Film and Media Studies Ph.D. program

The UCI School of Humanities is welcoming its first cohort of Ph.D. students in the film and media studies program. The newly launched Ph.D. Program in Film and Media Studies offers students the opportunity to study and develop original research on film, television and digital media. Rooted in the critical methods of the humanities, film and media scholars focus on interpreting the histories and theories of media and their cultural contexts.

In Orange County and in the vicinity of Los Angeles, UCI offers access to the rich cultural offerings and research institutions of Southern California. Students may choose to supplement their film and media studies degree with interdisciplinary graduate certificates in Asian American studies, Chicano/Latino studies, critical theory, feminist studies, Latin American studies and/or visual studies.

Learn more about the program through the following collaborative Q&A with Lucas Hilderbrand, chair and professor of film and media studies and Kristen Hatch, director of graduate studies and associate professor of film and media studies.

What makes UCI’s film and media studies Ph.D. program unique when compared to other similar programs?

Our faculty have expertise in all areas of film and media studies: film, television and digital media (including video games and social media). Our curriculum provides students broad foundational training in all three areas of the discipline while also offering core courses that train students to understand the histories and structures of power and difference embedded in media.

We look forward to training new generations of scholars who are deeply invested in understanding the relationships between culture, identity, history, and power in film and other media. We are particularly interested in highlighting the perspectives of those who have been pushed to the margins of media technology, industries and moving-image texts.

How does studying film and media theory complement the practical aspects of film and media training?

Our curriculum focuses on researching the histories, theories, and contexts of film and media, but we have designed the program to allow for production training to facilitate theory-practice approaches. We also developed core practicums to train students in pedagogical strategies and professionalization for careers within and beyond academia.

What kind of research does the UCI Film and Media Studies Ph.D. Program focus on?

While we are wide ranging in our research in film, television, and digital media, our faculty share a deep commitment to understanding the relationship between media and power, though we come at this from a range of perspectives. We have clusters of expertise in television, video games, post-colonial and decolonial theory, queer and feminist studies, and critical race theory. Many of our faculty engage in rigorous archival research. We are fortunate to be only an hour away from many significant archives for film and media research.

How is the UCI Film and Media Studies Ph.D. Program breaking boundaries within the field?

Through their innovative scholarship, our faculty have helped to shape the discipline of film and media studies. For example, Fatimah Tobing Rony's seminal book, The Third Eye (Duke University Press, 1996), helped invent the field of ethnographic film studies. Victoria E. Johnson's Heartland TV (New York University Press, 2008) defined the field of television and cultural geography. Bambi Haggins's Laughing Mad (Rutgers University Press, 2007) has shaped the study of race and comedy. Lucas Hilderbrand's Inherent Vice (Duke University Press, 2009) is foundational to the field of video studies. Bo Ruberg's Video Games Have Always Been Queer (New York University Press, 2019) has set the terms of debate for queer video game studies. These were just their first books. We continue to publish research that redefines our discipline.

What are some exciting doctoral course offerings that students can look forward to?

In their first year of study, students complete a three-part series – Film Studies in the fall, Television Studies in the winter, and Digital Media and Video Game Studies in the spring – that provides an overview of the discipline of film and media studies. In their second year, they take an additional three courses – Historiography, Media/Power/Culture, and Critical Approaches to Film and Media Studies – that help them develop more specialized knowledge and methodologies for FMS scholarship.

In addition to these core courses, students can take a range of elective seminars on more specialized topics (like Celebrity and Stardom, Play and Game Studies, and Latinx Media). They also have the opportunity to do directed readings with individual faculty members.

What are some non-academic careers film and media studies scholars can look forward to after graduation?

In addition to providing a robust selection of graduate seminars, our program offers a year-long practicum on professionalization in which students develop the skills and knowledge they will need for academic and non-academic careers. Depending on their research areas, students will be well positioned for careers in the film, television and video game industries, as well as in film and media archives and museums.

What are some examples of research that is emerging among faculty in the Film and Media Studies Department?

Our faculty have published or are about to publish books on digital noise, child stars, broadcast policy and activism, the film The Battle of Algiers, theories of video game play, sports television, political critique, visual biopolitics, sexual technologies, transnational Latinx television, and the cultures of gay bars in America.

Faculty are developing exciting new research on topics including stardom and celebrity, the racial projects and politics of cinema, Latinx media activism, the history of public television, and digital media tactics in Palestine.

What is the future of film and media studies at UCI?

Film and media studies is already one of the most popular majors in the humanities. As the media continue to evolve – technologically, industrially and in our lives – the need for people with expertise in film and media studies will continue to grow. In 2015, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies produced a comprehensive report that demonstrated that there are not enough graduate programs to train the number of faculty needed to teach in this growing field. And a 2019 MIT report further demonstrated the continued growth of film and media studies departments and majors across the country.

We recognize the need to understand film and media across mediums or platforms as these distinctions continue to blur. We also approach media as sites and reflections of power in our culture.

Film and Media Studies