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Radio: Radio Fields: Introduction

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Additional Information. Project MUSE Mission Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Contact Contact Us Help. Such trends are particularly evident in scholarship that focuses on the decades-long use of small-scale or community radio transmitters as tools for promoting development and democracy by a variety of communities, international funders, and national NGOs.

Throughout the s and s, such models of development communications were effectively challenged by scholars pointing out the persistent inequalities and forms of dominance occasioned by these projects Escobar This emancipatory paradigm presumes often uncritically that empowerment is the actual and the ideal result of small-scale radio practice.

Empowerment, in turn, is increasingly viewed as a crucial element for developing civil society, strengthening institutions, and promoting democracy Hill ; Rozario ; Stern, Delthier, and Rogers Fisher ; Myers ; Norrish ; Tabing It has been particularly influential in promoting the spread of community radios in Africa and Asia, a commitment which has also entailed actively developing new, widely accessible radio technologies Fraser and Restrepo-Estrada ; UNESCO This framing of alternative and community media finds strong empirical and critical support in studies of Latin American radiophony.

Such works often draw on a Marxist critique of commercial and state-produced media as forms of ideological domination. They commonly underline the necessity for participation in noncommercial media production by politically marginalized groups and those uprooted by capitalist economies, such as migrant Bolivian communities in Buenos Aires Grimson or the Andean migrant radios of Lima Llorens ; Martin-Barbero , Many accounts of radio in Latin America thus describe radio technology as an ideal tool for popular or class protest Dagron and Cajias ; but see Martin-Barbero Thus, a number of ethnographically oriented works on radio in Latin America focus on the preconditions for political participation see Winocur Anthropologist Diana Agosta , for instance, points to the ownership of new alternative radio stations in El Salvador as an emergent civil society in which participation is itself a value emerging from the practice of radiophony.

While these issues are clearest in environments where radio clearly speaks in the voice of state interests, this perspective has traveled to other social contexts as a normative trope for radios real voice. Small-scale radio, then, becomes described as a technology that produces a predictable democratizing effect opposed to the alienation of mainstream media cf. Spinelli Others have described the ways radio media—commercial, state sponsored, and community based alike—may provide the building blocks for a range of social identities and social movements Chignell ; cf.

Hall Bull , Schiffer , and Zilm , for instance, each draw attention to the ways that the portable nature of the radio set, including its important status in the automobile, shapes its social uptake. While Hartley and his interlocutors are preoccupied with the promise of radio to.

Global Indigenous Media - Cultures - Poetics - and Politics by Pamela | Fruugo

For David Hendy, the tension between accounts of radios demagogic potential and its popular, democratic appeal has instead been a powerful rubric for questioning the degree of power we lend the medium itself. The contributors to this volume take such features as central ethnographic questions, but not merely as empirical problems to be solved with better data.

For instance, several contributors to this collection note the social variability and complicity between forms of liberal governmentality and the understandings of voice and subjectivity encouraged in forms of participatory communication. This perspective also benefits from broader analyses within both anthropology and media and communications studies that open the very concept of communication to historical and metapragmatic critique Axel ; Peters ; cf.

Kittler Schafer Such perspectives begin to theorize the mediated sonic environment and point to the interactions between capital, technology, and expressive form by which radio emplaces listeners in a variety of ways see also Corbin Bazzana ; Strauss and Mandl Their explorations of the aesthetic implications of audio media have inspired a range of recent radio criticism that lends insight into how radios possibilities encourage reexamination of the relationship between sound, technology, and social life Kahn and Whitehead ; Weiss Such experiments in writing and radio continue to prove inspirational both within anthropology and without Erlman ; Feld ; Westerkamp , and have been an important resource for reimagining radio as both art and expressive culture.

This emerging scholarship on the social life of sound frequently places audio technology at its center and often employs conceptual frames drawn from science and technology studies. Such work includes writings about the acoustics of concert halls Thompson ; the soundscapes of infirmaries Rice and village squares Corbin ; the history of sound reproduction, telephony, and radiophony Gitelman , ; Sterne ; and anthropological attention to the institutional production of expertise around digital music and the engineering of sonic culture Born ; Greene and Porcello ; cf.

Pinch and Bijsterveld ; Pinch and Trocco This work builds on a broader effort to bring together social history and cultural analysis with an interest in the technological entailments of media forms more broadly cf. Kittler ; Liu For example, Jonathan Sterne deploys the concept of transduction, a term from physics which refers to the conversion between one form of energy to another, to gain critical distance on the materiality of sound cf. Helmreich , while Lisa Gitelman writes of the broader protocols and conceptual claims that coalesce around new media technologies by comparing recorded sound and telephony with the World Wide Web.

In this more recent work, the question is less one of a relationship between an electronic medium and its audience and more between technology and epistemology. While not about radio per se, such expansive attention to sound and its mediation provide significant axes for thinking about radio fields. Bhimji ; Coupland ; Scannell Others have focused on the complex ways in which media language practices interpellate listeners into wider constituents of a nation, ethnicity, or social collective see Barnett Such sociolinguistic research has entailed substantial albeit not thematically coherent contributions from anthropologists and ethnographically focused scholars.

Linguistic research has also been an important source for articles on indigenous radio production as a kind of archival resource for further exploration of the pragmatics of speech genres Shaul Although a good deal of such work presumes radios transparency and neutrality as a channel for language rather than as constitutive of its socially specific forms and practices, many such scholars also foreground the effects of audio media on speech pragmatics.

Much of this work has focused on the particular format of talk radio see Katriel ; Matza Linguistic anthropologists working within this broad domain focus on the interanimation of media and linguistic form, foregrounding how radio has provided new forums for valuing language practices for many minority and indigenous communities see Browne ,,; Cormack ; Eisenlohr ; Fava ; Luykx , including [the languages of the] Aymara Albo ; Swinehart , Navajo Klain and Peterson ; Peterson , Lakota Smith and Cornette , and Kuna Gerdes [peoples]. Such scholarship begins to suggest the numerous linguistic resources speakers engage on the radio in order to key social difference and to establish effective mediatized communicative frames.

Such accounts also begin to locate such media practices within a wider set of social, political, and economic conditions. This volume defines an anthropology of radio in relation to the intellectual trends and projects discussed in the preceding sections. In doing so, it draws a crucial distinction between radio scholarship based on fieldwork methodologies in general and the specific conceptual concerns of media anthropologists as applied to radio. Moreover, such concerns are not homogeneous or uniform.

In this section, we bring the insights of the chapters into dialogue with one another, as well as with some of the major questions in radio scholarship detailed earlier. The aim is to illustrate the diversity of radio sociality and productive tensions within analyses of it. Radio encompasses a range of electromagnetic frequencies, broadcast formats, wireless networks, and programming genres, which range from two-way dyadic handsets to corporate news broadcasts or from live link-ups with cell phones to Internet streaming of popular music that extends far beyond the reach of actual radio waves.

Together, the contributors illustrate a staggering diversity of radio technologies, even as they reveal the unpredictability of their social effects. Each contribution follows radio into unsettling and provocative questions. All the contributions, however, share a basic focus on the complex intersection of radio technology and emergent social relations. Rather, they describe how the communities empowered by radio technologies must be understood as constituted, to some degree, by the very media forms they adopt. In the examples described in this volume, the contributors each show how this relationship is shaped by the particular qualities of radio, as an assemblage of expertise, material circuitry, listening practices, and sound.

In doing so, they expand on the central insight of such different writers such as Frantz Fanon and Friedrich Kittler and more historicist analyses of communication Axel ; Peters The chapters are loosely organized along five conceptual axes. Each axis represents a widespread approach to radios sociality. At the same time, however, we have argued that radio is a compelling ethnographic site precisely because it exceeds any singular analytic heuristic and entails putting multiple interpretative frameworks to work.

This means that each of the chapters may offer a distinct set of orienting concerns, even while speaking to multiple axes or approaches. Such groupings, then, are far from rigid or deterministic. Instead, they are intended to reveal some of the central resonances and tensions around which this volume has taken shape. In what follows, we signal the divergences and overlaps of the concerns illustrated by the chapters, both singly and in dialogue with one another, and suggest what theoretical significance they may hold for the future anthropology of radio fields.

Yet such generic equations risk overlooking the specific ways this figure has become widely compelling and consequential. The voice has thus been problematized by ethnographers concerned with theorizing agency, with pursuing a phenomenology of social interaction, and with detailing the ways in which new media technologies inform or problematize local expressive economies Feld et al.

As the contributors to this volume make clear, radio offers a unique site for the ethnographic analysis of the mediatized voice; the specific and variable ways it interpellates listeners as members of audiences, collectives, and publics; and the means by which it shapes and shades affective experience. At the same time, they call attention to the ways such dynamics vary according to the particular forms of radio transmission commercial, pirate, small scale, two way and to how they are embedded within larger social, political, and historical contexts.

Activism, television and reconciliation narratives

Such questions are taken up explicitly in the first two chapters by Laura Kunreuther and Daniel Fisher. Kunreuther see also draws from extensive fieldwork to trace the cultural history of FM broadcasting in Nepal and its significance for the democracy movements of the s. She describes how, in many accounts of modernity, the voice is nostalgically recalled as a primordial site of agency and authenticity, in contrast to the presumed distancing effects of sight.

Yet while Nepalese discourses of the modern foreground the immediacy and transparency of a radio voice, Kunreuther also describes how older forms of social relations persist in forms of radio-station ownership and programming. Fisher see also describes how Aboriginal radio producers at FM stations in urban Australia negotiate tensions between their understandings of the voice as a technologically malleable site of expressive practice and as the foundation of indigenous identity and political agency.

As with Kunreuther, this chapter questions the global spread of a particular expressive ideology and its problematic relationship to media technologies. The techniques of radio and its globally mobile musical content make the sounds of Aboriginal voices provocative and problematic. They become imbued with an uncanny character, at once of particular Aboriginal selves and other to them. In these chapters, as well as in contributions by Dorothea Schulz, Jeffrey S. More than an expression of resistance or personal expression, it gains its social life through particular technologies, local linguistic ideologies, and specific institutional practices.

Expression, in different degrees, is shaped by the particular social practices and materials institutional, technological, and cultural by which radio sound is produced. Yet these broad suppositions emerge from particular historical moments. Kunreuther and Fisher thus join other contributors to show how particular radio publics are constituted in dialogue with local and changing conditions of cultural production.

Whereas Kunreuther and Fisher focus on social poetics and discourses of personhood and identity in a national context, Kaplan and Schulz turn to the nation as an explicitly central frame for exploring such questions. Pioneering scholarship by Martin Hadlow , Rudolf Mrazek , and Lissant Bolton underscores the crucial role that broadcast radio plays in constructing national imaginaries. Favoring the logic of live editing over predetermined programming, radio engineers become active interpreters of what it means to be an Israeli citizen. They use radio sound to mark certain events as nationally significant, including the states of emergency that are all too familiar for most residents.

Moreover, Kaplan describes how such strategies are taken up by private broadcasters as a way to remain publicly relevant in a rapidly changing media environment. For Kaplan, the conditions of broadcast radio production play a crucial role in defining events and imbuing them with significance within wider imaginaries of the nation. Broadcast radio and talk programs do not always reinforce or produce a shared imaginary of the nation.

Rather, this technology may also reflect profound tensions implied by negotiating gendered citizenship within the variety of competing social interests organized within a single state. Such frames are complicated even further in cases where citizenship is overlain or held commensurate with the moral values of a dominant religious faith or a foundational narrative of persecution.

Like Kunreuther, Fisher, Lynn Stephen, Bessire, and Blanton, Schulz explores how radio broadcasting, as a relatively new technology of mediating religion, inflects the message it publicizes with culturally specific notions of voice, sound, and authority. In the case of Mali, radio broadcasts circumscribe audience engagements with religious texts and reconfigure public debate by fostering new imaginations and norms of religious community as well as moral difference. Rather than assuming that audio reproduction technologies introduced radical ontological changes or focusing on the disruptions in the foundations of religious authority they generate, Schulz illustrates several significant continuities in how authority is claimed and assigned over the radio, as well as the ways in which listeners attribute significance to a variety of social practices or discourses through their media engagements.

Citizenship, for Kaplan and Schulz, then, is indelibly shaped by radio technology. As in the chapters by Kunreuther, Fisher, Kaplan, Juris, Kosnick, Bessire, Tacchi, and Vidali-Spitulnik, it arises from complex negotiations organized by radio networks whose social effects routinely exceed any single national project or state agenda. While broadcast radio plays a central role in setting the terms of discourses of the nation, a process intensified when listeners are able to call in and talk back to the messages they are hearing, as in the talk radio described in chapters by Schulz, Melinda Hinkson, and Blanton, or the two-way radio described in the chapter by Bessire.

Each of the chapters signals that such relationships between radio production and national imaginaries are deeply linked to the experience of listening to and speaking with radios voice. The chapters of this collection draw attention to the phenomenological and affective components of citizenship, or how it arises from particular bodily practices and cultivated sensibilities. In doing so, tracking radio sociality also comments on a central concern for anthropologists interested in the senses and the critical ethnography of sentiment Hirshkind ; Seremetakis In the case of Russian radio call-in programs examined by Tomas Matza , for example, radio technology enables widespread anxieties about neoliberal political economies to be envisioned as an interior subjective space and mediated over the airwaves.

Such processes open new spaces for surveillance and subjection but also point to the ways radio technology promotes complex entanglements of self-making and public-making that can be channeled into a variety of agendas and outcomes, including but not limited to those controlled or regulated by states. Often these notions are taken as givens when radio use involves members of indigenous, peasant, or minority groups that have historically been figured in both romantic and derogatory terms as outside of history and radically other to modernity and its projects.

Imperfect Media: The Poetics of Indigenous Media in Chile (Phd Thesis)

This volume follows sophisticated accounts by Kathy Buddie-Crowe , and Lucila Vargas in taking the relation between community and radio as a primary ethnographic question. Chapters by Lynn Stephen, Melinda Hinkson, and Jeff Juris describe three distinct modes of small-scale, local radio practices in relation to larger social and political contexts. Stephen describes what happens when a popular uprising targets radio, in this case a landmark womens march in Oaxaca, Mexico, that took over state-owned and commercial radio stations. She explores why community radio suddenly spread across the area after the march and relates new opportunities for participatory democracy in Oaxaca to the postmarch integration of testimonial speech genres as central to regional radio broadcasts.

Stephen argues that the potential of broadcast community radio to become a political force in this case arises because it provides a forum for expanding the speech genre of personal testimonial. Such testimonials, which emphasize inclusive participation and emotional expressions, are a longstanding feature of local community governance in Oaxaca.

The women marchers, by inserting their voices into radio broadcasts, effectively claimed a valid space for participation within the democratic process of the nation, precisely because they made personal testimonials a central part of radio sociality For Stephen, the antihegemonic or empowering potentials of radio broadcasting depend on direct action and language ideologies or communicational style. The ideal aim of the community uprising in Oaxaca was not generalized resistance but, rather, the specific inclusion of a variety of minority voices within the democratic political process; radio technology played a pivotal role in realizing this aim.

Hinkson describes a distinct relation between local communities and broadcast radio in central Australia. Whereas Stephen focused on the ways commercial stations became a negative catalyst for community mobilization, Hinkson describes how local broadcast practices are related to Aboriginal cultural reproduction. The Warlpiri Media Association was established in Yuendumu, central Australia in , two years before national broadcasting was introduced into remote Australia. Over the subsequent two and a half decades, the activity undertaken by this organization has been influenced by changing funding and policy circumstances as well as the shifting dynamics of intercultural collaboration.

In this chapter, Hinkson explores broadcasting by the Pintupi Anmatyerre Warlpiri radio network, which operates across eleven communities spread across a vast region. She focuses on the distinctive approach of young Warlpiri people to on-air broadcasting and locates their media practices within particular Warlpiri cultural imperatives. In this chapter, Hinkson describes how Warlpiri people utilize on-air dedications to publicly proclaim and cite an expanding field of mobile and dynamic interpersonal relationships.

Rather, she shows how broadcast radio is a critical tool for reproducing the defining values and subjectivities of a contemporary Warlpiri community within the complex conditions of postcolonial Aboriginal Australia. Juris explores similar questions from the perspective of illegal urban radios in Mexico.

Given the extreme concentration of Mexican media in the hands of two large conglomerates, one response has been to attempt to build a democratic movement for communication rights.


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The free media movement proposes an alternative strategy: instead of pushing for legal access, free radios encourage communicational autonomy by taking the airwaves through illegal transmissions, posing a significant challenge to both private and state-oriented media. On the one hand, free radio activists view their refusal to apply for legal permits as part of a growing politics of autonomy among Mexican grassroots movements.

On the other hand, this oppositional stance means that free radios are under constant surveillance and threat of repression. Juris thus argues that illegality is a necessary condition and also an obstacle to the politics of autonomy among free radios in Mexico. These chapters describe three distinct kinds of relations between minority or indigenous communities and small-scale broadcast radio. Despite these differences, the contributors to this volume are in accord on four main points. The first is that the terms of community, resistance, and autonomy are each set to varying degrees by local radio practices.

Radio technology is generative of such effects in ways that are specific to both auditory media and particular contexts of control and adjudication. Second, each of the accounts illustrates the central role of mediated voice and vocal address to the constitution and circulation of authority at various social scales. Third, a key component in radios ability to shape forms of authority in each case derives from the fact that its users hold multiple subject positions simultaneously.

Finally, these dynamics unsettle the notion that small-scale radio use necessary implies an antihegemonic stance. Rather, community radio use can further a variety of contradictory social agendas see also Flueckiger Even in cases where resistance is the explicit aim, each of the chapters shows how the technological features of broadcast radio imply a series of complex negotiations and outcomes.

A common theme linking all of the chapters is the tension between local social projects and the border-crossing potentials of radio technology. For many anthropologists and each contributor to this volume, attending to radio and its vocality has called attention beyond explicit staging of identities in a single place to the highly mobile and fluid registers of belonging that characterize much everyday engagement with uncontainable radio waves cf.

Appadurai , Radio has proven a particularly apt technology of dramatic emplotment, sentimental scripts, and feelings of longing, nostalgia, desire, or hope as they move over time and space, including international borders see Abu-Lughod ; Fink et al. Chapters by Kosnick and Bessire, as well as other contributors, examine how radio offers a unique vantage onto the debate about how deterritorialized media practices within a global mediascape reorganize a variety of identifications and senses of belonging to the local, the nation, and diasporic communities.

In this volume, Kosnick in particular tracks radio practices among peoples and institutions whose social lives contest old boundaries and create new spaces of imagination from which to engage the global reordering of politics and economics. Given that the stations stated mission is to give a voice to ethnic minorities on its airwaves, Kosnick describes how it negotiated the manifold difficulties associated with rendering ethno-cultural diversity audible on its airwaves.

Kosnick troubles the notion that giving voice is itself a transparent process or alone sufficient to allow for expanded political participation, even as she shows how radio technology may be a central technology for imagining political sensibilities through recognizably foreign sounds. In doing so, she offers a distinct perspective on the transnational politics of voice and vocal citizenship.

Ayoreo-speaking people use two-way radio sets to build cross-border alliances around formulaic expressions of everyday emotion and news of suffering or ill bodies. Two-way radio becomes an effective technology for collective self-objectification by linguistically standardizing a unique Ayoreo vision of moral modernity around phatic exchanges in a transcendent acoustic space.

Yet Bessire also argues that such Ayoreo media practices have long been misrecognized by outsiders, who have either ignored their generative effects altogether or only interpreted these relative to the artificially limited set of practices that count as indigenous tradition or cultural authenticity in the region.

For both authors, radio tunes the researcher in to the complex social interplay that renders borders simultaneously porous and surprisingly durable. Like other scholarship on this area, Kosnick and Bessire, as well as Kunreuther, Fisher, Hinkson, Schulz, and Blanton, emphasize that radio may increase access to a global set of signs and symbols that are always locally coproduced and that the meaning of this access is rooted in particular ways of understanding the relationships between voice, information, power, and space.

Similarly, Andrew Skuse , writing about the production of BBC radio soap operas intended for audiences in pre Afghanistan, has examined the fraught process by which corporate and state agencies attempt to anticipate, activate, and export such sentimental sequences. It may also pattern or structure other kinds of perception. Through rapid tempos of speaking, lexical creativity, and liberal code switching, broadcasters bring together cultural practice and technological innovation to provide a space to index the limits of a Navajo community.

At other times, broadcast styles or vocal inflections associated with elsewhere are mimicked or parodied. Aurolyn Luykx addresses the significance of satellite radio technologies for vernacular broadcasting and language maintenance programs in Quechua-speaking regions of the Andes, arguing that the significance of this technology emerges in the lack of support it receives from state agencies and the not-unrelated sense of ownership its listeners experience through hearing familiar sounds.

Karl Swinehart describes a distinct dynamic, in which programmers at Radio San Gabriel, the oldest Aymara-language station in Bolivia, intentionally edit content for linguistic purity. Chapters by Blanton, Tacchi and Vidali-Spitulnik explicitly make language and perception central to their analyses and extend existing insights in unexpected ways.

Blanton draws from ethnographic observations of Appalachian radio faith healers to explore the unanticipated centrality of tactile experience within listening to prayer over the radio, usually understood as an exclusively auditory phenomenon. Charismatic practices such as skein prayer and radio tactility, he argues, can be seen as performative negotiations of a specific technologically mediated environment just as much as attempts to influence and instantiate supernatural power. He suggests that there are crucial moments within the ritual context when the performance of prayer and the technical apparatus of radio become indistinguishable.

In his analysis, the language of prayer is fundamentally altered when it is passed through radio circuitry, even as radio sets themselves function to extend the perceptual and tactile capacities of the listening, praying subject. While young adults nostalgically associate radio with the past, their uses of digitally mediated audio, including streamed radio, closely mirror the domestic role occupied by radio some two decades ago. While Blanton and Tacchi foreground the relations between the nature of mediated sound and social experience, Vidali-Spitulnik uses radio to describe a relationship between language and perception.

Vidali-Spitulnik makes this argument, in large part, by describing nouns and verbs for radio broadcasting from the Bemba language. For Vidali-Spitulnik, radio also fundamentally transforms language, meaning, and perception see also Fox ; Kapchan ; Morris ; Pazderic Taken together, these five axes by no means exhaust the potential conversations suggested by the following chapters.

Account Options

Other potential conversations focus on the particular orientations toward speech entailed by radio. Chapters by Schulz, Bessire, and Blanton, for instance, identify a similar relationship between radio sound, the perceptual constitution of religious faith, and the efficacy of prayer Oosterbaan , Chapters by Fisher and Kosnick suggest that radio production may encourage a broadly reflexive understanding of vocal expression, opening speech to both technical manipulation and social examination cf. Hirschkind ; Silverstein The contributions of Kunreuther, Schulz, and Stephen, in turn, raise important questions about how radio informs a range of gendered expressive repertoires cf.

Buddle-Crowe ; Imam And as the contributions from Fisher and Tacchi both suggest, radio technologies are being transformed and sustained through their imbrication with digital media. This latter potential conversation represents an exciting area for further research that may clarify how the specific capacities of any media technology are fundamentally consequential to its social uptake cf. Black ; Postill , ; Wall The aim of this collection, then, is not to restrict analysis to only five axes but rather to suggest both the potentials and the challenges entailed in developing a programmatic approach to radio as a terrain for anthropological exploration.

This volume brings the conceptual tensions described earlier to an emerging anthropology of radio. But these essays also provoke us to think comparatively about what radio does in fact unsettle, alter, create, or evoke across such diverse domains. While this volume aims to de-essentialize the boundaries of its primary object, it also seeks to encourage conversations about relationships between social context and technological form, radio sound and governance, and between transnational forms of media activism and political agency.

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These conversations necessarily attend to the daily practices and embodied perceptions by which radios ontology is made intelligible and effective within a given social context, as well as the material, institutional, and technological features that link such practices in any locale with those in another. In short, the chapters that follow ask us to approach radio as historically specific assemblages of technology, technique, and social relations that are also interconnected, of consequence for one another, and amenable to comparative ethnographic analysis.

We understand radio fields as interrelated domains in which radio technologies, audiences, and electronic sounds shape the social lives of our subjects, even as they enliven the anthropological imagination and orient ethnographic research and analysis in new directions. Radio asks anthropologists to think about the relation and disconnect between their different fields in a distinct register.

The contributors point to the fact that radio may be about circuits of kinship or personhood, as much as about communication or the aesthetics of electronic sound. Indeed, we argue that such distinctions themselves pose new questions. The contributions that follow demonstrate how ethnographic attention to radio enriches anthropological perceptions with the insights from media and sound studies, and vice versa. Notes Endnote links: If you click on the number that identifies the endnote, you will be taken back to the point in the text where the endnote anchor occurs; and vice versa. Abu-Lughod, Lila.

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