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Birkbeck College London

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The Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies within the School of Arts at Birkbeck, University of London uniquely combines the study of history and contemporary practices of film, television aand digital media. It offers an exceptionally stimulating environment where interdisciplinary research flourishes, both across film and television topics but also by initiating discussion and intellectual debate between these disciplines and that of media and communications in variety of areas including critical engagement with old and new technologies and with the aesthetic questions raised by new imaging technologies. The Department of History of Art and Screen Media is marked by a strong research ethos which has been enhanced by the foundation of the Centre for Media, Culture and Creative Practice, as well as the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image headed by Professor Laura Mulvey. The research environment of the Department benefits externally from its participation in the London University Screen Studies Group which is an umbrella organisation covering all aspects of screen study across the Colleges of the University of London and organising conferences, PhD seminars and workshops. Students have at their disposal a self-access centre with a strong collection of film and video material, and well-equipped computer facilities, including a multimedia laboratory. In addition to the Birkbeck Library, research students have access to the nearby University of London Library, as well as other specialist collections and institutions in central London, including the British Film Institute.


Courses taught at our department:

Film Festivals (30 CATS/BBK credits)

This module explores the role of film festivals in relation to contemporary film culture and aims to answer the question 'why do film festivals matter today and historically?' We will employ a variety of perspectives through which this relationship will be considered: programming; audiences; event-based cultural experience; industry and funding; the status of the films which make up the programming of the festival. We will reflect on how the relationship between contemporary film and film festival cultures is impacted by changes in technology; the site/location/space of the festival; politics, identity politics and geopolitics. We will look at different types of film festivals: city-based, international, identity, national, activist, archival and genre.

The module is a mixture of practical exercises, oral presentations and written assignments.

The Berlinale field trip or a fieldtrip to a festival of your choice in the UK offers an invaluable insight into the workings of a major international film festival and global film industry. You will need to attend a minimum of seven full days. There is an additional cost associated with the field trip.


Issues in Global TV (30 CATS/BBK credits)

This module will explore the rich and varied histories of television within the global context. Initially broadcasters used to be entirely nation-bound: heavily regulated against foreign competition, they aimed for self-sufficiency and had few channels; while analogue defined the linearity of scheduling and delivery. With increased trade and commercial circulation and ever more deregulation of national broadcasting systems, and accelerated by the era of convergence, broadcasters may still operate in a national market, but they also operate in a far more intricate and contested global media landscape. The module aims to draw out the implications of that complexity and understand how different national broadcasters produce, and think about, television - in relation to culture and identities, audiences and users, industry, trade and globalisation.

The first part sketches out the key theoretical and methodological challenges for defining television: how to understand television as shaped by the politics of the nation-state, as well as the cultural imperialism thesis that explains the forces that trespass over national boundaries, and the formation of hybrid cultures drawn from different locales, the phenomena of transnationlisation and deterritorialisation and migrant media and transnational audiences. Part two focuses on ‘national’ television systems and broadcast cultures, offering various case studies to further draw out the implications of the national and globalised paradigms explored in part one. The module concludes by bringing together the different strands, to explore how television formats and ideas about television circulate and are traded, but also adapted and translated into national, often local, sometimes regional communities. Questions of translation and practices of adaptation will be central to the discussion.


Indicative module content

  • History, Themes, Methodologies: television - the politics of the nation-state; television - cultural proximity, cultural imperialism and local resistance; television - the age of convergence, migrant media and transnational audiences
  • National Television Systems: Europe and Latin America, Lusophone telenovelas; East Asia, from Japanese trendy drama to the Korean New Wave; international, local, regional television, case study of Africa
  • Transnationalism, Translation, Adaptation: transnationalism - case study of music and EuroVision; fiction - case study of Yo soy Betty/Ugly Betty; non-fiction formats - game shows


Please find our staff profiles here.


All courses are taught in English.