Poison and dope: Radio and the art of political invective in East Africa, 1940-1965

Seminar date: 
15 May 2008
Speaker(s): James Brennan

James Brennan is a lecturer in African History at SOAS in London and in August 2008 will become Assistant Professor in African History at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He received his PhD from Northwestern University in 2002 and his research interests today include urbanization, nationalist and racial thought, radio and political culture, and Islamic politics in East Africa.

Discussant: Dr Jan-Bart Gewald

This seminar will consider how international radio popularized generic anti-colonial polemics through a history of shortwave broadcasting to British East Africa from during the Second World War until the region's decolonization in the 1960s. It focuses on the role of Radio Cairo's broadcasts to East Africa in the 1950s and the political networks that sustained this station's Swahili-language broadcasts. Hostile external broadcasts looped and amplified nationalist voices. Swahili radio announcers, enmeshed in East African politics and often directed by regional political parties, transmitted their arguments and rhetoric across the shortwave band to radio listeners back home. The seminar traces the networks of the broadcasters themselves, the institutional contexts in which radio propaganda and counter-propaganda developed, and the effects that these 'radio wars' had in shaping East African political culture.

    Read the paper