Search type

School of Social Sciences

Student being filmed
PhD Anthropology, Media and Performance
Practice-based research training by drama and visual anthropology experts.

PhD Anthropology, Media and Performance / Programme details

Year of entry: 2018

Programme description

The programme will be jointly managed by Drama in the School of Arts Languages and Cultures, and the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology/Social Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences. It is a practice-based programme, governed by the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures.

After a year of academic formation and preliminary training in research methods and relevant craft techniques, students will be expected to carry out their projects on the basis of field research of a up to a year's duration. In the third year, students will be expected to return to Manchester and prepare the presentation of their results in textual or other media as appropriate.


To introduce students to potential interdisciplinary combinations of Anthropology, Applied Theatre/Performance Studies and Media Production so that they can produce original knowledge in one or more of these academic fields.

To introduce students to cutting-edge theories and self-reflexive, critical research practice in all these fields.

To train students in a range of practical field research methods and media production skills sufficient to enable them to carry out the year-long fieldwork that is an integral and necessary aspect of the second year of the programme and to produce a combination of written dissertation and media and/or performance practice thereafter.

To make students aware of the legal and ethical implications of their work and of the appropriate procedures for ensuring ethical clearance of their research.

To encourage students in the development of a range of transferable skills in areas such as IT and AV media, as well as presentational, writing, team-working and foreign language skills

Special features

Find out more about the Graduate School
Although there are a number of existing performance or film-making genres that draw on various mixes of anthropological and/or applied theatre expertise, there is no doctoral programme, nationally or internationally, that offers an effective combination of academic and technical training necessary to bring them together. The University of Manchester is uniquely equipped to offer this training, having both the professional academic expertise and the provision of AV facilities by the University's Media Centre and the technicians in Drama. Our intention with this programme is to provide students with a more systematic, one-stop opportunity to acquire this range of skills.

The programme will employ a pedagogical approach featuring a high degree of peer-group formative assessment and enquiry-based learning. This approach fits particularly well with the reflective, action- and practice-based research typically carried out by film-makers and performers in professional contexts. Face-to-face training and supervision will be supported by a dedicated Blackboard presence.

Both applied theatre practitioners and anthropologists typically engage with deprived and marginalised populations across a diverse range of social contexts, thereby contributing to the development of social and cultural capital in those contexts, and thus to the remit of the University's 2020 strategy to support the development of a secure, humane, prosperous and sustainable future for human society.

Students on this programme will be part of the Graduate School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. For more information on the facilities available within the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, please visit

Teaching and learning

One of the central aims of this programme is to combine visual, aural and textual media in an imaginative, self-reflexive and critically aware manner to generate original knowledge in one or more of the academic fields from which it draws, namely Anthropology, Applied Theatre, Screen Studies and Performance/Media Practice. The methods of assessment have therefore been devised to test both the development of skills and competences in the use of performance and media practice for the purposes of ethnographic research, and development of text-based writing and intellectual abilities.

In the training phase, students will be able to draw on a broad range of modules. These involve an equally broad range of assessment methods, ranging from conventional 4000-word assessment essays to portfolios of practical work. Each student will have be assigned at least two supervisors, normally with one in Drama, the other in Anthropology. One of these supervisors will be considered the `principal supervisor' and will be primarily responsible for monitoring the student's progression.

The thesis, produced in the third year, will provide evidence of the creation and interpretation of knowledge that extends the frontiers of the disciplines of Drama (incorporating Applied Theatre, Screen and Performance Studies) and/or Social Anthropology through original research. It will consist of the following: 1) a practical outcome, typically a media production (in the form of film, photography and/or audio recordings) and/or a theatrical performance; 2) a 20-50,000 word dissertation containing a presentation of the research as a contribution to the academic discipline of Drama (including Applied Theatre, Screen and Performance Studies) and/or social anthropology; an exploration of ethical issues of research and practice; a statement of methodology. The thesis will be examined by means of a viva, as provided for in University regulations.

Programme content for year 1

In this first, pre-fieldwork coursework year, the precise modules that students will be recommended to take will vary, in accordance with the results of the skills audit that will be carried out immediately following enrolment. In order to carry out the fieldwork and media production of the second year, students will require intellectual and theoretical preparation, both in anthropology and in applied theatre and/or screen and performance studies, in combination with training in particular field research skills and technical competences in applied theatre and/or media production. Some of these skills they will already have prior to enrolment, as one of the conditions of acceptance onto the programme is that students have an MA level qualification in one or more of the following fields: Applied Theatre, Social Anthropology and Media Production. On the basis of the skills audit, students will be directed towards modules providing the intellectual formation or skills training that they will require in order to carry out their field projects.

During the first year of the doctoral programme, students will be typically engaged in coursework on a week-by-week basis, supplemented by supervisorial meetings on a fortnightly basis during teaching weeks and attendance at the programme-specific Master Classes by professional practitioners in film-making and applied theatre. These sessions will be `anchored' by the programme director or one of the other principal teachers on the programme, to provide continuity over the series. Master Class givers will be invited by the programme director, taking into account the particular interests of the students enrolled on the programme in any given year. The aim of these sessions will be to give students exposure to professional standards of performance and media production outside academic life and they will not be formally assessed.

Programme content for year 2

During the second year of the programme, students will be carrying out their field research and media production.

Programme content for year 3

In the third year, students will be writing up and preparing their media outputs.  Personal supervision will become the principal medium of teaching, though this may be supplemented in the third year by attendance at Master Classes and pertinent postgraduate research seminars in either the Drama or Social Anthropology subject areas.


Alan Gilbert Learning Commons Fly Through

Postgraduate study is supported in the Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama through an exclusive postgraduate computer cluster and postgraduate common room.  Postgraduates are also able to borrow DVDs and videos from the Lenagan Library in the basement of the Martin Harris building.

As well as seminars and public lectures in the larger School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, postgraduates in Screen Studies are encouraged to participate in our regular Cultivating Research seminar series, which brings together staff and postgraduate students to discuss their recent and current research.

For Screen Practice at Drama, postgraduates are able to book professional digital video cameras, equipment for sound recording, an AVID suite for non-linear editing and a digital recording studio available for audio projects.

The Centre for Screen Studies also collaborates with the Media Centre at the University of Manchester, providing advanced audio-visual facilities and extensive technical support.

Unfortunately, we are not in a position to offer PhD students a dedicated desk/office, however there are a number of dedicated PhD computer clusters for your use in the Graduate School. Please note that all clusters operate on a hot-desking principle.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: