Dr Misha Kavka



My fascination with media is rooted in an interest in medium specificity and cross-media forms, which began with a BA thesis on the use of music in modernist English literature (Princeton University). Not happy with literature alone, I undertook an MA in the Critical Theory programme at Sussex University, studying deconstruction with Geoffrey Bennington and psychoanalysis with Jacqueline Rose. These theoretical models I then took to Cornell University, where I wrote a PhD thesis on male hysteria in medical and literary discourses of the fin de siècle. On completing the PhD I went to the University of Zurich as a Fulbright scholar to work on women's writing about madness, after which I remained there and taught in the Department of English for six years. At Zurich, I retrained as a film and media scholar, and discovered for the first time the power of combining high theory with popular culture -- in my case, with reality TV. My passion for reality TV led me to thinking about modes of audience engagement with participants, especially the affective relations that television inspires. Although I still do research on realtiy TV, I am now expanding my work on affect to other media forms, notably new media screens, as well as writing about the affective relations that underpin celebrity culture.

Research | Current

  • Television studies
  • Reality TV
  • Gender and sexuality studies
  • Celebrity studies
  • Feminist and psychoanalytic theory
  • Gothic film
  • Hollywood film
  • New Zealand film


Reality Television (Edinburgh University Press, 2012): a genre-based account of the rise and development of reality television that stresses its cultural and conceptual contexts. My approach takes up a genealogical methodology that favours the particular over the universal, disinters buried or forgotten strands, and traces provenances, intersections and resemblances amongst reality TV forms. Adapting the genealogical method to genre studies, the book locates structural connections as well as key conceptual shifts by breaking reality television down into 'generations' based on discursive resemblances amongst subgenres.

Reality Matters: Affect and Intimacy in Reality Television (Palgrave, 2008): an exploration of the affective nature of televisual effects. I take a positive stance toward reality TV, because for me it distills what TV does best – the creation of intimate relations across a screen. I am interested in what it is about reality TV that makes it 'feel real', and from this I develop a theory of mattering – in the sense of both physicality and import – which I call the materiality of affect. Such mattering is heightened, rather than decreased, by mediation across the screen – in this case, the small screen of television, but the theory can be extended by readers to apply to other media forms.

Gothic NZ: The Darker Side of Kiwi Culture, edited by Misha Kavka, Jennifer Lawn and Mary Paul (Otago University Press, 2006): a collection of art, essays and criticism on the eclectic forms of the New Zealand Gothic. Itself a beautiful artefact, the book brings together painting, photography, architecture, creative writing, film, television and tattooing in a multi-media embrace of the contemporary Kiwi Gothic. Included are my own contributions on the Gothic in New Zealand film, and the urban art of Misery.

Feminist Consequences: Theory for the New Century, edited by Elisabeth Bronfen and Misha Kavka (Columbia University Press, 2001): an anthology of new writings by many of the best-known names in feminist theory, taking the pulse of the feminist project in the 'post-feminist' age. Measuring the distance between 'Where have we come from?' and 'Where are we going?' this book draws on work by Mieke Bal, Lauren Berlant, Rosi Braidotti, Judith Butler, Rey Chow, Drucilla Cornell, Ranjana Khanna and Juliet Mitchell - to name a few - in order to address recurring questions of politics, ethics and thematics in feminism. Included is my own introduction, which surveys the history of feminist theory from the 1970s' second wave to the turn of the new century.


Associate Dean (Academic), Faculty of Arts

Areas of expertise

Television studies, reality TV, gender and sexuality studies, celebrity studies, feminist and psychoanalytic theory, gothic film, Hollywood film, New Zealand film

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Kavka, M. (2018). Reality TV: its contents and discontents. CRITICAL QUARTERLY, 60 (4), 5-18. 10.1111/criq.12442
  • Berryman, R., & Kavka, M. (2018). Crying on YouTube: Vlogs, self-exposure and the productivity of negative affect. CONVERGENCE-THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF RESEARCH INTO NEW MEDIA TECHNOLOGIES, 24 (1), 85-98. 10.1177/1354856517736981
  • Kavka, M. (2018). Sex and reality TV: The pornography of intimate exposure. In C. Smith, F. Attwood, B. McNair (Eds.) The Routledge companion to media, sex and sexuality (pp. 309-318). Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Routledge.
  • Kavka, M., & Weber, B. R. (2017). Introduction: Transnational gender cultures and reality TV. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 20 (1), 3-9. 10.1177/1367549416640555
  • Berryman, R., & Kavka, M. (2017). "I guess a lot of people see me as a big sister or a friend': The role of intimacy in the celebrification of beauty vloggers. Journal of Gender Studies, 26 (3), 307-320. 10.1080/09589236.2017.1288611
  • Kavka, M. (2016). The settlement trap. Short Film Studies, 6 (1), 67-70. 10.1386/sfs.6.1.67_1
  • Kavka, M. (2016). The affective reality of snuff. In N. Jackson, S. Kimber, J. Walker, T. J. Watson (Eds.) Snuff: real death and screen media (pp. 47-62). New York: Bloomsbury Academic. Related URL.
  • Kavka, M., & Overell, R (2016). Mediating the Real. MediaNZ: Media Studies Journal of Aotearoa New Zealand, 16 (2), 1-5. 10.11157/medianz-vol16iss2id205

Contact details

Primary office location

HSB - EAST - Bldg 201E
Level 5, Room 526
New Zealand