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 previous 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.

We have delivered, or participated in a number of major, externally funded research projects with partners that include Arts Connect, Arts Council, BBC, British Library, Meedan, MAC Birmingham, NESTA, Sampad, EFG London Jazz Festival, 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, and Makings: A Journal Researching the Creative Industries. We pride ourselves on a collaborative and supportive environment that fosters research careers at all stages.

We have a lively community of 37 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
  • Screen Cultures

Creative Industries

The Creative Industries Cluster provides a focus for academics exploring the realities of creative, media and cultural industries practice. We take a critical perspective to investigate the challenges of working in the creative sector. We work closely with cultural organisations at local, national and global levels, providing new insights into the experience of cultural work. We also work with colleagues at STEAMHouse, BCUs interdisciplinary makerspace, and the Universitys Centre for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts (CEDIA).

Our combined objectives are to continue working closely with cultural and creative industry communities and individual artists, cultural workers, consultants and organisations through collaborative initiatives. We seek to undertake publicly engaged work, underpinned by our scholarly research. Core objectives are: 

1) to work in partnership with cultural organisations, cultural policy makers and individuals who are managing and developing programmes addressing inequalities in the cultural sector; 

2) to draw attention to the challenges of self-employment, cultural entrepreneurship and expertise and re-focus the nature of support and policies aimed at cultural and creative industries; 

3) to explore a range of methodological approaches including practice processes such as exhibitions, events, workshops, co-creating research and use of social media.

  • Alternative and marginal economies
  • Cultural entrepreneurship
  • Cultural policy and media regulation
  • Craft making and production practices
  • Equality and diversity

Cultural Theory

Based in BCMCR but with membership across the university, the cluster aims to explores 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 and cultural work; the politics of space; the politics of education; art and activism; and practice-based research. The group is also connected to the Soundings journal, with a view to extend the journal’s reach to different geographical areas and consistencies. The cluster organises events, including reading/discussion groups, screenings, panel discussions and other events. 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 neoliberalisation but also resistance to it
  • 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 scholars whose research addresses 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

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

History, Heritage and Archives

The History, Heritage and Archives cluster focuses on media based histories, archiving and heritage culture. A specific focus of this research cluster is the way in which media sources, archives and practices of history and heritage making are inflected by digital technologies and environments.
The research of the History, Heritage and Archives cluster is necessarily diverse and 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. Recent research has addressed issues such as:

  • Media as historical source
  • Media archives and the challenges online archives pose for media historians and archivists
  • Refugees, migrants, media history and archives
  • Commemoration and everyday media memory
  • The archive, amateur film and place

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 peer-reviewed Jazz Research Journal and the Routledge Transnational Studies in Jazz book series, and has partnerships with major non-academic organisations such as the Europe Jazz Network, Cheltenham Jazz Festival and BBC radio. Research within the Jazz Studies cluster focuses on developing new models for jazz scholarship in a number of key areas:

  • 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 in the Middle East and North Africa region, in Africa and the Caribbean. Beyond our focus on developing economies, we will also consider marginal, hyperlocal and alternative spaces, in the UK, Europe 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

Screen Cultures

The Screen Cultures research cluster has been in operation at BCU since 2011, and during this time its membership has grown to encompass doctoral students and early to mid-career researchers, who work alongside film professors of international standing. The Screen Cultures membership also boasts an established record of monographs and peer-reviewed publications, alongside practice based research outputs (including award winning documentaries and VR film productions), while group members have also been the successful recipients of funding awards from the AHRC, the British Academy and the National Lottery. The cluster is also the focus for a range of established conferences and festivals, including the annual Cine-Excess International Film Festival. Within its range of activities Screen Cultures takes a broad approach to the subject. The cluster’s core areas of research activity can be highlighted as follows:

  • Marginal, subcultural and cult modes of screen production and consumer
  • practices.
  • The gendering of media audiences and the gendered processes of fandom.
  • Film festival and distribution activities in screen research.
  • Documentary filmmaking as production research perspectives.
  • The history and developments of sexual culture through screen media.
  • National and transnational traditions of cinema beyond Hollywood.

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

See our PhD course page