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Tanja Joelsson

About me

I am interested in how we move around in the city and beyond. My theoretical and methodological approach is inspired by mobility justice: how inequality and injustices associated to gender, age, class, ethnicity etc, impacts our everyday mobilities and how our mobilities coontribute to the persistence of inequality and injustices.

Current research

  1. PI of a project Families Everyday Mobility in Socially Deprived Neighbourhoods: Conditions, Negotiations and Challenges for Sustainable Urbanism funded by Formas (2019-2022) were the research team (Dag Balkmar, Örebro University, and Malin Henriksson, VTI) investigate how families living in socially deprived and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in three middle-sized cities in Sweden, move around on an everyday basis, and how family members manage and experience their everydaymobility. Case studies with families living in socially vulnerable areas will be carried out, applying a mixed method approach, which include mobility diaries, photo elicitation and walking interviews. Through a rich empirical material and careful analysis, the project will provide insight into how a justtransport system and sustainable urbanism can be achieved.
  2. Part of the research team on the project Sustainable Vertical Childhoods? Family apartment life and children's mobility and play (2019-2023), funded by Formas. PI is Danielle Ekman Ladru.  The overarching aim of the project is to understand parents' and children’s experiences of apartment living in relation to the everyday organization and negotiation of children’s mobility in terms of travel on foot/by bike, roaming and play. We will conduct interviews with caregivers and children, conduct short etnographies, collect data from thematic week diaries of children’s activities and use children’s photographs. An additional aim is to analyze families’ perspectives on how changes in neighborhood and wider urban space could facilitate children’s mobility and play. This aim will be fulfilled through focus groups with children and caregivers.

Previous research

During 2019-2020 I was part of a research team investigating the manual based violence prevention program, Mentors in Violence Prevention, in selected Swedish elementary and upper secondary schools, together with Linnéa Bruno. Principal investigator is Professor Lucas Gottzén.

Between 2015 and 2017, I carried out postdoctoral research at the Department of Education, Uppsala University. My postdoctoral work focused on schoolchildren's mobilities, including their parents views on their children's mobilities. The qualitative study is inspired by ethnographic methods, and used a range of methods for the research tasks directed at the children (from weekly mobility diaries, to go-alongs and walking interviews, photo elicitation, maps etc.). During my postdoctoral period, I was also involved in two research projects on mobile preschools (PI Katarina Gustafson, UU, and PI Danielle Ekman Ladru, UU), where I conducted qualitative interviews with mobile preschool headteachers in Sweden.

I defended my thesis at Tema Genus (Thematic Unit of Gender Studies), Linköping University, in spring 2013, within the field of Critical Studies on Men and Masculinities. I was part of a wider research project titled 'Doing Driving, Doing Design: Gender, Age and Transport Practices' (4D), funded by Vinnova, Linköping University and Luleå University of Technology.

In my ethnographic thesis of the 'Volvo greasers' [Volvoraggare] in a peri-urban community in Sweden, risk-taking practices with motor vehicles, such as speeding and drifting, are explored and analyzed in relation to age, gender, class and place. Young men's risk-taking with motor vehicles regularly generates public debate as a traffic safety issue, often resulting in various policy suggestions, such as curfews or raising of the driving licence age. Seldom are these suggested solutions based on critical ethnographic research where intersections of age, gender, class and place are highlighted. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork, that is, participant observation, and informal and formal interviews, with greaser men and women between the ages of 15 and 19, as well as formal interviews with pupils at the local high school and with youth centre staff in the local community.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Smart cities, smart mobilities, and children

    2020. Tanja Joelsson. Gendering Smart Mobilities


    The smart city has surfaced as pivotal in global discussions around unsustainable urban environments, but children, although constituting a major part of the global urban population,is surprisingly absent in these discussions. This text delves into the intersections of children’s mobility and sustainable urbanism, by arguing that empirical studies of children’s everyday mobilities and practices is crucial for understanding and working toward ‘smart’ cities. The need to conceptualize mobility as an assemblage of human and non-human relations, of technologies and the material, is central in this enterprise. Conceptualizing children’s mobilities as an assemblage is a fruitful way of approaching sustainable urbanism and smart cities, by providing a bottom-up approach where children’s (creative) practices take center stage. Some findings from a two-year ethnographic project with children aged 7-13 years and their parents from middle-class households in Sweden, illustrate the creativity and playfulness of children’s everyday mobility practices. The author suggests that the everyday creative and playful mobility practices could provide a new frame for how to work toward ‘smart’ cities and sustainable urban environments.

    Read more about Smart cities, smart mobilities, and children

Show all publications by Tanja Joelsson at Stockholm University