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Project BiPE

Throughout most of the 20th century radio broadcasting assumed a central role in the construction of national and imperial identities, as it was the main source of news and popular culture available to the majority of the population.


Even before globalisation became a buzzword, imperial nations used radio to foster the creation of 'imagined communities' (Anderson, 1983) among populations spread out over different continents and with distinct cultural backgrounds. Broadcasts were designed to create a sense of nation, covering ceremonial events and ensuring that the whole population, irrespective of its distance from the centre, would have access to the same content.


While the role of radio in fostering a sense of nation has been recognised by scholars dealing with the history of communication in different European Empires (Kuitenbrouwer, 2016; Potter,2012; Scales,2013), this project will add complexity to scholarship on the topic by producing a comprehensive history of broadcasting in the Portuguese Empire which will answer two primary research questions: a) how did the Portuguese Estado Novo dictatorship use broadcasting as a tool of Empire? b) how was radio used differently by Portugal compared to other Imperial nations?


Answering these questions will contribute to our understanding of the role played by radio, a new medium during the first half of the 20th century, in the creation and promotion of national identities and nationalistic discourses.


The case of the Portuguese Empire has the potential to expand our understanding of the role played by radio under colonial rule for several reasons. Firstly, it was the most enduring empire of the modern era, lasting until the last quarter of the 20th century. Secondly, contrary to the British, Dutch and French cases, broadcasting in Portugal developed under a dictatorship regime that had colonialism at the core of its ideology. Thirdly, Portuguese colonial rule in Africa came to an end after more than 12 years of war in which radio was called on to play its part. Lastly, contrary to the other European Empires of the time, in the Portuguese overseas territories State-owned and commercial stations coexisted and all were used for propaganda dissemination.


Research will focus on the institutional settings in which radio operated, the opportunities and limits of technologies, and also the programmes (both news and entertainment) and audiences. This will permit a reconstruction of how broadcasting was used by the dictatorship to promote its nationalistic discourse among expats and native populations in the colonies.
The project has a clear interdisciplinary nature, bridging communication studies and history. It will respond to calls made by Curran (2012) and Zelizer (2008), that have urged historians and media scholars to engage in the production of more informed knowledge on continuities and change in the exchange of information, allowing better-informed discussions on the role of the media in the present.