Critical Media Practice

A secondary field in critical media practice (CMP) is offered for students who wish to integrate media production into their course of study. The CMP secondary field reflects changing patterns of knowledge production; in particular, it recognizes that knowledge is increasingly incorporated into novel multi-media configurations in which written language plays only a part. Audiovisual media have a different relationship to, and reveal different dimensions of, the world than exclusively verbal sign systems. Students interested in making original interpretive projects in image, sound, and/or emerging hypermedia technologies in conjunction with their written scholarship may wish to pursue the CMP secondary field. It offers training in production and post-production in different media formats and genres, including documentary and ethnographic film and video; hypermedia, internet, and database projects; approaches to working with audio, including phonography, exhibition, and music composition; video and multimedia installation; and cognate genres. The goal throughout is to foster a complementarity between the writing of texts and the making of media productions.


Admission into the critical media practice secondary field is by application, which must be submitted to the office manager of the Film Study Center. Applications may be submitted twice a year, in the fall term (deadline, October 1) and in the spring (deadline, March 1). An admissions committee will meet, and the directors of graduate studies in CMP will communicate with all applicants before the end of the semester in which they apply.


Students must take four of the following courses, of which at least two (but up to four) must be drawn from the Core. They must complete all four courses with grades of B+ or above. Additionally, CMP students produce a “capstone” media project in conjunction with their doctoral dissertation.


Students must take at least 2 of the following courses:

  • ANTH 2835r. Sensory Ethnography 1: Image/Sound/Culture
  • ANTH 2836r. Sensory Ethnography 2: Living Documentary
  • EALC 200. The Uses and Meaning of the New Arts of Presentation
  • GSD 3418/ANTH 2837/VES 162. Media Archaeology of Place
  • HISTSCI 252. Filming Science
  • HISTSCI 290. Critical Images, Object, Media
  • VES 350r. Critical Media Practice
  • Any VES Film/Video Production class


Up to two of the required four courses may be drawn from the following list, so long as, and explicitly with the instructor’s approval, the student submits an original work of media in partial satisfaction of the course requirements. Elective course offerings vary from year to year, and will be updated on the CMP website. Current electives include:

  • AAAS 182. R&B, Soul and Funk
  • ANTH 2635. Image/Media/Publics
  • ANTH 2722. Sonic Ethnography
  • ANTH 2830. Creative Ethnography
  • ANTH 2688. The Frankfurt School, Film, and Popular Culture
  • EALC 205. Approaches to the Comparative History of Medicine and the Body
  • ES 20. How to Create Things and Have Them Matter
  • GSD 4351. Architecture and Film
  • GSD 3496. The Moment of the Monument
  • GSD 4424. Fifteen Things
  • GSD 4426. The Spectacle Factory
  • GSD 4353. Imagining the City: Literature, Film, and the Arts
  • HARC 276k. Frameworks in the Humanities: The Art of Looking
  • HISTSCI 126. The Matter of Fact: Physics in the Modern Age
  • HISTSCI 221. Einstein Reversed
  • MUSIC. Electroacoustic Composition
  • MUSIC 201b. Current Methods in Ethnomusicology
  • MUSIC 209. Seminars in Ethnomusicology
  • MUSIC 167. Introduction to Electroacoustic Music
  • VES 285x. Visual Fabrics


Building on their training in their coursework, students produce a media project that complements their doctoral dissertation. As with the PhD in media anthropology offered by the Department of Anthropology, it may consist of a video, a film, a sound work, a series of photographs, a work of hypermedia, or an exhibition or performance in which digital media play a key role. A faculty committee of two approved by the CMP DGS will evaluate the project at a CMP Capstone Defense. One member will be drawn from the CMP Faculty Advisory Committee, and one from the student’s dissertation committee. One copy (or, in the case of capstone projects involving site-specific exhibition or performance, documentation) of this project must be formally submitted in conjunction with the dissertation, and another copy archived with the Film Study Center.


GSAS students admitted to the CMP secondary field must provide a transcript of their coursework at the end of each semester in which they fulfill any of the curricular requirements of the CMP degree to the office manager, Film Study Center. In addition, once a student has satisfied all requirements of the degree, s/he must submit to the office manager, Film Study Center, evidence of her/his successful participation in four appropriate graduate courses as well as a copy of their capstone project. Once they obtain the approval of the DGS, they and the registrar will receive certification of successful completion of CMP secondary field requirements.

Technical Support and Resources

Technical support for the CMP capstone project is provided by the Film Study Center, the Sensory Ethnography Lab, and FAS Media and Technology Services, all of which maintain an inventory of audio, video, and hypermedia production and post-production equipment. Students requesting technical support from the FSC must do so separately from their CMP admission application; a form for this purpose is available from the FSC’s program coordinator. Additionally, two locations on campus offer computer workstations with basic video and audio software, which are open to all Harvard students, and which CMP students may also use when editing their capstone projects. The Harvard-MIT Data Center, with two rooms in CGIS South, includes three Mac Pro workstations with Final Cut Studio and Logic Pro software installed. In Lamont Library, the MTS Multimedia Lab has both PC and Mac-based video editing stations equipped with hardware such as DV and VHS decks, and audio stations which, in addition to post-production editing, also allow digitization of analog sources such as cassette and LP.


Film Study Center (emailweb; phone: 617-495-9704)
Harvard University
24 Quincy St.
Cambridge MA 02138