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Fields of Research


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 forms? And, what are the politics of those pleasures?

For more detail, see the work of Nicky Falkof, Mehita Iqani, Cobus van Staden, Dina Ligaga, 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 Glenda DanielsUfuoma Akpojivi, Cobus van Staden, 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, Glenda Daniels, Ufuoma Akpojivi and ITCH.

 My areas of intellectual interest are: media, journalism, censorship, freedom of expression and democracy, Social media and twitter in the newsroom; Media landscape and transformation. I have a Media Matters column at the Mail & Guardian. I am also  author of two volumes of State of the Newsroom South Africa, 2013 and 2014.

My monograph: Fight for Democracy: the ANC and the Media in South Africa was published in 2012, (Wits Press).

My  theoretical area of expertise is radical democracy.

I  teach the following courses: Media and Politics at Honours Level, Issues in the SA News Mediato third years, Sociology of News Production to second years.

My research focuses on trying to expand the thinking about the influence of media on the relationships between countries. My postdoctoral work has focused on Japan and China’s contrasting models of media diplomacy in the developing world. My main case study is Africa and the research has led me to realize how much the spread of East Asian media depends on African media systems. I am currently working on a book-length project comparing Japanese and Chinese approaches to public and media diplomacy in emerging markets, with special reference to Africa. This focus on cultural flows to Africa also draws me into debates on cultural globalization. While cultural globalization has frequently been characterized as the spread of pop culture and commodities from the West to the rest of the world, the real situation is much more complex. In my PhD dissertation entitled “How this World Works: Anime, Capitalism and the Global Audience” I looked at the frequently overlooked role of Japanese animation in the history of cultural globalization. I have since conducted a series of investigations into the processes that brought East Asian pop culture to Africa and published them in a series of book chapters and articles, with a few more coming up.

My focus on globalization is increasingly focusing on the emerging global role of Chinese media. Much Chinese media expansion in emerging markets has taken place in the field of 24-hour TV News. I have done research on the representation of China and Africa by China Central Television’s African division, and I am currently expanding this research to delve deeper into how African audiences react to representations of China in Chinese state-owned media.

See Cobus's full profile here...

(Head of Department)


My research is primarily concerned with the way in which popular media and culture intersect with identity and ideology. I am interested in issues to do with race, particularly whiteness, and gender, particularly masculinity, as well as with cultural and urban mythologies. I take a multidisciplinary approach that draws on cultural studies, media studies, psychoanalysis, anthropology and sociology, among others. My interests manifest in a number of disparate but related areas.

Mass culture:
One stream that my research takes relates to popular mass cultural products, generally genre film and television originating in the US, that travel globally. I have written and published on race and masculinity in 1980s Hollywood action cinema, including Conan the Barbarian, Rambo, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and Predator; on risk and fear in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; and on masculinity in Mad Men

Moral panic:
My doctoral and post-doctoral research was concerned with the crises in white identity during the late apartheid period, read symptomatically through media reporting on the Satanism scare and so-called epidemic of Afrikaans family murder, published as a monograph in 2015. I am currently engaged in a project called ‘Moral panic, social change and the media in late and post-apartheid South Africa’, sponsored by an NRF Thuthuka early career fellowship, which investigates the identificatory and ideological meanings of cultural myths and urban legends. 

Spatial politics:
I have a concurrent interest in the intersections between space and identity in contemporary Johannesburg. I have published on the shift from maids’ rooms to garden cottages and am working on a project around race and discourse in social media spaces devoted to wealthy suburbs around South Africa.

I am interested in supervising postgraduate students whose projects relate to popular culture, moral panic, race and representation, among other areas.

See Nicky's full profile here...

My research addresses the interface between media texts and consumer culture. My work aims to deconstruct the ways in which commercial discourses promote very particular narratives of self-identity (as shaped primarily by forms of consumption and self-commoditisation), visibility and appearance (as the dominant form of public connection), and relationships of power (regulated by market exchange and the internalised gaze). I argue that one of the reasons that consumer culture has become so naturalized and ubiquitous a feature of everyday life is the role that media texts play in ‘selling’ it. As such, it is crucial to critically analyse those texts, in order to deconstruct the discursive mechanics of consumer media and give a detailed account of how neoliberal ethics are communicated in commercial media. I am currently working on a project that seeks to map the ways in which consumption in the global south is mediated, and to draw comparisons between case studies in South Africa, Brazil, China and India. This research has been funded by an NRF Thuthuka Grant (2012-2014), a Carnegie Large Research Grant for 2012 through the Carnegie Corporation Transformation Programme at Wits, an Andrew W Mellon Foundation Research Grant for Younger Scholars (2012).

Some empirical fragments and links to various analytical publications related to my first book can be found at The Newsstand Project website (see www.thenewsstandproject.org). I have also been involved in establishing an interdisciplinary, national network of academic scholarship concerned with consumer culture in South Africa, the Critical Research in Consumer Culture (CRiCC) network (see www.consumerculturenetwork.wordpress.com) which held a Symposium in November 2012, and a south-south Consumption Studies workshop in November 2013 (funded by a university SPARC grant). I have also worked collaboratively in research exploring pedagogical issues in media, communications and cultural studies with a colleague based in the UK, Dr. Anna Feigenbaum's (see http://wethinkingtheclassroom.wordpress.com/te-workshops/).

See Mehita's full profile here...

(Post-graduate Co-ordinator)

My research focus is in two broad areas. Firstly, I am interested in how expression (whether political and cultural), and institutions (media, economic and political) impact on policy processes and the degree to which the exercise for control between these institutions lead to citizens empowerment or disempowerment. Secondly I am also interested in exploring the various dimensions of political processes and media from the global and national perspective.
I am currently working on a project with a colleague from Okanagan College, Canada. This project explores privacy issues with New Mobile Technologies i.e. Google Glass, Tablets, and iwatch and how these new mobile technological devices aid marketing activities and their impact on the everyday lives of the citizens.
I also have interest in Public Relations and have authored many newspapers and magazines articles during my years in the media industry as a Public Relations Officer.

See Ufuoma's full profile here...

(Head of Department)

My research is interested in interrogating the role played by popular culture in Africa. Arguing that popular cultures are crucial in helping to locate agency and power in society, my research explores a number of related avenues in the field.
First, my research is interested in the idea of public culture. Here, I am interested in the ways in which dominant cultural ideas around gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity and race circulate in the media. The argument maintained in this aspect of my research is that by tracking the discursive formations of these ideas, one is not only able to locate how power functions in specific societies, but is also able to see the different ways in which such ideas become internalized and reproduced in alternative avenues.
Related to the above research trajectory, is my interest in the idea of the ‘Archives of the ordinary’. Here, I argue that in emerging African democratic spaces such as Kenya, the way in which information circulates is often affected by a dominant state presence that interferes with its circulation. As such, the study of the ordinary, everyday spaces as archive provides one with a different view of how cultural discourses circulate. My work destabilizes the idea of a singular dominant archive as centrally located in recognizable institutions (of power). In order to develop this line of argument, I use the idea of alternative media, and expand my site of research from mainstream media (radio, print media) to new media (Facebook, Twitter, discussion forums, blogs and chat rooms).”

See Dina's full profile here...

Entry requirements for postgraduate degrees

Honours: Minimum of 65% pass for a BA, with a major in Media Studies or a related discipline.
Masters: Minimum of 70% pass for an Honours degree in Media Studies or a related discipline.
PhD: Minimum of 70% or an equivalent pass for a Masters degree in Media Studies or a related discipline.

Interested in applying for postgraduate study?

Have a look through our fields of research here

make an enquiry

To make an enquiry please email Ufuoma Akpojivi, the postgrad co-ordinator

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.
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