Summary of the first International Conference
“Crossing Borders with a New Medium: Radio and Imperial Identities”
Date: 24th and 25th September 2020
Offline and Online event
Venue: Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Lisboa | GMT+1
Between the 24th and 25th of September, the Research Center for Communication and Culture, at Universidade Católica Portuguesa, hosted BiPE’s first international conference titled “Crossing Borders with a New Medium: Radio and Imperial Identities”. This was our first event organized and run in a blended format – both online and offline – taking place at GMT + 1:00 time. The conference opportunely gathered young and established researchers working on Radio, Sound and Empires to make contributions to thought, histories, practices and research methods concerning radio broadcasting and imperial identities across different geographies.
Simon Potter (University of Bristol, UK) opened the first day’s sessions with his inspiring and thought-provoking keynote Programming the Public Imagination: International Broadcasting, Soft Power, and Public Diplomacy. Drawing both on Joseph S. Nye, Jr and on Manuel Castells, Potter raised questions regarding the power of entertainment, namely of music, in shaping imperial and post-imperial world politics through the airwaves. Not only radio news propaganda played a role in constructing empires, but also music and entertainment were used as soft power in different imperial contexts, namely in Europe and far east Asia, to convey and reinforce state ideologies throughout the 20th century.
The first panel, chaired by Catarina Valdigem (Universidade Católica Portuguesa), followed the keynote’s challenge of thinking about International and Imperial Broadcasting: Programming, Culture and Propaganda. Andrea Stanton (University of Denver, USA) focused on Cultural, Educational, and Entertainment Programming on the BBC’s Arabic Service showing the importance of the user-generated poetry and theatre plays competitions in the BBC’s imperial broadcasting in the 1940s in reaching Arab listeners. Rūta Kupetytė (Vilniaus Universitetas, Lithuania) delivered a Comparison of the Operating Strategies Between Internal and External Services in the Field of Lithuanian SSR Radio relying on oral history methods and sources which allowed for a discussion on how to write history in the absence of other (archive) materials. Martin Hadlow (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia) provided valuable insights on the history of the Radio in the Colonial Pacific: The Case of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate; and Nelson Ribeiro (Universidade Católica Portuguesa) laid out an overview of Broadcasting in the Portuguese Empire: a Pluricentric Model. In his paper he highlighted the commonalities and differences in the radio scene in colonial Angola and Mozambique.
The afternoon sessions furthered the topic of Broadcasting and National Identities put forward by the morning papers, and initiated discussions around Radio, Anti-colonialism and Resistance. In a panel chaired by Nelson Ribeiro, Anne McLennan (York University, Canada) explained the processes of Defensive Nationalism: Canadian broadcasting as a part of the British Empire and Commonwealth. Ana Isabel Reis (Universidade do Porto, Portugal) presented her paper on Broadcasting the news on Cape Verdean radio: perceptions on the construction of national and imperial identity in the ’60s. She analysed news broadcasts produced by radio stations in Cape Verde in the 1960s to understand their role in the construction of a national and imperial identity. Sílvio Santos (Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal) provided important insights regarding the history of radio broadcasting in the former Portuguese colony of São Tomé and Príncipe, in his paper titled In search of a national identity: the creation of the National Radio of São Tomé and Príncipe; and Marco Freitas (Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal) closed the first of the afternoon panels, with a paper on “Sounding the nation, sounding the revolution”: radio broadcasting and music industries in Mozambique (1974-1986), for which he brought a diversity of sounds that marked the history of the newly independent Mozambique.
The last panel of day one - Radio, Anti-Colonialism and Resistance – was chaired by Ana Isabel Reis. Here Alexander White (University of Cambridge, UK) contributed to the discussions around the reception of anti-colonial radio contents during the mid-20th century with the paper Receiving Revolution: Interpreting Audience in Anti-Colonial Broadcasting to Africa, 1956-1966. Catarina Valdigem and Rogério Santos (Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Portugal) also presented their work concerning Sounds of Resistance: dissident anti-colonial broadcasting practices in colonial Angola and Mozambique (1960-1974). They focused mainly on the role of Elmo’s and Estúdios Norte’s radio productions - in Mozambique and Angola respectively - in defying the Portuguese colonial and state ideology. The panel concluded with Rui Vilela’s profound epistemological discussion regarding how to grasp the anti-colonial sound archives through postcolonial affective performance. His paper - On the anti-colonial politics of sound: the archive collections of the National Radio Broadcaster of Guinea-Bissau – A screening with interruptions - brought along a collective essay-like and research practice with screened enactments of the colonial sound memories performed by the Guinean-Bissau theatre company - O Teatro do Oprimido.