AN459      Half Unit
Anthropology and Media

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Matthew Engelke OLD 6.12


This course is available on the MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and Fudan), MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and USC), MSc in Religion in the Contemporary World and MSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

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 the 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 seminars in the LT. 1 hour of lectures 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 this course, a formative essay will 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 (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information