Call for Papers: Broadcasting Colonialism Conference




Call for Papers

Broadcasting Colonialism: Sight, Sound and Media Technologies in the Colonial World



African Studies Centre and Oxford Centre for Global History, University of Oxford

Department of Communication Studies, University of Ghana

Department of Communication and Media Studies, University of Johannesburg



Venue: Online and Nissan Lecture Theatre, St Antony’s College, Oxford

Dates: 16-17 May, 2024

Organiser: Peter Brooke (



broadcasting colonialism pb

Radio Van, Gold Coast Broadcasting Service, 1956 (Source: Bodleian Library)



Conference Theme

The conference invites research on the history of radio, television, film and recorded sound in a colonial context. Scholarship on colonial newspapers is now a well-established field but historians have given less attention to broadcast media due, not least, to the methodological challenges of using audio and visual archives. Colonial officials were fascinated by the power of broadcasting as a tool of political control and its potential to project a high-tech vision of colonial rule as modern and permanent. Paradoxically, this often went hand-in-hand with an ethnographic impetus to record, curate and promote ‘traditional’ music and stories. But broadcast media proved unreliable servants of colonial rule thanks to the efforts of subversive voices from within the colonial media machine and, from without, the cross-border flow of contraband records, banned film reels and ‘guerrilla radio’ stations (Lekgoathi et al, 2020). In some localities broadcast media served as much to undermine as to prolong empire.

The scope of the conference is global and invites research on any part of the colonial world defined in the broadest sense, including the European empires, China, Japan and Russia, and settler-colonial societies such as USA. Papers may consider the colonial period itself, the question of legacy in the post-independence era or coverage of the colonial past in contemporary media. Participants are welcome to interpret the subject of the conference as they wish but the following sub-themes may serve as useful starting points:


  • Archives and methodologies.
  • Modernity, technology and the ‘colonial sublime’ (Larkin, 2015).
  • The state, political control and ‘soft power’.
  • Subversive voices, race, gender and liberation.
  • Creators and mediators: broadcasters, producers, directors, actors.
  • Audiences: local, national and trans-national.
  • Music, ethnography and identity.
  • Cultural production, drama and language.
  • Corporate ownership and ‘control patterns’ (Nyamnjoh, 2005).



Participants are invited to present papers of 20 minutes, which will be grouped into panels of 3-4 papers and followed by a discussion. The keynote lecture will be held at 5 PM on 16 May. The conference will include a film presentation and discussion session on 17 May.



Please send the following to Brenda McCollum at by 2 April 2024:

  • Title
  • Abstract of max. 300 words
  • Biography of max. 100 words
  • Specify whether you would prefer to present online or in Oxford
  • Panel proposals are also welcome