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PhD studentship on Afro Beats

8 February 2024 at 16:47 | 950 views

AFRO BEATS AND AFRO BYTES: PHD SCHOLARSHIP

Applications are invited for a 4-year funded PhD studentship on “Afro beats and Afro bytes: the global development of West Africa music and the role of digital and platform economies.”

The researcher will be based in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries (CMCI), King’s College London and co-supervised by Professor Roberta Comunian (Professor of Creative Economies in the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries) and Dr Eka Ikpe (Director of the African Leadership Centre and Reader in Development Economics in Africa).

This project seeks to understand how Afro-beats music producers in West Africa deploy productive forces (knowledge, technology, capital) and inputs to create social, economic and cultural value for domestic and global markets and how this influence socioeconomic change. Creative economies enable broader readings of value across economic, social and cultural spheres, presenting opportunities for conceptual innovation in this project. Current debates on global production such as with global value chains have tended to neglect ideas of lead firms in Africa due to narrow understandings of value. The project, therefore, aims to move beyond visions of Africa as resource-constrained to focus on creativity, ideas and innovation, including in sustainability, emerging across the continent.

Centring the creative economy makes a forward-looking intervention in considering economic, social and cultural development in Africa and globally. This rapidly growing sector with outputs outpacing other industries, is steered by digitisation, urbanisation, youth and South-South trade, and could reach 10% of GDP globally by 2030 (Buchkolz 2021; UNDP 2023). In Africa it is also prioritised as a key context for examining contemporary and future socioeconomic transformation (World Bank 2021; Africa Export Import Bank (Afrexim) 2021). This project seeks to understand how musicians and music producers in West Africa engage with digital technologies and platform economies to shape new social, economic and cultural development in domestic and global markets. The project engages with the theoretical framework of ‘lead firms from below’ to challenge, deepen and enrich debates on Global Value Chains/Production Networks in the music industry. It also explores how knowledge, technology and capital are deployed and intertwined across scales (urban, national and beyond). It will look specifically at the intermediary role played by digital platforms to consider how they might enable or hinder new business models in the creation, distribution and revenue generation/capture from creative content. The project moves beyond visions of Africa as resource-constrained to focus on creativity, ideas and innovation.

The key research question will be: What processes and platforms underpin creation, distribution and revenue generation for West African music producers in domestic and international markets?

The project is connected to the establishment of the new Africa Europe CoRE (Cluster of Research Excellence) on Creative Economies at King’s College London, with interdisciplinary collaborations being established across African partners. This project can also benefit from an established collaboration already in place with the University of Lagos (Nigeria).

The project also builds on a new connection with the Africa Export Import Bank (Afrexim). Afrexim is interested in exploring the role of finance and digital innovation in the music sector across Africa. Their recent report “African Trade Report 2022: Leveraging the Power of Culture and Creative Industries for Accelerated Structural Transformation in the AfCFTA Era” presents initial research on the growing connections between music and digital innovation.

The PhD research would grow this area of research to gain a deeper understanding of socio-economic and cultural factors and trajectories in this space. The researcher will likely undertake mixed-methods case study research, including (for example) analysis of industry data, surveys, interviews, focus groups and observations. We envisage the student focusing on one West African country.

There will be opportunities for international travel and public communication activities, and you are encouraged to develop skills through teaching in the School of Global Affairs and CMCI Department. 

ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS
Essential criteria

An African national and permanently resident in an African country;
Liable for tuition fees at the higher international/overseas rate (fees are covered funding for four years);
Plan to commence a full-time MPhil/PhD programme at King’s College London in the 2024-25 academic year (Ideally the candidate will start in October 2024).
Meet the academic requirements for enrolment for the PhD degree in the Faculty of Social Science and Policy at King’s College London.

You should hold or expect to obtain a High Merit or Distinction at Master’s level (or equivalent) in any subject. Subjects of particular relevance would include but not be limited to: International Political Economy; Political Economy; Business; Development Studies; Culture, Media & Creative Industries; Policy; Sociology; Geography; Social sciences.
A strong interest in music and the creative economy (academic, professional, personal)
Good team-working, observational, organisation and communication skills.
Experience of qualitative and quantitative methods
Desirable criteria

Professional experience in the music industry in a West African country
Professional or personal networks in the music industry in an African country
Prior research or publication experience
Funding

This award will cover your full tuition fees, provide an annual stipend and offers a Research, Training and Support Grant per year.

Application Procedure

The selection process will involve a pre-selection based on documents:

CV
cover letter explaining your interest in the project and how your prior experience is relevant
a sample of written work (i.e MA thesis)
an academic reference letter (from a previous supervisor or personal tutor at MA level).
Please email these documents to Prof. Comunian (Roberta.Comunian@kcl.ac.uk) by 19th of March 2024.

If selected, this will be followed by an invitation to an interview (the interview will take place online in week commencing 22nd of April 2024). If successful at the interview, an offer will be made for PhD study and scholarship funding.

The selected candidates must then apply via King’s Apply online application system. Details are available at: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/how-to-apply 

Please apply for CMCI (MPhil/PhD) and indicate Prof. Comunian and Dr Ikpe as your desired supervisor and the project title in your application and all correspondence. 

Details on the PhD programme are available at: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/areas/culture-media-and-creative-industries-research-mphil-phd

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