John Postill

February 1, 2011

I am an anthropologist (PhD UCL) specialising in the study of media. Currently I am Senior Lecturer in Media at Sheffield Hallam University and a Fellow of the Digital Anthropology Programme, University College London (UCL).

I am presently involved in two research projects. In September 2010 I took up a one-year Senior Fellowship at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona where I am investigating the uses of social media for activism. In addition, I am setting up an international comparative study of mobile phones in the global South entitledMobile Livelihoods. Theoretically I am interested in the possible media applications of practice theory, in rethinking sociality and related concepts, and in how to theorise the elusive relationship between digital media and sociocultural change.

I have lived and worked in Spain, Britain, Indonesia, Japan, Germany, Malaysia and Romania. Previously I have held research fellowships at Cambridge University, Bremen University and the Academy of Art and Design in Karlsruhe and taught at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, Staffordshire University and the National School of Political Science and Administration (SNSPA) in Bucharest.

My first book, Media and Nation Building, was published by Berghahn in 2006. This study draws on historical and ethnographic research to explain how the Iban, an indigenous people of Borneo, have been an integral part of Malaysia’s nation-building project since independence in 1963 – an ongoing project that relies on a range of state and commercial media. My second ethnography, Localizing the Internet, is based on fieldwork among Internet activists in Peninsular Malaysia and is now in press. I have also edited a volume with Birgit Bräuchler entitled Theorising Media and Practice (2010), also with Berghahn, and I am currently writing a book provisionally titled Media and Change Since 1979 based on the existing media ethnographic record. This book seeks to broaden the public discussion of digital media and social change away from its present fixation with technological trends in the affluent North.

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.

To get in touch with me, please use the Contact page and I will try to reply quickly. You can also reach me via email (j.postill[at] or Twitter at @JohnPostill.

See blog posts by this author:
Activism in the age of viral reality