2-Day Conference - Broadcasting Colonialism: Sight, Sound and Media Technologies in the Colonial World

Status: This talk is in preparation - details may change

Deadline for submissions: 2 April 2024

The conference invites research on the history of radio, television, film and recorded sound in a colonial context. Scholarship on colonial newspapers is now a well-established field but historians have given less attention to broadcast media due, not least, to the methodological challenges of using audio and visual archives. Colonial officials were fascinated by the power of broadcasting as a tool of political control and its potential to project a high-tech vision of colonial rule as modern and permanent. Paradoxically, this often went hand-in-hand with an ethnographic impetus to record, curate and promote ‘traditional’ music and stories. But broadcast media proved unreliable servants of colonial rule thanks to the efforts of subversive voices from within the colonial media machine and, from without, the cross-border flow of contraband records, banned film reels and ‘guerrilla radio’ stations (Lekgoathi et al, 2020). In some localities broadcast media served as much to undermine as to prolong empire.

The scope of the conference is global and invites research on any part of the colonial world defined in the broadest sense, including the European empires, China, Japan and Russia, and settler-colonial societies such as USA. Papers may consider the colonial period itself, the question of legacy in the post-independence era or coverage of the colonial past in contemporary media. Participants are welcome to interpret the subject of the conference as they wish but the following sub-themes may serve as useful starting points:

  • Archives and methodologies
  • Modernity, technology and the ‘colonial sublime’ (Larkin, 2015)
  • The state, political control and ‘soft power’
  • Subversive voices, race, gender and liberation
  • Creators and mediators: broadcasters, producers, directors, actors
  • Audiences: local, national and trans-national
  • Music, ethnography and identity
  • Cultural production, drama and language
  • Corporate ownership and ‘control patterns’ (Nyamnjoh, 2005)

Participants are invited to present papers of 20 minutes, which will be grouped into panels of 3-4 papers and followed by a discussion. The keynote lecture will be held at 17:00 on 16 May. The conference will include a film presentation and discussion session on 17 May.

Please visit the website to respond to the call for papers: www.africanstudies.ox.ac.uk/article/call-for-papers-broadcasting-colonialism-conference, which closes on 2 April 2024.