Traveling Sounds, Caribbean Archives, and the Challenges of Listening for History

Friday, January 5, 2018: 1:30 PM
Calvert Room (Omni Shoreham)
Alejandra M. Bronfman, State University of New York, University at Albany
This paper will explore the tremendous potential and challenges posed through efforts to tell Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora histories through radio archives. The transnational dimension is crucial and inevitable in these histories. Listening took place transnationally, as did archive creation. The archives of anti-Duvalier activists, for example, created in New York City and broadcast to Haiti, constitute an essential and minimally explored source for documenting struggles against dictatorship in the 1970s. Another New York City based archive, of Cuban actress and elocutionist Eusebia Cosmé’s 1940s CBS radio show, will contribute to our understanding of the circulation of a sounded Black Atlantic. And while historians continue to develop the methodological and theoretical tools to work with this material, questions remain: how do we theorize the non-written, non-national archive as evinced in these examples (and many others)? What histories of listening are relevant here and how should those be documented? How do historians of radio remain cognizant of Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s injunctions to attend to silences in the production of history even as we include these archives of diasporic performance in our own historical narratives?
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