P205 – Interactive Radio and Citizenships in Africa
8 July, 14:00 – 15:30

Brisset-Foucault Florence / Université Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne


From entertainment to ‘development’ ones, from local political talk shows to the BBC ‘Africa have your say’ or ‘Appels sur l’Actualité’ on RFI, everywhere in Africa, ‘listeners’ take the floor: their speech is staged by themselves and by media producers in particular ways. This panel seeks to keep at bay the normative and instrumentalist approaches that characterize most writing on the topic, without paying enough attention to what is really at stake. Their history, first, is under-studied: colonial radio stations and postcolonial State stations largely used ‘listeners” speech. Moreover, this panel seeks to gather contributions relying on deep content analysis, empirical data on listeners, and work seeking to analyse their role and place on local media and political stages. It encourages work seeking to critically analyse the promotion of such media format within the political economy of development and international political configurations of the past and present. The main idea is to approach these shows in a contextualised way, to exploit the rich empirical material they offer to apprehend African societies, to analyse in a precise way how they are inserted within and affected by collective and individual trajectories, the kind of political and moral project they promote, and the varied ways they are used.

This panel is part of the Joint African Studies Programme (Columbia-Paris 1)

Radio interactive et citoyenneté en Afrique

Des émissions de divertissement à celles de “développement”, des talk shows politiques locaux à “Africa Have Your Say” sur la BBC ou “Appels sur l’Actualité” sur RFI, partout en Afrique, les “auditeurs” prennent la parole, sont mis et se mettent en scène à la radio. Cet atelier vise à se départir des approches normatives et instrumentalistes qui caractérisent la plupart des écrits sur ce sujet. L’histoire de ces émissions, d’abord, est sous-étudiée: les radios coloniales et les radios d’Etat postcoloniales avaient largement recours à la parole des auditeurs. Par ailleurs, cet atelier vise à rassembler des contributions reposant sur des analyses de contenu, des données empiriques approfondies sur les “auditeurs”, et des travaux analysant leur place au sein des scènes médiatico-politiques. Il encourage les analyses visant à resituer de manière critique ces émissions au sein de l’économie politique du développement et les configurations politiques locales et internationales d’hier et d’aujourd’hui. L’idée centrale est d’approcher ces émissions de manière contextualisée, d’exploiter le riche matériel empirique qu’elles représentent pour appréhender les sociétés africaines et d’analyser de manière précise comment elles s’insèrent et sont affectées par des parcours collectifs et individuels, le type de projet politique et moral qu’elles promeuvent, et les usages dont elles font l’objet.

Paper 1

Grätz Tilo / FU Berlin

Interactive Radio Shows, New Media Actors and Communication Spaces: Exploring the Role of “grogneurs” in Benin

My paper starts from the assumption of a rapid increase in processes of intermediality, interactivity and a blurring of roles of media producers and consumers in contemporary Africa. These developments are both promoted by the availability of new media technologies and the effects of liberalization policies in many African countries. The results are novel communication spaces that mediate between public and private spheres, citizen/amateur and professional actors as well as official and hidden discourses, thus providing new linkages and an increasing circulation of media contents. These developments are exemplified through the case study of interactive radio call-in shows on social and political problems in the Republic of Benin (West Africa). The main actors are frequent callers known as grogneurs (referring to a well-known morning radio show: grogne matinale). These grogneurs occupy an awkward societal position due to their penchant for public enlighten-ment and their self-declaration as tribunes of the people. The paper addresses their motives and strategies, espeically in terms of networking and juridical assistance, as well as their ambiguous relationship to journalists, local politicians, motor taxi drivers and the wider audience. I argue that the success of such call-in shows is based not only on the circulation of novel media content, but also on the local, contextualized appropriation of globally available media technologies.

Paper 2

Frère Marie-Soleil / Fonds national de la Recherche scientifique

RFI : une radio congolaise ? Le phénomène “Appels sur l’actualité”

En République démocratique du Congo (RDC), les rares études d’audience démontrent que la radio internationale française RFI se maintient dans le trio de tête des médias les plus écoutés, dans les 8 villes où elle peut être reçue en FM (IMMAR 2010). Une de ses émissions les plus populaires est “Appels sur l’actualité”, animée par Juan Gomez. Une grande majorité des auditeurs qui s’expriment dans cette émission le fait depuis l’Afrique subsaharienne et les interventions en provenance de la RDC y sont fréquentes. A travers l’analyse de cette émission participative, et de la place qu’elle occupe en RDC, cette communication vise à réinterroger le positionnement des radios internationales “historiques” dans le nouveau contexte de la circulation de l’information en Afrique subsaharienne francophone (Vittin 2002) ; un contexte marqué, depuis deux décennies, par le développement des radios privées locales (et l’installation en FM des radios int
ernationales), et, plus récemment, par la pénétration du téléphone mobile et de l’Internet. Notre hypothèse est que le nouveau contexte pousse les radios internationales à s’adapter et, dans le cas de RFI en RDC, à se positionner comme une “radio internationale de proximité”. Si la contribution des auditeurs a toujours été présente sur les ondes de RFI – depuis l’époque du courrier des lecteurs (Robert 2007) -, les nouvelles technologies permettent de la renforcer, tout comme elles entrainent des mutations de la participation citoyenne.

Paper 3

Srinivasan Sharath / University of Cambridge

Imagined Publics: the Power and Political Possibilities of Audience-as-Publics on African Interactive Radio

With expanding possibilities for listeners to speak and contribute to live radio broadcasts, new ways of imagining the position of the audience emerge. However, the nature and political potential of the ‘audience-as-public’ is not straightforward. As audience members engage, those who manage and shape the broadcast must imagine, interpret and respond. Others in the audience, to the station host, producer, invited guests, make sense of the interaction, who is speaking and who they represent, and the significance of ideas raised. Given the plurality of those involved, the nature and significance of the audience can be imagined in multiple and competing ways. To deepen understanding of the political potentialities of the audience-as-public, this paper draws on interview, survey and observation data on the perspectives of station hosts, guests and listeners in Zambia and Kenya. Within the context of particular stations and localities, it examines the dynamic, plural and conflicting ways in which the audience is being reconstructed as an active ‘public’. From here, this paper evaluates the particular nature of the ‘audience-as-public’, and the possibilities it presents to construct new ideas about power and authority. The political significance of the ‘audience-as-public’, it is argued, lies in the very fact that multiple, competing imaginaries are at play, are invested in by actors pursuing diverse ends, and, amidst such contingent possibilities, create tangible political effects

Paper 4

Moorman Marissa / Indiana University

Sonic Colony: Radio Clubs, Urban Sounds, and Sports, Angola 1930-74

Like other colonies where radio symbolized modernity and the civilizing presence of the colonial state, Angola’s specific radio history exposes radio’s double status as political and modern object and institution. But this paper tells a history of radio in colonial Angola that differs from accounts of broadcasting in other colonial territories. Radio was not first and foremost a colonial state preoccupation, but a form of settler recreation and a target of African musicians keen to promote their music. When the colonial state decided to make radio a priority, it did so in response to the nationalist movements guerrilla radios. Here I discuss radio in the hands and ears of the settlers and the Africans resident in urban areas before that struggle broke out.
It returns me to key questions that possessed Theodor Adorno who pondered how the radio broadcast as much as if not more than what it broadcast. In “Radio Physiognomics” and “The Radio Voice” he brings psychology, sociology, and technology together to parse the radio. Thinking with Adorno about how the radio broadcasts distinguishs what the settlers created from what the colonial state would build as much as the continuities of how radio works. I also use work in sound studies to think about how sound means. In and around radio we find a set of listening and broadcasting practices that help us understand some of the processes of late colonialism in the Angolan territory even as we limn an alternative history of technology.

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