Not available in 2016/17
AN244      Half Unit
Anthropology and Media

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Matthew Engelke 6.12


This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law, BA in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course introduces students to anthropological analyses of media, including books and other printed texts, photography, radio, television, film, and the internet. Although 'the anthropology of media' is often understood to be a relatively new subfield, there has been a long-standing interest in media technologies within the discipline. There is also an important manner, from an anthropological point of view, in which 'media technologies' have to be understood not only as these cultural artefacts (radio, film) but also the more elementary senses they express (hearing, sight, etc). We therefore investigate media both as a broad conceptual category and as specific technologies of communication. The course begins with a historical overview of anthropologists' investigations of media technologies, broadly construed. We then move on to consider ethnographic case studies of media in context. Examples may include: photography in India, radio in Zambia, television and cassette circulation in Egypt, mobile phones in Jamaica, book groups in England, and 'indigenous video' in Brazil and Australia. Throughout the course, these case studies are framed in relation to some of the key theoretical debates that have shaped media studies in anthropology and related disciplines since the 1930s. Some attention is also given to the methodological problems involved in studying media, especially the extent to which it challenges the possibility of conducting fieldwork by participant observation.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Anthropology students taking this course will have an opportunity to submit a tutorial essay for this course to their personal tutors. For non-Anthropology students taking the course, a formative essay may be submitted to the course teacher.

Indicative reading

Domestication of the Savage Mind (J Goody); Imagined Communities (B Anderson); 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' (W Benjamin); Media Worlds (F Ginsburg, L Abu-Lughod, and B Larkin, eds); Understanding Media (M McLuhan); Understanding Media (D Boyer); 'Anthropology and the Mass Media' (D Spitulnik); 'Anthropology and its contributions to studies of Mass Media' (S Dickey); Media Rituals (N Couldry); A Voice: And Nothing More (M Dolar); The Presence of the Word (W Ong).


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (30%, 2500 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2015/16: 31

Average class size 2015/16: 15

Capped 2015/16: Yes (45)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information