PhD Anthropology, Media and Performance / Programme details

Year of entry: 2024

Programme description

This practice-based Anthropology, Media and Performance PhD programme will see you carry out an extensive piece of research in the field.

Jointly managed by the Drama department and the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology/Social Anthropology, this programme begins with a year of academic formation and preliminary training in research methods and relevant craft techniques, before you carry out your project on the basis of field research of up to a year's duration.

In the third year, you will be expected to return to Manchester and prepare the presentation of your results in textual or other media, as appropriate.


We aim to:

  • introduce you to potential interdisciplinary combinations of anthropology, applied theatre/performance studies and media production so you can produce original knowledge in one or more of these academic fields;
  • introduce cutting-edge theories and self-reflexive, critical research practice in all these fields;
  • train you in a range of practical field research methods and media production skills to enable you 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;
  • make you aware of the legal and ethical implications of your work and of the appropriate procedures for ensuring ethical clearance of your research;
  • encourage you to develop 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

Research environment

In the most recent (2014) Research Excellence Framework assessments, we retained our ranking as second nationally among UK Drama departments, and fifth among all departments represented in Unit of Assessment 35, which also covers Music and Dance.

  • Over half of our research (55%) was rated at the highest, 4* level (ie. 'world leading' research with 'outstanding' impact).
  • A further 32% was ranked at 3* ('internationally excellent' with 'very considerable' impact).

Find out more about our Drama research .

Wide-ranging programme

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.

We are 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.   

Social responsibility

Both applied theatre practitioners and anthropologists typically engage with deprived and marginalised populations across a diverse range of social contexts, contributing to the development of social and cultural capital in those contexts, as well as to the remit of the University's overall aim to develop research with impact and social responsibility.

Additional programme information

Equality, diversity and inclusion  is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. 

We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. 

We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status. 

All appointments are made on merit. 

The University of Manchester and our external partners are fully committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. 

Teaching and learning

This programme features a high degree of peer-group formative assessment and enquiry-based learning, along with individual supervision.

This approach fits particularly well with the reflective, action- and practice-based research typically carried out by film-makers and performers in professional contexts.

Coursework and assessment

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.

Our assessment methods are designed to test both the development of skills and competences in the use of performance and media practice for the purposes of ethnographic research, and the development of text-based writing and intellectual abilities.

In the training phase, you will be able to draw on a broad range of units. These involve an equally broad range of assessment methods, ranging from conventional 4,000-word assessment essays to portfolios of practical work.

Each student will be assigned at least two supervisors, normally one in Drama and the other in Anthropology. One of these supervisors will be considered the 'principal supervisor' and will be primarily responsible for monitoring your 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:

  • a practical outcome, typically a media production (in the form of film, photography and/or audio recordings) and/or a theatrical performance;
  • 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 units that you will be recommended to take will vary, in accordance with the results of the skills audit that will be carried out immediately following enrolment.

To carry out the fieldwork and media production of the second year, you 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.

You will already have some of these skills 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, you will be directed towards units providing the intellectual formation or skills training that you will require to carry out your field projects.

During the first year of the doctoral programme, you 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 providers 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, you will carry out your field research and media production.

Programme content for year 3

In the third year, you will write up and prepare your 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 drama or social anthropology.


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.

Postgraduates are encouraged to contribute to the research culture of the department by contributing to and taking part in seminar series and public lectures in Drama as well as the larger School of Arts, Languages and Cultures.

Postgraduates working on screen practice 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.

Manchester is home to one of the UK's five National Research Libraries - one of the best-resourced academic libraries in the UK and widely recognised as one of the world's greatest research libraries.

Find out more about libraries and study spaces for postgraduate research students at Manchester.

We also have one of the largest academic IT services in Europe - supporting world-class teaching and research. There are extensive computing facilities across campus, with access to standard office software as well as specialist programmes, all connected to the campus network and internet.

Every student is registered for email, file storage and internet access. If more demanding computer access is required, our specialist computing division can provide high-end and specialist computing services.

The Graduate School offers dedicated state of the art facilities to research students, including common rooms and workstations.

Disability support

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