Media-studies degrees are often seen as a bit of joke. But the subject is being taken seriously at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) in London, which is launching three MAs in media and communications.
The geographical focus of media courses is too narrow, says the school. Most look at work in English, and production, distribution and reception in the US, Britain and Australia, says Dr Mark Hobart, who is convening one of the new masters - critical media and cultural studies. "They ignore the contemporary mass media in Asia, Africa and Latin America, despite the emergence of many of the world's largest film, TV, music and print industries."
The other two new courses are about global media and postnational communication - that is, globalisation with reference to all forms of media; and cinemas of Asia and Africa. The global-media course will cover the distribution of media as well as migrant people's use of various media forms, such as minority television channels, says the course leader, Professor Annabelle Sreberny.
The course will also look at global civil society and the use of ICTs to build movements of solidarity, says Sreberny. An example of this would be e-mail petitions against reported miscarriages of justices, such as the sentencing to death by stoning of the unmarried Nigerian mother Amina Lawal.
The thinking behind the cinema course is that film studies, too, tend to focus on Western culture. Students may specialise in the cinema of Japan, China, South-east Asia, India, Iran, the Middle East or Africa. The new courses have a flexible structure to allow, for example, a global-media student to take a cinema course. Electives are also available from elsewhere in Soas in relevant fields such as languages or economics, and cinema students may enhance their cross-cultural perspectives by taking a module at Birkbeck College on British, European or world cinema.
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