Media and Cultural Studies

The Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR) was established in 2009 to develop research as a core activity within the Birmingham School of Media. In the recent Research Excellence Framework process for assessing the UK HE sector, the majority of BCMCR research environment and activities were judged as of a quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour. The impact of our research has been classified as world leading.

We have delivered, or participated in a number of major, externally funded research projects with partners that include Arts Connect, Arts Council, BBC, British Arts Festivals Association, British Library, EFG London Jazz Festival, MAC Birmingham, Meedan, NESTA, Sampad and Soul City Arts. Our dynamic and well-attended weekly research seminar series showcases a series of internal and external speakers.

BCMCR also hosts the open access postgraduate journals Riffs, which features experimental writing on popular music, Makings: A Journal Researching the Creative Industries and Songwriting Studies. We pride ourselves on a collaborative and supportive environment that fosters research careers at all stages.

We have a lively community of 30 doctoral researchers undertaking a wide range of projects. Our programme offers the flexibility to present your research in a range of formats, depending on the nature of your research, whether it be a conventional thesis or practice with a written element. We encourage creative approaches to research and innovative methodologies.

Activity at BCMCR is based around the collaborative work of nine research clusters:

  • Creative Industries
  • Cultural Theory
  • Game Cultures
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • History, Heritage and Archives
  • Jazz Studies
  • Media and Place
  • Popular Music Studies

Creative Industries

The Creative Industries Cluster (CIC) takes a critical perspective to investigate the challenges that circulate around creative economies and cultural labour. We work closely with cultural organisations at local, national and global level, providing new insights into the experience of cultural work. For example, colleagues have carried out research on the creative industries in India, Australia and France.

We also work with colleagues at STEAMHouse, BCU’s interdisciplinary makerspace, and the University’s Centre for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts (CEDIA).

Our key areas of interest include:

  • Alternative and marginal economies
  • Craft making and production practices
  • Creative industries educational development
  • Creative industries and new media (including social media, AI and VR)
  • Cultural entrepreneurship
  • Cultural policy
  • Equality and diversity
  • Media regulation

Cultural Theory

Based in BCMCR but with membership across the university, the cluster aims to explore Cultural Theory in relation to contemporary politics in order to understand its application to everyday realities and practices. The Cultural Theory cluster intersects with individual research interests to explore common themes and to formulate shared goals and interventions. Shared interests include: social movements; counter-hegemonic discourses; questions of gender, race, queer theory/politics; cultural labour; the politics of space; the politics of education; art and activism; and practice-based research. The cluster organises events, reading/discussion groups, screenings, panel discussions and other collaborative projects. To date these have included symposia on the politics of voice and listening, and the legacy of Stuart Hall's New Ethnicities; a co-edited special issue of the Journal of Sonic Studies is forthcoming. Recent research has addressed the following topics:

  • Migration and refugees
  • Old and new Racisms
  • Populism and nationalism
  • Feminist and queer politics; African feminisms, masculinities
  • Postcolonial theory; imperial legacies
  • Posthumanism
  • Higher education institutions as sites of producing and resisting neoliberalism 
  • Social movements
  • The politics of voice and listening
  • The politics of time; rhythm, speed/slowness
  • Practice-based research, including artistic and curatorial practice

Game Cultures

The Game Cultures cluster brings together researchers who address questions around the cultural aspects of games of all kinds. We understand the study of games as a field in which disciplines intersect, and we bring together approaches from history, sociology, English studies, film and television studies, and media studies to address the place of games, and their production, circulation and consumption, in culture. Our current research explores the following themes:

  • Historical game studies
  • Video game narratives and adaptation
  • Posthumanism and video games
  • History and (video)game communities, including fan cultures
  • Video games and cultural policy
  • Games and national/transnational identity
  • Analogue games and literacy (media, health, climate)
  • Ecocritical approaches to video games

Gender and Sexuality

The Gender and Sexuality cluster draws together an interdisciplinary group of researchers from Media and Cultural Studies, Art and Design, English and Health Studies. We are interested in the ways in which gender and sexuality are socially and culturally constructed and the place of sex and sexual representation as part of everyday life online and offline. We aim to produce research that promotes our shared ethos of sex positivity, inclusivity and intersectionality. Recent research has addressed issues such as:

  • Sexualised masculinity
  • The histories of adult film production across Europe
  • Gay men's use of dating apps
  • Digital intimacies
  • Sex in cinema
  • Fetish communities
  • Drag Cultures

History, Heritage and Archives

The History, Heritage and Archives cluster (HHA) explores all aspects of media history, archiving and cultural heritage practice, and the opportunities and tensions that present themselves for scholars, institutions and practitioners in these fields. We have a particular focus on the way media sources and archives, and practices of history and heritage making, are inflected by digital technologies and environments, across a range of places and cultures.

Recent research has addressed issues such as:

  • Historical work in fan communities
  • Media archives and the challenge of the digital for media historians and archivists
  • Commemoration and everyday media memory
  • Historical game studies/game history
  • Histories of television and television production
  • Histories of illicit media
  • Theories of history, memory and narrative in popular music/culture
  • Media as historical sources

Jazz Studies

Since 2013, the jazz studies cluster at BCU has gained global recognition for research leadership in jazz. It boasts a large community of interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners, has an established record of monographs and peer-reviewed publications, alongside practice-based research outputs, hosts regular symposia and conferences, and attracts significant external funding. The cluster is home to the Routledge Transnational Studies in Jazz book series, plays a leading role in curating the Rhythm Changes and Documenting Jazz international conferences, and has partnerships with major non-academic organisations such as the Europe Jazz Network, the Portuguese Jazz Network, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, and BBC radio. BCU also holds the UK National Jazz Archive Satellite collection. Research within the Jazz Studies cluster focuses on developing new models for jazz scholarship in a number of key areas, including:

  • The cultural meaning of jazz
  • Studies of jazz as a transnational practice
  • Improvisation and cultural practice
  • Jazz on television and radio
  • Archives and documentation
  • Mediation and technology
  • Jazz and philosophy
  • Festivals

Media and Place

The Media and Place cluster brings together researchers at different career stages to explore the relations between media, culture and the geopolitics of place. We are interested in ‘place’ as a geographical location, and will focus on the role the media plays in cultural, social, political and representational processes. We will also consider marginal, hyperlocal and alternative spaces in the UK, Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and beyond, specifically looking at the role of the media in current debates on identity, borders and migration, as well as the persistence of colonial and imperial legacies in the current, post-Brexit moment and the Western-centric blindness/amnesia towards politics outside the West. Recent research has addressed issues such as:

  • Media and conflict  
  • Hyperlocal media narratives 
  • Media, populism and nationalism 
  • Community media practices and the politics of space 
  • Digital media and feminism
  • Media, migration and displacement  

Popular Music Studies

The Popular Music Studies research cluster focuses on contemporary issues of significance to musicians, audiences, and the industries involved in the production of popular music. The cluster seeks to facilitate a variety of traditional and more innovative ways of researching popular music that explore connections between sounds, meaning, media, and practice in both contemporary and historical contexts. It supports the research of academics, performers and composers as well as creative practitioners. It also engages with and actively promotes the significance of popular music research in a variety of non-academic contexts (music related industries, museums and archives, cultural institutions and not-for-profit organisations). The cluster’s core areas of research activity are as follows:

  • Popular music consumption
  • Songwriting
  • Music scenes
  • Heritage and cultural memory
  • Mediation and representation
  • Media and technology
  • Music industries
  • Material cultures
  • Experimental writing

For further information on the Media and Cultural Studies PhD programme at Birmingham City University, please contact Dr. Yemisi Akinbobola, Research Degrees Coordinator

See our PhD course page