Critical Media Practice

The Graduate School in Arts and Sciences offers a Secondary Field degree in Critical Media Practice (CMP) for PhD students at Harvard who wish to integrate media production into their academic work. The CMP Secondary Field reflects changing patterns of knowledge production, and in particular 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 from exclusively verbal sign systems. They are also inherently interdisciplinary, and frequently engage a broader public than the academy alone. 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 postproduction 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.


In areas across the disciplinary map — from Anthropology to Science Studies, from Sociology, Psychology, Government and Economics to Architecture, Literature, Engineering, and Public Health — a growing number of students and faculty are seeking to integrate media production into their academic work. The goal of the interdepartmental GSAS Secondary Field in Critical Media Practice is to offer graduate students across Harvard’s various schools the opportunity to make original interpretive, creative projects in image, sound, and emerging hypermedia technologies in tandem with their written scholarship.

The human subject is constituted by imaging as well as by language, and, as C.S. Peirce, Nelson Goodman, and others have demonstrated, language alone cannot be taken as paradigmatic for meaning. Aural and visual experience, in short, is as integral to culture and to social relations as is language. Moreover, as recent developments in neuroscience and evolutionary psychology have emphasized, consciousness itself consists of multi-stranded networks of signification, combining fragments of imagery, sensation, and memory, alongside language, both propositional and non-propositional in form. This Secondary Field is designed to take advantage of the fact that audiovisual media thus have a different relationship to, and also reveal different dimensions of the world, from exclusively verbal sign systems. It also intends to exploit the fact that they are inherently interdisciplinary, and typically engage a broader public than the academy alone.

CMP is directly and explicitly intended to help realize a major ambition of the recent Presidential Task Force on the Arts — namely its recommendation to integrate art-making within the cognitive life of the university, and specifically the graduate curriculum. Because media practice is the central component of CMP, this is not to be confused in any way with a Ph.D. program in film studies, in cultural studies, or in any of the particular humanities or social sciences. Instead, CMP is intended to complement — to broaden and enrich — the teaching and research being undertaken in our graduate degree programs.




Graduate Studies Directors

Lucien Castaing-Taylor
(Anthropology & Visual and Environmental Studies)
Professor of Visual Arts and Anthropology; Director, Film Study Center; Director, Sensory Ethnography Lab
lucien_castaing-taylor [at] | faculty profile

Peter Galison
(History of Science)
Joseph Pellegrino University Professor; Director, Film Study Center; Director, Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments
galison [at] | faculty profile

Faculty Advisory Committee

Beth Altringer
Lecturer on Innovation and Design, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Peter K. Bol
Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages Civilization, Director of the Center for Geographic Analysis
Vincent Brown
Charles Warren Professor of American History, Professor of African and African American Studies
Lucien Castaing-Taylor
Professor of Visual Arts and Anthropology; Director, Film Study Center; Director, Sensory Ethnography Lab
David Edwards
Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering
Melissa Franklin
Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, Department of Physics
Howard Gardner
John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Graduate School of Education
Peter Galison
Joseph Pellegrino University Professor; Director, Film Study Center; Director, Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments

Stephen Greenblatt
John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Department of English
Vijay Iyer
Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts, Department of Music
Ernst Karel
Lecturer on Anthropology; Associate Director of the Film Study Center; Manager of the Sensory Ethnography Lab
Robin Kelsey
Dean of Arts and Humanities Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography, Department of History of Art + Architecture
Shigehisa Kuriyama
Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History; Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Martha Minow
Morgan and Helen Chu Professor of Law; Dean of the Faculty of Law
Ingrid Monson
Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music and and Professor of African and African American Studies 
Robb Moss
Harvard College Professor; Chair of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies

Mohsen Mostafavi
Dean of Graduate School of Design, Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design
Matt Saunders
Assistant Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies
Jeffrey Schnapp
Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures; Faculty Director, metaLAB (at) Harvard
Hans Tutschku
Fanny P. Mason Professor of Music and Director of the Harvard University Studio for Electroacoustic Composition
Richard Wolf
Kent Professor of Music, Ethnomusicology
Jonathan Zittrain
George Bemis Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources; Faculty Director, Berkman Center for Internet and Society; Professor of Computer Science, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Professor, Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government


Course Requirements

Students must take four of the following courses, of which at least 2 (but up to 4) must be drawn from the Core. They must complete all 4 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. Additionally, any VES Film/Video Production class can count as a CMP core requirement.

ANTH 2722

Sonic Ethnography

ANTH 1832br VES 158bxr

Sensory Ethnography

VES 355r
Critical Media Practice

VES 161n
 ANTH 1619
Cinema and Desire

VES 350r
Critical Media Practice: Non Fiction Filmmaking Workshop

Water Musics–A Dialogue of Electroacoustic Music and Moving Images

Filming Science

GSD 3418/ANTH 2837/VES 162
Media Archaeology of Place


Critical Images, Object, Media

VES 250

Graduate Production Course: The Live Film

Up to 2 of the required 4 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.

AAAS 182
R&B, Soul and Funk

ANTH 1875

Moving Pictures: An Anthropology of Images

ANTH 2635

ANTH 2830
Creative Ethnography

ANTH 2688

The Frankfurt School, Film, and Popular Culture

EALC 200

The Uses and Meaning of the New Arts of Presentation

EALC 205

Approaches to the Comparative History of Medicine and the Body

ES 20
How to Create Things and Have Them Matter

GSD 4131 / VES 180
Film, Modernity and Visual Culture

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


The Matter of Fact: Physics in the Modern Age

Einstein Reversed

Electroacoustic Composition

MUSIC 201b
Current Methods in Ethnomusicology


Seminars in Ethnomusicology

Introduction to Electroacoustic Music

MUSIC 230r

Hearing Modernity

Music 230r
Topics in Music Theory

VES 285x

Visual Fabrics



The following are the requirements to successfully complete the CMP secondary field:


Students must take four courses from the list of CMP courses, of which at least two must be drawn from the Core, and 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. Building on their training in their course work, students produce a media project that complements their doctoral dissertation. The capstone may grow out of a class project but must be approved by the CMP DGS as having made substantial progress beyond the form it took in the class. Alternatively, the capstone can be an entirely original project, independent of coursework. 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. (Students pursuing both the PhD in Media Anthropology and the CMP Secondary Field may not submit the same work to both.)

A faculty committee of 2 will be selected by the student and approved by the CMP DGS to evaluate the project in a “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.

To formally track the progress of the capstone project, an application for the CMP capstone must be signed by a CMP Faculty Advisor and submitted to the CMP Program Coordinator two semesters prior to graduation. The capstone application is available to download in the forms section.


GSAS students admitted to the CMP Secondary Field must provide a transcript of their course work 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 their 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.


Admission into the Critical Media Practice Secondary Field is by application, which must be submitted to the Program Coordinator of the Film Study Center. Applications may be submitted twice a year, in the Spring semester (deadline, April 1*) and the Fall semester (deadline, November 1*). *note: If this date falls on a weekend, the applications are due the following Monday. 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.

Form Downloads


Cozette Russell
CMP Program Coordinator
Film Study Center
Harvard University
24 Quincy St.
Cambridge MA 02138

Email: cerussell [at]
Phone: 617-495-9704