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Media anthropology in Europe and the US

July 15, 2008

I’ve just posted this message to the Media Anthropology Network mailing list (see list archives for responses, incl. from Philipp Budka, Angela Dressler, and Sarah Pink):

Dear All
Jay Ruby raised a very important question for discussion about a month ago re: media anthropology in the US v Europe (see his message below), followed up by
Philipp Budka’s reference to national traditions of anthropological research.

For many of us this side of the pond (the European side) one key moment was the 1999 summer school in media anthropology organised by Dorle Drackle and held at the University of Hamburg. It was a great venue for doctoral candidates to meet fellow students from across Europe (plus one or two non-Europeans), and it’s interesting to note that most of the media anthropologists who flew in to teach for a day were from the US or UK. The media anthropology network, incidentally, is a direct descendant of the Hamburg meeting.

Because this subfield is still fairly new in Europe and is likely to remain small I don’t think we can speak of national traditions in the way we can for anthropology as a discipline, or indeed of media anthropology in the US (see Peterson 2003). The shared international baseline seems to be the recent explosion of published work in the subfield from the late 1980s to the present (well captured in the 2002-2005 textbooks), again most but not all of it from the US and UK.

It remains to be seen whether Continental authors who are now beginning to publish will be as widely read and cited as their English-speaking colleagues. As is the case for the discipline as a whole (Eriksen and Nielsen 2001) and indeed in other academic fields, writing and/or publishing in English poses a formidable challenge for many non-native speakers.


Eriksen, H. and Nielsen, F.S. (2001) A History of Anthropology. Pluto.
Peterson, M.A. (2003) Anthropology and mass communication. Media and myth in
the new millennium. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Dr John Postill
Senior Lecturer in Media
Sheffield Hallam University
Sheffield S11 8UZ
United Kingdom


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