Professor Thomas Tufte
Institute Director for the Institute for Media and Creative Industries
Professor Thomas Tufte is an internationally leading scholar in the field of communication for social change.
A cultural sociologist by training, Professor Tufte has a longstanding experience working with communication and social change. He also holds positions as Extraordinary Professor at the University of the Free State and as Senior Research Associate at University of Johannesburg, both in South Africa. Tufte is a member of Academia Europea.
His expertise and experience lie in critically exploring the interrelations between media texts/flows/genres, communicative practices and processes of citizen engagement and social change. He has for the past many years focused on citizen engagement, often in the context of social movements, and inquired into the condition of communication in everyday life and how it relates to processes of social change and democratic development.
One of his sources of inspiration is Paulo Freire whom he met a few times in the 1980s while working with social movement and democratic development in Latin America. Together with Dr Ana Suzina he has been leading a series of activities and publications around the global legacy of the Paulo Freire in communication, civil society development and social change.
Tufte’s publications include 18 books and more than 100 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters. He has also co-edited 7 special issues of international peer-reviewed journals, including Journal of Communication, Journal of Media & Journalism, Journal of African Media Studies, International Communication Gazette, Matrizes, MedieKultur and Commons. Professor Tufte works fluently in both English, Spanish, Portuguese and Danish and his work is published widely in these languages and also published in Italian and Greek.
Tufte began his work life working 6 years in international development cooperation (first in UNESCO in Paris, then in Danchurchaid, a large Danish NGO, and finally with United Nations Development Program’s office in Asuncion, Paraguay.
This practical experience in international development has significantly informed his academic career, pursuing collaborations with both development practitioners and academic colleagues in the Global South. He has collaborated with a broad range of organisations in international development cooperation, such as World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO, USAID, Danida, SIDA, International Media Support, The Panos Institute, ADRA, Soul City Institute for Social Justice, Femina Health Information Project and others. He has worked in and collaborated with researchers and organisations in over 30 countries, including for example Albania and Ukraine, Mozambique, Malawi and Nigeria, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia and Chile.
Professor Tufte defended his PhD in 1995. It was a media ethnographic study of telenovelas, culture and modernity in Brazil, and he has ever since maintained an interest both in the strategic power of storytelling as well as understanding how audiences make sense of their mediated environment in relation to their agency as citizens and their ability to articulate social change. He has particularly long-standing working relations with colleagues in South Africa, East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania) and across Latin America, Brazil in particular. He has lived four years in Latin America.
A key feature of Tufte’s work has been to work with collective processes of inquiry and knowledge production, seeking to build bridges of knowledge exchange. He has many co-authored works and a lot of collective projects inquiring into the relations between media, communication and social change. For 23 years Tufte’s academic home was in Denmark: University of Copenhagen (1992-2003) and Roskilde University (2004-2016). He has also been the UNESCO Chair of Communication at University of Barcelona in 2003 (4 months) and visiting scholar at Rhodes University in South Africa for a semester in 2002.
Having fundraised over £2m from the EU, NorForsk, Danish Research Council for International Development, Danish Research Council for Humanities, etc, Professor Tufte has over the past three decades led seven major international research projects and participated in several other projects and led several international research networks involving researchers from Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc. Projects include ‘Perspectives on New Media and Processes of Social Change in the Global South’(Ørecomm (orecomm.net) , ‘Media, Empowerment and Democracy in East Africa (http://mediea.ruc.dk/ ) ‘Living with HIV/AIDS – Youth, Empowerment and Social Change’ ‘Telenovelas, Culture and Modernity in Brazil’ and ‘Media, ‘Minority Youth, Media Uses and Identity Struggle’.
Professor Tufte arrived in the UK in 2016 to take up a position as professor and shortly after research director at the School of Media and Sociology at University of Leicester. After two years in Leicester, he took up the position as Institute Director at Loughborough University London in August 2018.
Current research and collaborations
Currently, Tufte is working on book project which inquiries into questions of communication, activism and well-being in the post-pandemic era. It does so by exploring communicative principles and practices, knowledge production and epistemologies amongst engaged citizens, activists and social movements.
Furthermore, he is currently collaborating with and/or advising three international research projects in Mexico, Portugal and Brazil:
- ‘Impact of information and Communication technologies on the quality of life of University youth’ (Impacto de las tecnologías de información y comunicación en la calidad de vida de los jóvenes universitarios). PI Professor Ana Zermeno, University of Colima, Mexico. https://portal.ucol.mx/cuis-redcaleidoscopio/proyectos-qolticju.htm. This project is part of the International Research Network ‘Caleidoscopio’ which LUL, represented by Professor Tufte also participates in. https://portal.ucol.mx/cuis-redcaleidoscopio/conocenos.htm
- DeCode/M. PI Sofia Dos Santos. DeCode/M is the first-ever comprehensive study on Media and Masculinities in Portugal. It seeks to identify and critically analyse representations of masculinities that are (re)produced by both mass media and online social media in Portugal, exploring why these gendered representations are used, examining the ways they are appropriated, co-opted and contested by audiences and whether they promote gender-equitable or non-gender equitable masculinities among audiences and content (re)producers. DeCode/M is a project of the Centre for Social Studies funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology through national funds.
- Uses of Communication Technolgies, Class and the Formation of Intentional Communication. PI is Professor Veneza Ronsini, Federal University of Santa Maria, Brazil.
Current PhD / research supervisions
Research investigates people-centred innovation and media-driven ways of advancing opportunities for youth in Tanzania to participate and improve their life skills.
Reclaiming the city through graffiti: An exploration of graffiti and gentrification in Birmingham and Barcelona.
Art Activism in India : A narrative of communication and dissent. Rittika's research project explores art activism in India and how it leads to social change.
Elite Configuration and Media Ownership under Right-Wing Populism in Turkey.
Supporting the reclaiming of participation through creative learning practices and infrastructures.
Glauber’s project discusses the Brazilian Cultural Policy that involves museums and politics of difference through urban revitalization policies. He is interested in how culture has been used as a resource for political and economic ends.
Completed PhD / research supervisions
Professor Tufte has been on review panels and vivas of about 40 doctoral dissertations in UK, Australia, USA, South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Belgium.
He has furthermore supervised PhD students in topics such as social movements and citizen engagement; media and political participation; media and conflict; health communication; media anthropology; communication for development and social change; alternative media and internet governance. He welcomes new applications and PhD projects.
Tufte’s most recent PhD completions include:
- Cecilia Ghidotti (2022): A place for out of the ordinary people': the education of future cultural workers through the case of the Holden School of Creative Writing and Storytelling
- Flavio Garcia Dar Rocha (2022): Research investigates media practices, content choice and meaning making of young adults in Brazil, particularly video consumption in a moment of transition from
- Cassia Ayres (2021): Political Participation, digital media and social change: communication from the perspective of the young citizen
- Rose Reuben (2021): An Exploration of the Role of FEMINA HIP Media Programme in Empowering Girls’ Sexuality: A Case Study Kigamboni District in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
- Ruggero Galtarossa (2020): Being-Interactive: For Genealogical Destruction of a Doubt About The ‘Interactional’ Present
Areas of research expertise
Communication for Social Change
Brazil/Latin America and Southern/Eastern Africa
Interests and activities
Tufte currently sits on editorial boards of Communicacion y Sociedad (Mexico), Revista Intercom (Brazil), Comunicare (South Africa), Estudios de Culturas Contemporaneas (Mexico), Revista Commons (Spain), and also sat on Journal of Communication (2015-2018). He further serves on the international advisory board of the books series on communication for social change run by Palgrave and on the Annals ICA Editorial Board.