SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Comparative Media Studies

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year

This is the year-long core course for the MA Anthropology of Media (for an option course, see Comparative Media Theory 15PANH028). It explores this historical legacy of media theory in relation to the emergent field of Anthropology of Media. The purpose of this course is to provide a detailed introduction to contemporary media theory and consider its relevance for an anthropology of Asia and Africa.

The course interrogates media studies through questions of cultural difference and historical specificity from regions and people who have not figured prominently in the theorisation of the media. We ask students to critically assess the presuppositions of contemporary media theory in relation to Asian and African media practices. The course presumes no prior acquaintance with media theory, but examines how debates in cultural and media studies emerge from broader arguments in the human sciences.

Both terms will consider critically the relevance of media theory for understanding Asian and African media practices ranging from news, advertising and entertainment to the social processes of production, distribution and consumption.

The course has three main elements. The lecture will deal with broad theoretical issues drawing upon key scholarship from anthropology, media and cultural studies. The lecture will be followed by a media session which will present material relating to specific media practices in Africa and Asia. And finally, the tutorial sessions will provide the forum for students to bring together and discuss the theoretical issues based in the readings and lectures together with the specific examples posed by the media sessions.


This course is for students enrolled on the MA Anthropology of Media and is also offered on the MA Anthropological Research Methods.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of the course, students should be able to demonstrate:

  • a strong grasp of key debates in media and cultural studies as well as anthropology of media with a clear working understanding of the productive and creative tensions existing between these disciplines;
  • a detailed understanding of theoretical approaches and methods adopted in media and cultural studies and in the anthropology of media
  • the ability to reflect in a critical and theoretically-informed manner on media practices in western and non-western contexts with reference to ethnographic examples;
  • a critical understanding of the relationship between ethnography and theory in the construction of anthropological knowledge about media.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules