Research in Media and Cultural Studies

The Research Excellence Framework, the UK’s method for evaluating research quality has ranked Media and Cultural Studies at Newcastle as 12th out of 67 in the country. As our first ever submission to the REF this represents an outstanding result. The REF has highlighted that 82% of our staff are ‘World Leading’ and ‘Internationally Excellent’. Newcastle’s dynamic and innovative focus of connecting leading academic work with relevant and contemporary practice is recognized with 80% of our work with Media and Cultural industries and organizations being championed as having global and international significance.

Research ThemesArmstrong Building

Research Networks

Contributions to the Peer Community

Links with Professionals in Media and Cultural Organizations

Research Students

Research Centres and Facilities


Research in Media and Cultural Studies

Research in Media and Cultural Studies at Newcastle University is dynamic, interdisciplinary and international in scope, as illustrated through our staff and research microsite.

Conducted across critical media and cultural studies, journalism and documentary film, our research is characterized by analyses of media, culture, politics, and society through cross-disciplinary approaches. Through our research initiatives, we also engage with a range of media and cultural organizations. Research in Media and Cultural Studies comprises two sets of aims. First, our research strategy involves a range of interdisciplinary research contexts to address critical discourse studies of media and culture; the body/technology interface; gender and feminist theory; affect, intimacy and families; social class; postcolonial, transnational and critical race studies as well as journalism studies. Second, our research is designed to have relevance for media and cultural policy and practice, nationally and internationally. Our work is closely allied with the research aims and activities of the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University.

Research Themes

Three themes organise the research principles of Media and Cultural Studies, with members of staff working within and across these themes:

Media, Affect and Interpersonal Relations

Under this theme we ask: How do critical studies of emotion, affect and intimacy advance our understandings of transnational politics, family life and personal relations, media uses, and the body/technology interface? Within this theme, James Ash is engaged in research that theorizes the relationship between technology, the body and space. He focuses on the politics of affect in connection to the interface between video games and mobile media.  In particular, James’ research links debates around affect to processes of design. Through his approach to the designs and uses of video games and mobile technologies, James develops new concepts and new accounts in order to understand how affect is utilised for specifically economic ends. Using examples from videogames and videogame design, James shows how affect is shaped and channeled specifically to capture and hold the attention of users. He also examines how these processes involve drawing upon, rather than attempting to evacuate contingency. James is currently advancing his work on affect, media and the body/technology interface by writing a book on The Interface Envelope (Bloomsbury 2015).

Research on the politics of emotions which links feminist theories with critical studies of emotion and affect is exemplified by Carolyn Pedwell’s work. In her AHRC Fellowship project, ‘Affective Relations: The Transnational Politics of Emotion’ (2013-2014) she is exploring and advancing debates on the affective cultural politics of neoliberalism, social justice and international development.  In her book, Affective Relations: The Transnational Politics of Empathy (Palgrave 2014), Carolyn focuses on ways that emotions are related to power in transnational contexts. Through close readings of a range of ‘affective texts’, from Obama’s political memoirs and speeches, to postcolonial literary works and best-selling business books, Carolyn argue that, although empathy can generate transformative social connections, it can also (re)produce dominant gendered, racialised, sexualised and classed hierarchies and exclusions on a global scale. Moving away from liberal and neoliberal narratives which invest empathetic will with a near magical power to bridge all differences and heal all wounds, the book explores how imaginative empathies might open up different, and potentially transformative, ways of conceptualising power, time and space in a transnational world. In the context of the contemporary ‘turn to affect’, a special issue of Feminist Theory by Carolyn and colleague Anne Whitehead (School of English, Language and Linguistics) charts new theoretical ground by examining critical links between feminist theory and studies of emotion.

The concept of ‘mediated intimacy’ is advanced by Deborah Chambers in relation to new modes of self-representation and changing social networks in her book, Social Media and Personal Relationships (Palgrave 2013). She examines the changing nature of ‘friendship’ and sociability in the context of social media to theorize the rise of digital media engagement within new, personalized networked cultures.  Deborah’s research also informs debates on changing family dynamics and domestic media technologies through research on the emergence of home-based, social video gaming and a historical study of the cultural formation of television technology. Her book, A Sociology of Family Life: Change and Diversity in Intimate Relations (Polity Press 2012), examines change and diversity in intimate relations and advances debates about the meaning and nature of ‘family’ through a series of transnational case studies. This monograph was selected by Choice as outstanding academic title of 2012. Deborah is currently writing about Changing Media, Homes and Households: Cultures, Technologies and Meanings (Routledge 2015) to explore the complex relationship between home, family and changing media technologies.

Identity, Culture and Society

Under this theme we engage with sociological, cultural and historical perspectives to ask: How are critical approaches to identity, culture and society applicable to cross-cultural issues of ethnicity, race, and gender? The following areas of research address this question: African American history post-1865; African and black diaspora studies; Black Atlantic studies; feminist and gender theory; gender and education; and masculinity studies.

Within this focus, Chris Haywood’s work with Mairtin Mac an Ghaill (NUC, Birmingham) on men’s and boys’ experiences of gender has advanced debates in the sociology of education. Their book, Masculinity and Education: Social and Cultural Transformations (Routledge 2013) challenge the popular, political and academic assumptions that equate masculinity with men and boys and therefore the effectiveness of ‘masculinity’ as a way of understanding gender and education. They identify and name the possibility of a post-masculinity theoretical position. Chris also explores gendered experiences in terms of generation or ethnicity as critical frames applied to areas such as media representations, globalization, peer groups and teachers. Chris is co-investigator on ESRC-DFID Development Frontiers Research Fund (with PI: Pauline Dixon, School of Education) on ‘The Identification and Nurturing of High Ability Students in the Slums of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’ (£97K). Chris is also developing research on transformations in Western dating practices.

Under this theme, Carolyn Pedwell is also developing innovative and critical approaches to cross-cultural and transnational gender theory and analysis. Carolyn’s work explores how establishing similarities between embodied practices understood to be rooted in different cultural and geo-political contexts (e.g. ‘African’ female genital cutting and ‘Western’ cosmetic surgery or Muslim veiling and ‘Western’ fashion and beauty practices) has become increasingly common as a means of countering cultural essentialism, ethnocentrism and racism.  Her book, Feminism, Culture and Embodied Practice: The Rhetorics of Comparison (Routledge, 2010) examines how, and with what critical implications, these cross-cultural comparisons function as rhetorical devices with particular theoretical, social and political effects.  As a means to re-orient cross-cultural approaches that depend on assertions of similarity or sameness, the book introduces a relational web approach that focuses on unravelling the binary threads linking various practices within a wider representational economy. 

Research by Darren Kelsey advances critical discourse analysis. He offers a unique focus on the role of myth and national identity in cross-historical contexts through research on British newspaper responses to the July 7th bombings. Darren examines the evocation of the Blitz spirit among City traders and argues that these evocations were contradicted by the discussions of British consumers expressed through their anxieties about the economy. Through this approach, Darren also explores issues of Western foreign policy and Britain’s relationship with America. Darren is currently exploring the topic of discipline and resistance on social media. He is also writing a book on the ideological role of Second World War discourses and national identity after the July 7th bombings. Darren has also launched a new journal, Journalism and Discourse Studies, with Majid KhosraviNik, which exemplifies the establishment of a new initiative and approach to critical discourse analysis at Newcastle University.

Daniel McNeil’s work lies within the fields of African American history post-1865, African and black diaspora studies and Black Atlantic studies. Drawing on archival research and postcolonial theory, his research focuses on the cultural history of the Black Atlantic in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. For example, Daniel’s work on sex and race in the Black Atlantic leads debates about representations of Mulatto and multiracial identities in his book, Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic: Mulatto Devils and Multiracial Messiahs, (Routledge 2010).  Daniel is also advancing debates about Black cultural criticism, inspired by the explorative, provocative and imaginative work of anti-colonial intellectuals in the 1950s and 60s. Daniel is currently completing a manuscript about cultural critics who have been inspired by the explorative, suggestive and imaginative work of anti-colonial intellectuals of the 1950s and 60s. He is also Ida B. Wells-Barnett Visiting Professor of African and Black Diaspora Studies at DePaul University, Chicago.

Politics, Discourse and Ethics

Under this theme we ask: How do political processes, discursive constructions and exchanges, and ethical issues function through journalistic texts and practices? This theme represents the journalism studies strand in Media and Cultural Studies at Newcastle University. This area is exemplified by the work of Majid KhosraviNik who examines the intersection of media news discourses and identity politics through his research on discourses of asylum seekers and immigration in the British press. He also advances critical discourse analysis by leading analyses of right-wing populism in Europe through his research with Ruth Wodak. Majid KhosraviNik is now advancing the focus on identity politics to discourse and communication on new media platforms. Majid is conducting an AHRC project with Sue Ashley from Northumbria University on ‘memorialisation as valuation’. This project documents and theorizes the changing nature of cultural ‘value’ through the study of the Chattri memorial, Brighton, as public culture.

With a particular focus on visual ethnography, sports and culture studies, Ian McDonald specializes in documentary film making. He has advanced approaches to visual ethnography and the visualization of spectacle. Several documentary films directed by Ian McDonald have been screened internationally, for example: Algorithms (2012): International Film Festival, India; Film South Asia Festival, Kathmandu; Sydney International Film Festival; Durban International Film Festival; International Festival of Ethnographic Films, Edinburgh; Willem Boshoff, Reflections of a South African Artist (2011: Johannesburgh Workshop in Theory and Criticism (JWTC), Brighton Film Festival; Melancholic Constellations (2010), Brighton Film Festival, JWTC; Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art, UCL. The film, Algorithms (2012) was awarded Ram Bahadur Trophy for Best Film at the prestigious biennial Festival of Southasian Documentaries in Kathmandu, Nepal. Ian is the first non-South Asian filmmaker to win this award. Ian is currently developing two feature documentary film projects: the first is on ‘The University’ (working title), exploring how a University in North-West England is responding to the changed educational landscape heralded by the threefold increase in students fees. The second, ‘When the world becomes a stadium’ (working title), is on the meaning of and crisis in sport in the 21st Century which is a co-production with Russia and India, and forms the basis for an AHRC proposal.

This research theme is also represented by a successful ESRC seminar series on widening ethnic diversity in journalism by Deborah Chambers, David Baines and Liviu Popoviciu (2008-11). The seminar series engaged academics and practitioners from all areas of the British media and also international academics. The series led to the publication of Race Matters, a Special Double Edition of Ethical Space: the International Journal of Communication Ethics (David Baines and Deborah Chambers 2012). It included Liviu Popoviciu’s research on minority rights agendas in journalism in Eastern Europe. The ESRC series has generated a series of further initiatives including the following:

  • A mentoring scheme between BBC North East & Cumbria and journalism students from diverse ethnic backgrounds from five universities: Newcastle, Cumbria, Sunderland, Durham and Teesside organised by David Baines and Barny Choudhury from Lincoln University;
  • Research by David Baines on hyper-local journalism to interrogate the roles of local news and journalism in enhancing community sustainability and cohesion, employability and professional practice.
  • Research into new forms of 'hyper-local' journalism and community sustainability is generating a 3 year hyper-local news website 'Jesmond Local' in Newcastle ( This site has become a communicative hub for on- and offline community engagements; a 'laboratory of inquiry and experimentation' into journalism as a community-model process; and a source of innovation contributing to the sustainability of professional practice. This research involves journalism Masters and PhD student work with local communities to generate stories on multi-media platforms and an archive of interview data for ongoing analysis.
  • Research on Pop-Up Newsrooms, accessible to local and international communities through the stories published online, forms a practice-based research project that focuses on austerity to provide a significant voice to local communities and access to the work of our journalism students. A series of articles about the theoretical and practical implications of pop-up newsrooms is planned.

These projects have generated a series of engagement activities involving schools, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Turner Prize Exhibition and Award 2011); the Sage, Gateshead Concert Halls; BBC Radio3 Free Thinking Festival; Newcastle City Council and other organisations representing Social Renewal and the civic, social and cultural life of the local communities. Issues of community sustainability and journalism education are being advanced into wider explorations of ‘locality’ through a new research initiative being developed by Deborah Chambers and David Baines on under the umbrella of the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal at Newcastle University .

Pedagogical developments at Newcastle have also been informed by David Baines' research and addressed transformative debates within journalism education and professional ethics, nationally and internationally. With Darren Kelsey, David is leading debates on the shape of journalism education 'post-Leveson'. They have created research links with Newcastle Business School (NUBS) to develop a new approach for analyses of media and economics.

Research Networks

Research in Media and Cultural Studies is supported and enhanced by our connections and collaborations with researchers within Newcastle University and across other universities. For example, Darren Kelsey and Majid KhosraviNik convene the Newcastle Critical Discourse Group. Carolyn Pedwell co-leads the Gender Research Group . Chris Haywood is collaborating with the Pedagogy Department at Gothenburg University, Sweden on gender, masculinity and equality. He is also involved in teaching their PhD student training programme. Deborah Chambers and David Baines are working with the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal , and with Irene Hardill at Northumbria University in developing a project on media representations of ‘the local’. Ian McDonald’s documentary film work is supported by Culture Lab at Newcastle University and advances the objectives of the Research Centre for Film and Digital Media.

The Media and Cultural Studies team hold their own research seminars and work-in-progress events. We have hosted a series of high profile public guest speakers including Norman Fairclough (Lancaster); Ruth Wodak (Lancaster); Bob Franklin (Cardiff); Natalie Fenton (Goldsmiths); Sharon Macdonald (York), Sara Ahmed (Goldsmiths), Clare Hemmings (LSE), Julia O’Connell Davidson (Nottingham). We have organised and hosted several recent, high-profile conferences funded by ESRC, University funds and NUJ including the following:

  • ESRC seminar series ‘Widening Ethnic Diversity in Journalism’ 2010-2011 (Newcastle and co-hosted by Bristol, City, Sheffield, Sunderland, Cardiff, UWE): the events brought together senior academics, media practitioners and research students, and led to a Special double Edition of Ethical Space,  (Deborah Chambers and David Baines);
  • National symposium: ‘The Cultural Politics of Care, Compassion and Empathy’ (Carolyn Pedwell 2010): the event led to a special issue of Feminist Theory (2012) (co-edited by Pedwell);
  • National symposium: ‘Representations of Slavery in Neoliberal Times’ (Pedwell and McNeil 2012);
  • International symposium: ‘Gender, Postcoloniality and Critical Race Studies’ (Pedwell and McNeil 2011);
  • Gender Research Group’s ‘Louder Now: Feminism on Film’ series in 2012, at the Star and Shadow Cinema, Newcastle (Pedwell with Gender Research Group).
  • Media and Cultural Studies at Newcastle University hosted the 2012 annual Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture (2012) of the National Union of Journalists’ Black Members Council. This momentous 2012 lecture, entitled ‘The Legacy of Dr King’, marked the 45th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King receiving an honorary doctorate in Civil Law at Newcastle University and delivery of his powerful Speech in November 1967.
  • The discourse of austerity: Critical analyses of business and economics across disciplines Newcastle University, Media and Cultural Studies with the Business School (Kelsey and Baines 2013).
  • A number of documentary films by Ian McDonald have been screened internationally for example: Willem Boshoff, Reflections of a South African Artist (2011: South Africa, UK); Justin (2011: USA, UK, Russia, Croatia, Scotland).

Contributions to the Peer Community

Media and Cultural Studies researchers make significant contributions to the peer community. For example, the journal, Journalism and Discourse Studies co-edited by Darren Kelsey and Majid Khosravinik is run from the School of Arts and Cultures at Newcastle University and supported by an international editorial team. This journal advances debates in both discourse studies and journalism and provides a vital space for cross-disciplinary contributions that embrace elements from both backgrounds.

We also contribute to the peer community as referees for AHRC, British Academy, European Institute of Gender Equality, Leverhulme, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, Irish Research Council. Members of the team are also AHRC and ESRC Peer Review College members (Chambers and Haywood). We also act as referees for journals and academic book publishers. Members are also journal and book series editors. For example, Carolyn Pedwell edits Feminist Theory. Daniel McNeil is editor of the International Journal of Postcolonial Critique. Ian McDonald is editor of the Journal of Sport and Social Issues; Sport and Society. David Baines and Deborah Chambers co-edited a Special double issue of Ethical Space, peer-reviewed journal of the Institute of Communication Ethics, entitled ‘Race Matters’. Majid Khosravinik is review editor of Critical Discourse Studies. Carolyn Pedwell co-edited a Special Issue of Feminist Theory: ‘Affecting Feminism: Questions of Feeling in Feminist Theory’. Ian McDonald is series editor of Routledge Critical Studies in Sport.

Members of the Media and Cultural Studies team are regular speakers at conferences and a range of other academic events. For example, James Ash has been an invited speaker on space, affect andvideo games at Royal Holloway (2013), Edinburgh University (2013), Durham University (2011), Sunderland University (2011), The Open University (2010) and University of West of England (2010). David Baines was guest speaker at the 9th Rural Enterprise Conference (2011) and Institute for Communication Ethics (2012). Deborah Chambers has been invited speaker at a number of conferences and seminars on representations of family, changing intimacies and new media uses including at Karl-Franzens-Universität, Graz (2010), Loughborough (2010), Hull (2013), Manchester Metropolitan (2010), Geffrye Museum, London (2008), and as keynote speaker at an international conference hosted by the Centre for Gender and Diversity at Maastricht University, the Netherlands (2009). Chris Haywood has been guest speaker at Gothenburg University (2013).

Daniel McNeil has been invited speaker on neoliberalism, postcoloniality, popular culture and representations of race at Harvard University (2012), DePaul Art Museum Chicago (2012), St. John Fisher College (2012), The College of Charleston (2012), Rutgers University (2011), Chaminade University (2010). Carolyn Pedwell has been invited to give public lectures and research seminars on gender, feminist theory and the transnational politics of empathy at the University of Sydney (2013), University of Technology, Sydney (2013), Queen Mary (2013), Humboldt University (Berlin) (2012), Leeds (2012), LSE (2011), and York (2011) as well as keynote lectures at LSE (2008) and University of Ghent (2013) and for the Institute for Small Business and Enterprise’s Gender Enterprise Network (2012).

Ian McDonald was Visiting Professor, Meiji University, Tokyo (2010); Daniel McNeil is Visiting Professor, African and Black Diaspora Studies, DePaul University, Chicago; Carolyn Pedwell was Associate Fellow, Gender Institute, LSE (2008-2011), AHRC Visiting Scholar at the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney (2013) and AHRC Visiting Fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions, Queen Mary College, University of London.

Links with Professionals in Media and Cultural Organizations

Members of the Media and Cultural Studies team at Newcastle University are also collaborating with professionals within the media and culture sectors. For example, Deborah Chambers has been guest speaker on BBC Radio 4 and has provided academic advice on various Radio 4 programmes. Carolyn Pedwell was selected as ‘academic of the month’ in 2012, and interviewed for ‘The Academic Feminist’ column in US-based website,
Ian McDonald is jury member for international film festivals (Pune International Film Festival, India; Commonwealth Film Festival, Manchester; International Festival of Sports Films, Moscow).

Members of the team serve on media organization committees. For example, David Baines is an elected member of the Professional Training Committee of the National Union of Journalists; board member of the institute for Communication Ethics and a trustee of the media ethics charity MediaWise. We have sustained partnerships with major media organisations including the BBC and Press Association; Headliners, Liberty Bell, Tyne and Wear Archives Service, Northern Film and Media, NCJ Media, Association of Journalism Educators, Gardiner Richardson, Tyneside Cinema, and Schools North East.

We invite high ranking media experts to join our team for designated periods through our visiting professorship scheme. Visiting professors contribute to the subject area by delivering lectures, workshops, student master classes and by contributing to research. The first Visiting Professor was Dianne Nelmes (2008-9). Diane has been Director of Daytime and Lifestyle Programming at ITV and ITV’s Controller of Documentaries and Features, and Granada Satellite Televisions’ Director of Programmes. She was also the first and only woman executive producer of the award winning investigative documentary series, World in Action. Diane, who is currently Managing Director of Liberty Bells Productions, began her journalistic career in newspapers as a trainee on The Journal in Newcastle before joining BBC TV North East as a reporter.

Research Students

The Media and Cultural Studies subject area currently has 16 PhD students from all over the world. Details of their research topics are outlined under the PhD student section. Our postgraduate research students are supported by dedicated postgraduate research suites. Students benefit from quality-assured supervision through annual review of students’ progress and central training of supervisors through staff development activities and annual reviews. We run a series of research seminars and work in progress events that are organised by PhD students and include staff researchers talking about their work alongside PhD students. The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences has a Higher Education Academy award winning postgraduate research training programme that provides both disciplinary and generic research training within an interdisciplinary and multi-cultural learning environment. This wide-ranging programme provides the epistemological and methodological research skills to enable postgraduate research students to complete their doctorates successfully. It also fosters research collaboration and communication among postgraduate research students across all the disciplines in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. The School of Arts and Cultures’ support also includes a research student feedback committee; research groups; organisation of research student conferences; mentoring for conference paper presentations, applications, publishing, and career development.

Research Centres and Facilities

Researchers in Media and Cultural Studies participate centrally in the following facilities and centres of research excellence at Newcastle University:

Culture Lab

Newcastle Critical Discourse Group

The Research Centre for Film and Digital Media

The Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal

The Gender Research Group