What is media studies?

The Wits Department of Media Studies is one of the pre-eminent centres for the critical, interdisciplinary and theoretical study of media in the southern hemisphere.
Our work touches a wide variety of fields, including economics, sociology, anthropology, geography, visual culture, international relations, popular culture and literature and is unified by a shared concern with the diverse influences of media on lived experience, culture and society in the global south. We are dedicated to exploring, analysing and theorising how media are used from above and below in contexts of decoloniality. Our research challenges the hegemony of the global north and breaks new ground in the study of the global south. Although rooted in critical debates shaping research in South Africa and Africa, our work engages with global flows of knowledge while critically building upon established canons of media theory.
The Media Studies department was the 2016 winner of both the Vice-Chancellor's Team Teaching Award and the Faculty of Humanities Team Teaching Award, in recognition of our outstanding and innovative undergraduate programme.

Our research cuts across three broad themes, asking crucial questions related to power, the public sphere, identity, mediation and everyday life:

Popular and consumer cultures:

  • How is the popular constituted in societies on the margins of the global economy?
  • How do media commodities flow across cultural and political borders, and to what effect?
  • How are gender, race and class identities constituted in popular and consumerist media texts?
  • How is pleasure encoded in southern media sites? And, what are the politics of those pleasures?

For more detail, see the work of Nicky Falkof, Mehita Iqani, Cobus van Staden, the CRiCC Network and ITCH

Democracy, policy and decoloniality:

  • What role do media play in the ideologies and policies of development and democracy?
  • How can media texts and technologies be theorised and studied in non-western contexts?
  • How do political and economic power operate though the mediascape in the decolonial age?
  • How might we move beyond normative approaches in researching these questions?

For more detail see the work of Ufuoma Akpojivi, the OSISA project and the China-Africa Project

Digital media, interactivity and internet practices:

  • How are digital technologies used, regulated, and disseminated in southern societies?
  • What are the global and local power dynamics influencing access to ICTs?
  • How is culture produced in digital form?
  • How is information privacy negotiated and mediated in the economies and cultures of the global south?

For more detail see the work of Dina Ligaga, Ufuoma Akpojivi and ITCH


Founder of the Wits Department of Media Studies

Tawana KupeTawana Kupe

My interests in Media Studies are broad but principally I am interested in media as social institutions which seek to mediate power relations in unequal societies and as spaces for the representation and articulation of discourses that speak to democratization as contested processes of making choices, negotiating what it means to be human and the creation of identities. I am interested also in processes of reception of media texts as representations of social realities by audiences that are differentially located in social hierarchies and spaces. These interests mean I am also interested in media and communications policy and regulatory practices.

I at present hold the rank of Associate Professor in Media Studies. I joined Wits University in 2002 from Rhodes University’s Journalism and Media Studies Department as a Senior Lecturer. Out of what was then an offering at first year level I created a department which offered an undergraduate major and three postgraduate programmes at the Honours, MA by dissertation and PhD levels. The focus of the discipline in line with the ethos of Wits and the Faculty of Humanities was to provide courses and degree programmes from a range of complementary critical analytical perspectives which speak to the emancipatory project of the humanities.

Read 7055 times

study with WITS media studies

Wits Media Studies will help you understand how media work and how they affect us. We critically analyse the role of media in politics, culture and the economy.
We contribute to scholarly debates and research about media and consumerism, and media and democracy in the Global South.
Undergrad | Postgrad | Apply on WITS website