Tool of Empire, Technology of Self-Liberation: Colonial Radio Broadcasting to Africans in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, 1920s-1980


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships




This project argues that rather than represent the insuperable power of western science, technology and expertise or symbolize the onset of "modernity," the introduction of British colonial radio broadcasting to Africans in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi heralded an unparalleled crisis in European efforts to construct African colonial subjectivity. In the hands of African organic intellectuals hired to run WWII and post-war "anti-Communist" broadcasts, radio cracked European certitudes and exposed the nervous condition of colonial authority. The technology demonstrated the capacity of Africans to subvert and repurpose instruments of colonial power. Deploying their linguistic skills and cultural capital, the African broadcasters ran broadcasts that cunningly countered official ideology, thus turning a tool of imperial and colonial state-making into a means of self-liberation.