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Short biographical note

John Postill (PhD Anthropology, UCL) is a Senior Lecturer in Communication at RMIT University, in Melbourne. Formerly he was a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow at RMIT and a Digital Anthropology Fellow at University College London (UCL). His publications include Localizing the Internet (2011), Media and Nation Building (2006) and the co-edited volume Theorising Media and Practice (2010, with Birgit Bräuchler). Currently he is writing a book titled The Rise of Nerd Politics (London: Pluto), and the co-edited volume Theorising Media and Conflict (with Philipp Budka and Birgit Bräuchler). From 2018 he will be working on an anthropological history of modern media and communication provisionally titled The Cultural Effects of Media [Last updated 22 July 2017].

Long biographical note

I am an anthropologist (PhD, UCL) specialising in the study of media. I live in Melbourne (Australia) where I am a Senior Lecturer in Communication at RMIT University. Prior to this I was a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow (2013-2016) at RMIT. I am also a Fellow of the Digital Anthropology Programme at University College London (UCL).

Over the years I have worked in various fields (including academia, journalism, teaching and translating) and lived in Spain, Britain, Indonesia, Japan, Germany, Malaysia, Romania, and now Australia. Previously I held research fellowships at Cambridge University, Bremen University and the Academy of Art and Design in Karlsruhe and taught at Sheffield Hallam University, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, Staffordshire University and the National School of Political Science and Administration (SNSPA) in Bucharest.

In 2010-2011 I spent a year as a Senior Fellow at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona where I investigated the uses of social media for activism and protest with Sarah Pink, especially in connection with the indignados (#15M) and Occupy movements.

My first book, Media and Nation Building, was published by Berghahn in 2006. This study explains how the Iban, an indigenous people of Borneo, have been an integral part of Malaysia’s nation-building project since independence in 1963. My second book, Localizing the Internet, based on fieldwork among Internet activists in Peninsular Malaysia, was published in 2011 (see review). I have also edited a volume with Birgit Bräuchler entitled Theorising Media and Practice (2010) and am currently writing a book titled The Rise of Nerd Politics (London: Pluto), and the co-edited volume Theorising Media and Conflict (with Philipp Budka and Birgit Bräuchler). From 2018 I will start working on an anthropological history of modern media and communication provisionally titled The Cultural Effects of Media.

Running through these different research projects is a keen interest in how we may explain the relationship between media and sociocultural change from both ethnographic and historical perspectives. Throughout my career I have studied media not in isolation, but as complex and shifting configurations of people, technologies, practices and actions that can only be understood in their specific historical, geographical and cultural contexts. I am sceptical, therefore, of accounts written in the present continuous where things are perpetually chang-ing but never actually change.

I am the editor, with Mark A. Peterson, of  Berghahn’s Anthropology of Media Series, the convenor of the EASA Media Anthropology Network and a member of the editorial board of Anthropology Today.

The aim of this blog is to put out in the public domain materials that I am already working with as part of my research activity under the broad theme of media anthropology. The idea is to keep colleagues, students and others informed of my work as well as to keep an online notebook for my own personal use, e.g. as an easy way of tracking down materials that may otherwise have remained hidden in my personal records.

I can be reached at jrpostill [atr] gmail [dort] com.

John Postill
Jakarta, 6 May 2015
Melbourne, 22 July 2017

(Header illustration: Pú

31 Comments leave one →
  1. June 26, 2008 1:41 pm

    hi john. read yoyr post in AIR list. i am indonesian. was working with indonesian ngo and social movement, did phd on internet and civil society in indonesia and now wondering around in manchester … maybe one day we can meet and talk? best, y.

  2. July 20, 2008 11:23 pm

    Congratulations on the work of disseminating achieved on this site.

  3. July 21, 2008 9:32 am

    Thanks Christian, that’s very encouraging feedback. I’m hoping to give the blog a more public edge over time, e.g. by engaging from an anthropological perspective with some of the media-related issues discussed on the scientific salon I’m a great fan of but it does have a conspicuously low proportion of anthropologists as contributors.

  4. July 30, 2009 3:04 pm

    Hi John!
    What a wonderful site you do!
    Im doing doctor degree at PUC-Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Im very surprise to research youth literacies in the internet. The resources you put here will help me a lot!


  5. July 30, 2009 3:49 pm

    Many thanks for the compliment, Iliana. I’m glad you find the site of use. What exactly are your researching?

  6. July 30, 2009 4:02 pm

    Oi, John!
    I wrote you an email explaining a little bit more about my research.
    My study describes practices and representations of reading and writing of digital natives. I visited 6 teenagers in their homes one time a week for 2 months, looking things they like to do on pc and asking them about the digital reading and writing meanings.
    I will buy your book now!

  7. July 30, 2009 6:55 pm

    Thanks for this and for the more detailed email, it sounds terrific. Did you find a lot of diversity among all six teenagers (including digital skills), i.e. highly idiosyncratic sets of individual practices? And what were the commonalities?

  8. July 30, 2009 9:08 pm

    PS I’m very interested in the *rewards* of media practice (see Warde 2005, this blog). What do your young people ‘get out of’ their digital media practices? What makes them sustain some digital practices but not others (spending time and money on them)?

  9. July 30, 2009 10:41 pm

    Dear John!

    I just finished to do the interviews, in the sense I trascribed all meetings, video recordered, and I save their print screens and digital and press favourite stories. I will use the software Nudist to analyse the empyrical material. I ll have my qualify 2 on november and then I will have more details to share with u. Its interestint to know how important the computer is for all of them, and how paper receive a special meaning to express feelings. They love the possibility to create fake profiles because in this way they can express themselves with freedom, includding topics about sex.

  10. Hend permalink
    September 5, 2012 11:18 am

    Alsalam Alyekum, Mr. Postill

    I am an Egyptian researcher who is very interested about your blog as well as EASA Media Anthropology Network. I need to know more about how to join this network and attend the offline meetings, or contribute to any future research projects. Thank you very much in advance. Best regards.

  11. Hend permalink
    September 6, 2012 6:36 pm

    Thanks for your reply. The link does not open. I will try again. Regarding the research, my last paper was my MA thesis discussing social networks in Egypt. I am still at the beginning of this career, and hope to do more researches and attend many conferences in the coming years.

  12. January 21, 2013 5:31 pm

    Hi John, I’ve read your work through the edited work by Zawawi Ibrahim and found the chapter you wrote very interesting! I’m guessing it was from your book Media and Nation building? As there isn’t a lot written on the Iban it has influenced a chunk of one of my own chapters!
    Currently researching Iban women performing arts – (post-colonial feminism & performing arts) – the migration of the practise and the women performing (which includes identity, space, home/belonging, tourism, nation building, etc)

  13. January 21, 2013 11:30 pm

    Hi Anna. I’m glad to hear you found the chapter interesting. Yes, it was from my book Media and Nation Building. Your work on Iban identity and performance sounds great. Is this part of a PhD or postdoc?

    • January 23, 2013 11:48 am

      Hi John, It is part of my PhD (which hopefully be finished very shortly!). As an Iban, based in London, it has felt more like visiting home than research, which is lovely.
      I hadn’t realised that chapter was part of a book – which seems foolish of me, as I had thought I had been thorough with my investigation into Iban research! I will have to get your book.

  14. April 27, 2017 9:41 am

    Hello, John!
    I was enjoying your very productive talk both days at Lund university. It was nice to meet you personally and I got also chance to talk to you privately. Thanks to being there and giving a creative speech about digital programs. Thanks a lot! Maliha Shir, Afghan woman and Master student in Lund university

    • April 27, 2017 10:02 pm

      Many thanks for that feedback, Maliha. It was great to be able to spend some time at Lund and learn about the excellent work you’re doing at the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies. All the best with your studies! John

  15. April 28, 2017 8:33 am

    Thank you and all the best with your new goals!


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