Sharpening skills, expanding horizons: Graduate Samantha Fox about her VMA studies

Samantha Fox successfully completed her Master's degree in Visual and Media Anthropology (VMA) in 2010, at that time at the Freie Universität Berlin. The master's program was developed there and has been offered at HMKW Berlin since winter term 2019/20. In the interview she talks about her current work as an assistant professor in the field of Urban Anthropology, her current book project and how she was able to benefit from her studies.

Samantha Fox, 2010 VMA graduate

Samantha Fox, 2010 VMA graduate

What comes to mind when you think about your studies?

I enjoyed the opportunity to conduct research independently — it gave me insight into what life might be like as a career academic.

You acquired a Master of Arts in Visual and Media Anthropology. What is your current job position?

I am currently an Assistant Professor of Urban Anthropology at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA.

Did you get any further work experiences prior to your current position that you would like to share with us?

After completing my MA, I worked as a lecturer in the Visual and Media Anthropology program at the Freie Universität. It was a great opportunity to gain teaching experience and to learn about distance learning platforms—something I never expected would become so central to higher education! Concurrently, I applied to and ultimately completed a PhD in sociocultural anthropology at Columbia University.

When did you figure out your preferred career path?

I was primarily interested in the academic side of VMA – the questions about representation, cultural exchange, visual communication, and so on. Yet I had previously studied photography and at the time was being encouraged to pursue a career in the arts. The program helped me understand how I might merge my interest in photography and visual communication with my interest in more theoretical academic pursuits. Ultimately, I found that my VMA studies helped me enter a sociocultural anthropology Ph.D. program with a firm understanding of anthropology and how I might push the discipline’s boundaries.

Why did you decide to study M.A. Visual and Media Anthropology?

I had previously studied documentary photography, but I am from the U.S. and found American MFA programs to be quite professionally oriented—and very expensive! I didn’t think I wanted a career as a commercial photographer or photojournalist, and by luck a research trip took me to Berlin and I met the VMA team then at the Freie Universität.

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently working on a book titled The Afterlife of Utopia: Urban Renewal in Germany’s Model Socialist City, that actually grew out of my VMA thesis project.


What would you tell fellow students that study Visual and Media Anthropology?

The degree program is what you make of it. For me, the joy I found in designing a research project, conducting fieldwork, and synthesizing academic texts helped me realize that pursuing a Ph.D. would be the right path. But I could just have easily focused on other aspects of the program, such as honing my skills in filmmaking, audio journalism, community-based collaborations, or any number of foci that would have led me down a different path.

Which characteristics should students have that want to study Visual and Media Anthropology?

I would recommend the program to anyone who is open-minded, academically inclined, self-motivated, and curious about creative expression and visual communication.

Thanks for the interview. We wish you all the best for the future!