Listening to the Archives: Researching Radio History around the World

AHA Session 124
Friday, January 5, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Calvert Room (Omni Shoreham, East Lobby)
Josh Shepperd, Catholic University of America
Christopher Sterling, George Washington University

Session Abstract

This panel brings together scholars whose work focuses on twentieth-century radio history from four global regions: North America, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East, across different moments and with different foci. Participating scholars will present a set of papers that reflect on the opportunities and challenges afforded by written and recorded archives, public and private. Each paper reflects on a specific historical problem posed by the radio histories on which the scholar works, highlighting the kinds of archives available and the strategies that s/he has used in order to uncover the history of a particular station, programming element, policy, or other radio-related aspect, and to analyze its impact. Alejandra Bronfman presents the potential impact of and challenges facing efforts to tell Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora histories through radio archives – starting with their inherently transnational nature. Christine Ehrick offers an overview of the state of radio history in Latin America and discusses the accomplishments of, and challenges faced by, those seeking to preserve, archive, and disseminate archival radio in the region. Simon Potter presents new evidence from British archives to shed light on interwar experiences of listening to the BBC Empire Service, and on how the history of distant listening more generally might contribute to the writing of global history 'from below'. Andrea Stanton uses interwar Arabic-language radio broadcasting from two British-governed stations to probe at a more local understanding of ‘transnationality’, foregrounding the role of written archives in uncovering administrative cooperation between stations. Chair Josh Shepperd serves as the 2017 Sound History Fellow for the Library of Congress’ National Recording Preservation Board, and can address queries or discussion points about its efforts toward radio broadcast preservation and archiving. Commentator Christopher Sterling, Emeritus Professor of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University, will address panelists’ contributions from his vantage point as a noted historian of American radio broadcasting.

In addition to reflecting on the specific nexus of historical context and archival possibilities, these papers address questions of methodology, which is foregrounded particularly when working with written archives, and of approach. What kinds of historical questions about radio can productively be asked of written archives, and what strategies and methods can be brought to bear on them? Similarly, when working with aural or recorded material archives, what new kinds of questions can be asked, and what new approaches or methods can be brought to bear upon them?

See more of: AHA Sessions