Research and Teaching Unit: Media, Culture and Society

Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology
University of Cologne
50923 CologneGermany

Phone: +49 (0)221 470-2609

Coordinator: Carolin Maevis
Email: Carolin.Maevis(at)
Phone: +49 (0)221 470-2609
Fax: +49 (0)221/470-5261

Mission Statement

In the early 21st century, anthropological investigations of social and cultural worlds need to take account of the various mass-mediated, sometimes digitally remastered images and sound “bites” that permeate the everyday lives in nearly every part of the world. Conventional media theory was grounded primarily in empirical research on Western industrial societies. Anthropologically informed studies query whether central assumptions of conventional media theory are valid for foreign cultural contexts. Anthropological accounts of media practices explore the ways media technologies are integrated and made sense of in diverse cultural and social contexts, and in what ways they introduce changes, even ruptures, or enable continuities in practices, understandings, institutions, and traditions.

We are committed to building a research and teaching network for the anthropological study of media practices. Our diverse research and teaching activities aim to foster exchange and debate among scholars who explore media institutions, technologies and practices as historically and culturally situated processes. We emphasize that the anthropological study of media, “old” and “new”, “big” and “small”, calls for close attention to the changing institutional and political conditions under which media technologies are employed and made sense of.  By situating our research and teaching agendas in a perspective that makes room for cultural and historical comparison and for recent processes of intensified transnational and global integration, we purposefully extend our focus beyond a conventional Area Studies approach and other forms of regional specialization.

Goal 1: Research

To coordinate and promote research that situates the study of media practices in the context of contemporary political, social and religious reconfigurations. Our research and teaching activities grant special attention to various auditory and audio-visual technologies and practices, and to the ways they intertwine with other, often synaesthetic forms of sensual mediation and perception. With our focus on the audio-visual, we integrate the different areas of Visual and Media Anthropology with an emphasis on the fact, that much of what is analyzed (and produced) under the rubric of “moving image” moves not only through image but also through sound and other sensuous impressions.

Central Research Projects:


Goal 2: Teaching

To provide theoretically challenging and empirically sound anthropological training at both BA and MA levels. Our activities involve devising new and innovative course formats that integrate various internet-mediated platforms for debate and instruction (a.o. video conferencing, blogs, skype interviews with film producers, youtube-type posting and discussion forums) and thus allow for interactive and more decentralized forms of instruction and remote learning activities (“e-learning”).

Courses & Modules:


Goal 3: Technology

To promote the development of new resources and technologies for teaching and researching, such as web sites, internet capabilities, digital teaching resources, interactive instruction formats, and video and audio media. We also engage in collaborative activities across disciplinary and institutional boundaries within the university, so as to generate synergetic effects with other media resource centers and institutions of technological innovation at the University of Cologne.  


Goal 4: Exchange

To initiate and foster exchange with scholars and institutions whose research and teaching activities are guided by a similar interest in the culturally and historically comparative of media technologies and practices.