being: Analysing the Connections’ in Tarko, K. (ed) Holistic Health, Leisure and Wellbeing. London: Palgrave.
      Harman, V. (2013). ‘All the girls get to look pretty’: Ballroom and Latin American dancing as leisure’ in Lo Verdi, F. Modi, I. and Cappello, G. Mapping Leisure Across Borders, Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing place.
      Harman, V. (2010). ‘Access problems and opportunities: Reflections from a study of multi-ethnic families in the UK’ in Szarycz, G. Research Realities in the Social Sciences: Negotiating Fieldwork Dilemmas, New York: Cambria Press. pp.93-110.
      Harman, V. and Barn, R. (2005). ‘Exploring the discourse concerning white mothers of mixed-parentage children’, in T. Okitikpi (ed) Working with Children of Mixed Parentage, Dorset: Russell House Publishing Ltd. pp. 102-111.
      Harman, V. (2013). ‘Finances as a Cause of Divorce’, Emery, R. (2013) Cultural Sociology of Divorce: An Encyclopaedia (Sage)
      Harman, V. (2010). ‘Racism and Interracial Families’, Sociology Review, 20(1) pp. 25-28.
      Harman, V. (2009). ‘Some reflections on the complexities of teaching about ‘race’ in Higher Education’ Pilkington, A. Housee, S. and Hylton, K. (ed) Race(ing) Forward: Transitions in Theorising ‘Race’ in Education. C-SAP Monograph No.11. pp. 224-239.
      Barn, R. and Harman, V. (eds) (2014). Mothering, Mixed Families and Racialised Boundaries, London: Routledge.
      View abstract
      This pioneering volume draws together theoretical and empirical contributions analyzing the experiences of white mothers in interracial families in Britain, Canada and the USA. The growth of the mixed race population reflects an increasingly racially and culturally heterogeneous society, shaped by powerful forces of globalisation and migration. Mixed family formations are becoming increasingly common through marriage, relationships and adoption, and there is also increasing social recognition of interracial families through the inclusion of mixed categories in Census data and other official statistics. The changing demographic make-up of Britain and other Western countries raises important questions about identity, belonging and the changing nature of family life. It also connects with theoretical and empirical discussions about the significance of ‘race’ in contemporary society. In exploring mothering across racialised boundaries, this volume offers new insights and perspectives. The notion of racialisation is invoked to argue that, while the notion of race does not exist in any meaningful sense, it continues to operate as a social process. This crucial resource will appeal to academics, researchers, policy makers, practitioners and undergraduate and postgraduate students.