Media Anthropology

The Department of Anthropology's Social Anthropology program offers a Ph.D. in Anthropology, with a special emphasis on Media Anthropology.

Students are regular members of the graduate program in Social Anthropology, and all requirements for the Ph.D. in Anthropology pertain to those specializing in Media Anthropology. The Media Anthropology emphasis is designed for students who wish to undertake practice-based research and make substantial ethnographic use of audiovisual media in their doctoral work. In addition to selecting required and elective courses in anthropology, students join a group of faculty, graduate students, and visiting artists working in media anthropology. They participate in regular events in Media Anthropology, such as screenings and lectures by visiting artists and media anthropologists, and work-in-progress critique sessions. They take courses offered by the Anthropology faculty, as well as by faculty in other departments also offering courses in media and art practice. They may also participate in specialized research and creative activities with faculty and fellows, and may serve as teaching fellows in courses in Media Anthropology.

In addition to all regular requirements for the Ph.D. in Anthropology, including the dissertation, doctoral students specializing in Media Anthropology must also pursue a Secondary PhD field in Critical Media Practice.  As part of this training, students produce an original creative work, or works, emerging from intensive ethnographic fieldwork, in an audiovisual medium or media such as film, digital video, CD-ROM, DVD, still photography, or phonography. For work in time-based media, this will normally result in a work of not less than 30 minutes’ duration. Students pursuing the PhD track in Anthropology with Media may submit either their “capstone” CMP project, or another work, or works, produced during their CMP training as their final project in Anthropology with Media.  This work is submitted and defended in conjunction with their written doctoral dissertation.  The work should be outlined in the student’s Research Plan Overview that is submitted for the General Exam and also developed in their Prospectus.  It must be supervised throughout by a qualified faculty member from within the department who will also serve on the candidate’s doctoral committee, and in that capacity be charged with evaluating the merits of the candidate’s media work.

The final media work that is submitted with the written dissertation must be accompanied by a Practitioner’s Statement of two to three pages outlining the intentions of the media work and its relationship to the written dissertation. Exhibitions, installations, and performances will also be considered for the Media Anthropology final project, so long as they incorporate a significant media component. In collaborative media projects, the Practitioner’s Statement must be accompanied by a further paragraph detailing the candidate’s role in the work. Collaborative media projects will only be considered when the student not only contributes ethnographic expertise, but also has a primary authorial role in the work.

The work, and the Practitioner’s Statement, must be formally submitted, exhibited, and defended in conjunction with the written dissertation. Students working in site-specific installations or performances must submit detailed documentation of the project. When all requirements have been fulfilled, the candidate will receive, in addition to the Harvard- awarded Ph.D., departmental recognition of degree completion, “with Media.”

Applicants interested in Media Anthropology should apply to the Social Anthropology Ph.D. program and follow the usual procedures for applications to the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, including GRE examinations. Applicants should indicate an interest in Media Anthropology in the statement of purpose, and submit, whenever possible, a portfolio documenting previous media work, using the Digital Portfolio option on the GSAS application; please provide a statement and your role therein.

Students indicating their interest in Media Anthropology who are admitted into the doctoral program in Anthropology must apply for their admission into the Critical Media Practice Secondary PhD field after having successfully complete at least one core CMP course, usually in their second year of studies.  Students who are not admitted into the CMP program may not continue with the specialization in Anthropology with Media.

Anthropology Faculty Associated with the program:  

  • Anya Bernstein
  • Lucien Castaing-Taylor
  • Steven Caton
  • Nicholas Harkness
  • Arthur Kleinman
  • Ajantha Subramanian

Affiliates Associated with the program:

  • Peter Galison, History of Science
  • Ernst Karel,  Anthropology and AFVS
  • Verena Paravel, AFVS
  • Joana Pimenta, AFVS                                   
  • Matt Saunders, AFVS