Dr Wendy Willems is Assistant Professor and Director of Admissions in the LSE Department of Media and Communications. She is Programme Director of the double MSc degree in Global Media and Communications (with University of Cape Town) which commences in September 2017. Her research interests include global digital culture and social change; postcolonial/decolonial approaches to media and communications; media culture and neoliberalism in the Global South; and popular culture, performance and politics in Africa. She holds a PhD in Media and Film Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, a BSc/MSc in Economics ('International Economic Studies') and a BA/MA in Cultural Studies ('Cultuur- en Wetenschapsstudies') from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.
Wendy joined the LSE Department of Media and Communications in January 2013. Prior to that, she was Head of Department and Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa (2010-2012). She remains affiliated to the University of the Witwatersrand as an Honorary Research Fellow. Previously, she was also a Visiting Lecturer in the School of Media, Arts and Design at the University of Westminster in London (2006, 2008) and the Department of Media and Society Studies at Midlands State University in Gweru, Zimbabwe (2012). In 2006, she co-founded the Journal of African Media Studies (JAMS) with Dr Winston Mano from the University of Westminster. The main motivation was to create a peer-reviewed international journal that would adopt a broad definition of media and would contribute to the on-going re-positioning of media and cultural studies outside the Anglo-American axis.
While Africa conventionally has been imagined as a place of ‘raw data’, Wendy’s work treats the continent as a starting point for theorising media and communications. Her research engages with the politics of global academic knowledge production and ongoing debates on the ‘internationalisation’, ‘de-westernisation’, or ‘decolonisation’ of the field of media and communication studies. Her research challenges the way in which the Global South has been framed in the subfields of comparative media studies, international communication and development communication. It also aims to reinscribe the marginalised research of African media and communication scholars as part of a broader global disciplinary history. Wendy is currently working on two monographs.
Her first book project, Postcolonial Publics, Mediated Encounters and the Performance of Resistance, offers a postcolonial/decolonial critique of arguments on the ‘global’ or ‘transnational’ public sphere. Arguing for a conceptual shift from ‘flows of information’ to ‘mediated encounters’, the book proposes that global media and communication studies engages more intimately with the legacy of colonial histories and their role in shaping publics in postcolonial contexts. Drawing on her research on the ‘Zimbabwe crisis’, the book examines a range of mediated encounters between ex-colony and ex-coloniser, the rulers and the ruled, and home-based and diasporic citizens. It demonstrates that global media discourse is no longer merely about the conveying of ‘news’ (if it ever was) but increasingly about the news itself and who deserves – or is entitled to – visibility in the public arena.
Her second book project, provisionally entitled Mobile Publics, Platform Power and Urban Civic Engagement, interrogates the relation between digital media and social change in Zambia through a global analytical lens. It aims to contribute to a better understanding of the evolving nature of the internet(s) in specific local contexts that are also undergoing other processes of change. For many users in the Global South, the internet is increasingly equal to a ‘social media internet’ that is largely accessed through mobile phones and shaped by powerful social media platforms for whom the Global South features as a key expansion ground in the face of saturating markets in the Global North. Based on fieldwork carried out in Lusaka, Zambia during elections in 2011 and 2016, this book examines the mobile, visual, temporal and ‘social’ affordances of digital culture and their political implications.
(2015-2018) New Media Practices in a Changing Africa, Norwegian Research Council (NRC) Principal investigator: Jo Helle Valle, co-investigators: Wendy Willems, Katrien Pype, Ardis Storm-Mathisen, Letshwiti Tutwanel, M. Mogalagwe, Jean Comaroff.
(2010-2012) ICT Policy and New Media Cultures, Open Society Initiative Southern Africa (OSISA), Principal investigator: Sarah Chiumbu, co-investigators: Last Moyo, Wendy Willems.
(2010-2011) Radio, Convergence and Development in Southern Africa, International Development Research Centre (IDRC) via Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada for, Principal investigator: Last Moyo, co-investigators: Sarah Chiumbu, Dina Ligaga, Wendy Willems.