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E-seminar: Media and social changing since 1979

April 30, 2013

This e-seminar took place some time ago (in December 2012) but I thought I’d repost the relevant information and links here from the Media Anthropology Network site for archival purposes. 

Media Anthropology Network
European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)
E-seminar 42

4-18 December 2012. John Postill (RMIT): Media and social changing since 1979: Towards a diachronic ethnography of media and actual social changes. (PDF, 230 KB)

Comments: Brian Larkin (Columbia University) (PDF, 80 KB)

E-Seminar on Media and social changing since 1979 (PDF, 220 KB)


In this paper I address the question of how to study media and social change ethnographically. To do so I draw from the relevant media anthropology literature, including my own research in Malaysia and Spain. I first sketch a history of media anthropology, identifying a number of key works and themes as well as two main phases of growth since the 1980s. I then argue that anthropologists are well positioned to contribute to the interdisciplinary study of media and social change. However, to do so we must first shift our current focus on media and ‘social changing’ (i.e. how things are changing) to the study of media in relation to actual social changes, e.g. the suburbanisation of Kuala Lumpur in the 1970s to 2000s, or the secularisation of morality in post-Franco Spain. This shift from the ethnographic present continuous to the ethnographic past simple (how things changed from A to B) – a move from potential to actual changes – does not require that we abandon our commitment to ethnography in favour of social or cultural history. Rather, it demands new forms of ‘diachronic ethnography’ that can handle the biographical logic of actual social changes.

Keywords: media, social change, social changing, diachronic ethnography, multi-timed ethnography, media anthropology, social history, world history.

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