Lyell Davies

Lyell Davies

Associate Professor
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PhD. Program in Visual and Cultural Studies. The University of Rochester.

MA. Program in Visual and Cultural Studies. The University of Rochester.

MA. Communications. Hunter College. The City University of New York.

Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program.

BA. Fine Art. The National College of Art and Design. Ireland.


An Irish born documentary maker, educator, and media scholar, Davies earned his PhD in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester. His documentaries include the features Towards a Lasting Peace (1994), Making Ourselves Free (1994), Ireland’s Own Berlin Wall (1994), and Brain Injury Dialogues (2008), and the shorts Spoken By An Actor (1993), Who’s Not Irish? (2002), Three Times Oppressed (2004), and Queens Plaza (2021). His documentaries have been exhibited at film festivals or broadcast in numerous settings internationally, with Brain Injury Dialogues airing on PBS member stations coast-to-coast. He has worked on community-based participatory and alternative media projects launched by organizations serving recent immigrants, ethnic LGBTQ+ constituencies, the homeless, and arts and culture initiatives, served as a producer for the guerilla video collective Paper Tiger Television, and created essay films, in distribution under a director alias.

The focus of Davies’ scholarly research is the study of documentary film, communication rights, and politically committed and alternative media production practices, with a secondary interest in the study of social movements, diaspora and postcolonial studies, and sociological and anthropological approaches to cinema and media studies. His research has been published in Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural CriticismCanadian Journal of Film Studies, Frames Cinema Journal, Journal of Alternative and Community Media, Jumpcut: A Review of Contemporary Media, Radical History Review, and Public Culture. He has contributed chapters to edited collections examining activist film festivals (Activist Film Festivals: Towards a Political Subject, edited by Sonia Tascón and Tyson Wils. Bristol, UK: Intellect. 2017), video-on-demand company Netflix (The Netflix Effect: Technology and Entertainment in the 21st Century, edited by Daniel Smith-Rowsey and Kevin McDonald. New York: Bloomsbury. 2016), and the work of Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene (Sembène and the Politics of Culture, edited by Vetinde J. Lifongo and Amadou Fofana. Massachusetts: Lexington Books. 2015).

An immigrant and beneficiary of CUNY’s mission of providing New Yorkers with a quality, accessible education regardless of background or means, Davies’ first experience as a college student in the US was at Hunter College. He later taught media studies at Hunter, before joining John Jay College in 2008. Ahead of becoming an academic, Davies worked in community broadcasting and grassroots media production, teaching or facilitating documentary making, television broadcasting, and photography workshops in community-based and youth education settings in Ireland and the US. These include as a production trainer and development officer at the participatory youth media program The Youth Channel, and as an outreach specialist at the community access television station Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

An advocate for communications rights, Davies was a founding member of, a national effort to oppose state and federal legislation that would dismantle Public, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) TV. He has also been active in campaigns pressing for immigrant workers’ rights and in support of democratic media, as well as being a committed member of the Professional Staff Congress—the labor union representing faculty at CUNY.

At John Jay College, Davies teaches courses in the minors in Film Studies and Digital Media and Journalism, including LIT106 Introduction to FilmENG131 Self, Media, and SocietyENG261 Digital Video ProductionENG242 Contemporary Media and Everyday LifeLIT286 The Horror Film, LIT328 Film Criticism, and LIT329 Documentary Film. He also offers independent study in film directing and editing, advanced documentary making, and film/media analysis.