Dr Wendy Willems

Dr Wendy Willems

Associate Professor, Deputy Head of Department

Department of Media and Communications

Telephone
020 7852 3738
Room No
Room PEL.7.01G
Office Hours
By appointment on Student Hub
Languages
Dutch, English
Key Expertise
Global Digital Culture; Postcolonial/Decolonial Approaches; Africa

About me

Dr Wendy Willems is on research leave in 2021/22 as part of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

Dr Wendy Willems is Associate Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of Media and Communications at LSE, where she also serves as Programme Director for the MSc Global Media and Communications (LSE and University of Cape Town).

She holds a PhD in Media and Film Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, a BSc/MSc in Economics ('International Economic Studies') and a BA/MA in Cultural Studies ('Cultuur- en Wetenschapsstudies') from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. Previously, she was Head of Department and Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa (2010-2012). She remains affiliated to the University of the Witwatersrand as an Honorary Research Fellow. She is one of the founding editors of the Journal of African Media Studies (JAMS), a peer-reviewed international journal that aims to contribute to the on-going re-positioning of media and cultural studies outside the Anglo-American axis.

Expertise Details

postcolonial/decolonial approaches to media and communication; global digital culture and social change; urban communication; popular culture; performance and politics in Africa; media culture and neoliberalism in the Global South

Research

While Africa conventionally has been imagined as a place of ‘raw data’, Dr Willems' work treats the continent as a starting point for theorising media and communications. Her research engages with the politics of global academic knowledge production and ongoing debates on the ‘internationalisation’, ‘de-westernisation’, or ‘decolonisation’ of the field of media and communication studies. It has challenged the way in which the Global South has been framed in our field and reinscribed the epistemological and historical foundations of media and communication studies in Africa which had been marginalized in hegemonic histories of the field. Her work calls for an acknowledgement of the multiple genealogies of media and communication studies in different parts of the world. 

Her research on digital technology in Zambia examines how publics are constituted in postcolonial contexts, challenging both platform-centrism and digital universalism. Instead of treating mobile devices and social media platforms as separate (physical or digital) objects which function independently from each other and from the environments in which they are used (‘platform-centrism’), her work has demonstrated that the affordances of mobile social media relational, shaped by the physical, mediated and political contexts in which they are used. Digital affordances are far from universal but take on different shapes across the globe. Furthermore, Willems’ work has highlighted that publics are not just digitally constituted but also manifest themselves in, and are intimately connected to, physical spaces. Problematizing common dualisms between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ as well as ‘public sphere’ and ‘public space’, she argues for an exploration of publicness and processes of circulation across digital and physical spaces. 

As part of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, Dr Willems is currently finalising a monograph, Postcolonial Publics and Digital Culture, drawing on her long-term research on digital technology in Southern Africa. Digital technology in postcolonial contexts cannot be understood outside the history of white settler colonialism. It introduced colonised populations to a number of technologies which has shaped how digital technology is imagined and how it is put to use. The book adopts a historicised and contextual postcolonial/decolonial approach to examine digital technology and the publics they constitute and the extent to which digital technology reproduces or subverts coloniality.

Projects

  • (2021-22) Postcolonial Publics and Digital Culture, Leverhulme Research Fellowship, principal investigator: Wendy Willems.
  • (2015-2018) New Media Practices in a Changing Africa, Norwegian Research Council (NRC) Principal investigator: Jo Helle Valle, co-investigators: Wendy Willems, Katrien Pype, Ardis Storm-Mathisen, Letshwiti Tutwanel, M. Mogalagwe, Jean Comaroff.
  • (2010-2012) ICT Policy and New Media Cultures, Open Society Initiative Southern Africa (OSISA), Principal investigator: Sarah Chiumbu, co-investigators: Last Moyo, Wendy Willems.
  • (2010-2011) Radio, Convergence and Development in Southern Africa, International Development Research Centre (IDRC) via Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada for, Principal investigator: Last Moyo, co-investigators: Sarah Chiumbu, Dina Ligaga, Wendy Willems.

Publications

Books 

  • Willems, W. and Mano, W. (eds.) (2016) Everyday media culture in Africa: audiences and users. Routledge Advances in Internationalizing Media Studies. London: Routledge.
  • Obadare, E. and Willems, W. (eds.) (2014) Civic agency in Africa: arts of resistance in the 21st century. Oxford: James Currey.


Other publications

View a comprehensive list of Dr Willems' publications.

Teaching and supervision

Postgraduate teaching

Dr Willems is Programme Director of the MSc Global Media and Communications (LSE and Univeristy of Cape Town). She convenes and teaches on Media and Globalization and Media Culture and Neoliberalism in the Global South. Dr Willems has also contributed lectures and seminars to team-taught postgraduate Media and Communications courses relating to theories and concepts (MC408/MC418), research methodologies (MC4M1/MC4M2) and global aspects of media and communication (MC407/MC421). In 2018, she was awarded an LSE Major Review Teaching Prize.

 

Doctoral supervision

Dr Willems supervises doctoral researchers and welcomes applications from prospective students relating to her areas of research. Her current doctoral supervisees include Husseina Ahmed, Fatma Khan and Stephanie Guo. She recently successfully supervised Dr Ram Bhat, Dr Richard Stupart, Dr Nicholas Benequista, Dr Fabien Cante and Dr Alex Free to completion.