Brian Larkin

Professor of Anthropology,  Columbia University; Co-Director of the Center for Comparative Media


Africana Studies, Anthropology Department, Human Rights


Wednesdays: 10:00am - 12:00pm. (


Brian Larkin is the Director of Graduate Studies and a Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College, Columbia University. His research focuses on the ethnography and history of media in Nigeria. Most broadly he examines the introduction of media technologies into Nigeria—cinema, radio, digital media—and the religious, political, and cultural changes they bring about. He explores how media technologies comprise broader networked infrastructures that shape a whole range of actions from forms of political rule, to new urban spaces, to religious and cultural life. He has also published widely on issues of technology and breakdown, piracy and intellectual property, the global circulation of cultural forms, infrastructure and urban space, sound studies, and Nigerian film (Nollywood). He is currently completing the manuscript for Secular Machines: Media and the Materiality of Islamic Revival, which analyzes the role media play in the rise of new Islamic movements in Nigeria and explores theoretical questions about technology and religion. 

With Stefan Andriopoulos, Larkin is Co-Director of the Comparative Media Initiative at Columbia University and co-founder of the University Seminar on Media Theory and History.  He is a board member of the Institute for African Studies and the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, and a member of the Committee on Global Thought. Larkin is the author of Signal and Noise: Media Infrastructure and Urban Culture in Nigeria (Duke University Press, 2008) and, with Lila Abu-Lughod and Faye Ginsburg, co-editor of Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain (University of California Press, 2000).

PhD, New York University

  • Media and society
  • Ethnographic media
  • Africana, African
  • Technology in culture


Signal and Noise:  Media, Infrastructure and Urban Culture in Nigeria. Duke University Press, 2008.

Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain.  Faye Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, Brian Larkin eds.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Media and the Political Forms of Religion.  Social Text 26(3).  Coedited with Charles Hirschkind, 2008.

Media and the Design for Modern Living.  Visual Anthropology Review 14(2).

The Form of Crisis and the Affect of Modernization.  African Futures: Essays on Crisis, Emergence, and Possibility.  Brian Goldstone and Juan Obarrio eds.  Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2016.

Binary Islam: Media and Religious Movements in Nigeria.  New Media and Religious Transformations in Africa.  Rosalind Hackett and Ben Soares eds.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 2015.

Techniques of Inattention.  The Mediality of Loudspeakers in Nigeria.  Anthropology Quarterly 87(4): 989-1015, 2014.

The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure.  Annual Review of Anthropology.  42: 327-43, 2013.

Making Equivalence Happen: Commensuration and the Grounds of Circulation.  Images Without Borders.  Patricia Spyer and Mary Steedly eds.  Santa Fe: SAR Press, 2013.

AHR Conversation: Historical Perspectives on the Circulation of Information.  .  Paul N Edwards, Lisa Gitelman, Gabrielle Hecht, Adrian Johns, Brian Larkin and Neil Safier participants.  AHR 116:1393-1435. 2011.

Circulating Empires: Colonial Authority and the Immoral, Subversive Power of American Film.  Globalizing American Studies.  Brian Edwards, Dilip Gaonkar eds.  Pp. 155-183.  Chicago University Press, 2010.

Islamic, Renewal, Radio and the Surface of Things.  Aesthetic Formations: Media, Religion, Senses.   Birgit Meyer ed.  Palgrave, 2009.

On National Allegory.  Social Text  100: 164-168, 2009.                   

Pirate Infrastructures.  In, Network/Netplay.  Joseph Karaganis ed. Duke University Press, 2008.

Media and the Political Forms of Religion.  Coedited with Charles Hirschkind.  Special Edition of Social Text 26(3), 2008

Introduction, Media and the Political Forms of Religion.  Special Edition of Social Text.  26(3): 1-9.  Co-written with Charles Hirschkind, 2008

Ahmed Deedat and the Form of Islamic Evangelism.  Social Text (26(3): 101-121, 2008

Majigi and the Political Origins of Cinema in Nigeria.  Communication, Media and Popular Culture in Northern Nigeria. Ed. A. U. Adamu et al. Kano: Department of Mass Communications. 53-59,  2006.

Pentecostalism, Islam and Culture.  New Religious Movements in West Africa (with Birgit Meyer).  Themes in West African History.  Emmanuel Akyeampong ed.  Pp. 286-312.  Oxford: James Currey, 2006.

Interview with Brian Larkin, By Anand Taneja.  Contested Commons/Trespassing Publics: A Public Record.  Delhi: The Sarai Programme, 2005.

From Majigi to Hausa Video Films.  Cinema and Society in Northern Nigeria.  Hausa Home Videos:  Technology, Economy, Society.  Abdalla Uba Adamu ed.  Pp: 46-53.  Kano, Nigeria: BUK Press, 2004.

Piracy, Infrastructure, and the Rise of a Nigerian Video Industry.  Transmissions..... Patrice Petro and Tasha Oren eds.  Pp. 159-170.  New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004.

Degraded Images, Distorted Sounds.  Nigerian Video and the Infrastructure of Piracy.  Public Culture 16(4): 289-314, 2004.

Itineraries of Indian Cinema.  African Videos, Bollywood and Global Media.  Multiculturalism, Transnationalism and Film.  Ella Shohat and Robert Stam eds. Pp. 170-192.  New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003.   

Bandiri Music, Globalization and Urban Experience in Nigeria.  In, Cahiers d’études africaines 168 XLII-4 Pp.739-762, 2002.

Hausa Dramas and the Rise of Video Culture in Nigeria.  Nigerian Video Film Revised Ed.  Jonathan Haynes ed. Pp. 209-242.  Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2000           

Introduction, Media Technologies and the Design for Modern Living: A Symposium.  Brian Larkin ed.  Special Issue, Visual Anthropology Review 14(2): 11-13, 1999.

Theaters of the Profane: Cinema and Colonial Urbanization. Visual Anthropology Review 14(2): 46-62, 1999.

Indian Films and Nigerian Lovers: Media and the Creation of Parallel Modernities.  Africa. 67(3): 406-440, 1998

Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure and Urban Culture in Nigeria. 2008 Durham: Duke University Press.

Imperial Circulation: Cinema and the making of anxious colonialists. In, Globalizing American Studies.  Brian Edwards, Dilip Gaonkar eds. Pp.155-183.  Chicago University Press.  .pdf

On National Allegory.  Social Text 100: 164-167.  2009. .pdf

Ahmed Deedat and the Form of Islamic Evangelism.’  Social Text (26(3): 101-121.  2008.  .pdf

Pirate Infrastructures.  In, Structures of Participation in Digital Culture. Joe Karaganis ed.  Pp. 74-87.  New York: SSRC.  2008.

Pentecostalism, Islam and Culture. New Religious Movements in West Africa. (with Birgit Meyer). In, Themes in West African History. Emmanuel Akyeampong ed. Pp. 286-312. Oxford: James Currey. (2006) 

"Degraded Images, Distorted Sounds: Nigerian Video and the Infrastructure of Piracy," Public Culture 16.2 (2004). .pdf

"Itineraries of Indian Cinema: African Videos, Bollywood, and Global Media," in Multiculturalism, Postcolonialism, and Transnational Media, ed. E. Shohat and R. Stam (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003)

Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain, co-editor with F. Ginsburg and L. Abu-Lughod (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002)  .pdf

"Materializing Culture: Cinema and the Creation of Social Space," in Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain, ed. F. Ginsburg, L. Abu-Lughod and B. Larkin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002)

"Bandiri Music, Globalization, and Urban Experience in Nigeria," Cahiers D'Études africaines 168 XLII-4 (2002)

"Indian Films and Nigerian Lovers: Media and the Creation of Parallel Modernities," in The Anthropology of Globalization. A Reader, ed. J. X. Inda and R. Rosaldo (Oxford: Blackwell Books, 2002)

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