Magazines of the Air: Radio and the Making of Postcolonial Literatures

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting

Remembering “the magic of the B.B.C. box” long after he had left for London, George Lamming described the event of a Caribbean Voices broadcast: “West Indian writers would meet in the same house and listen to these programmes,” absorbing “the curriculum for a serious all-night argument” and then wrangling “among themselves and against the absent English critic.” With venues for print often vanishingly small, radio assumed an outsized importance for postcolonial writers in the middle of the twentieth century, offering larger audiences, steadier remuneration, and programming with a generative mix of stories, poems, drama, and criticism. How did wireless outlets, and networks, shape literatures emerging from the protracted end of European empires? And how did literature and literary figures shape the developing medium of radio and the role it played in colonial territories and newly independent states? 

 Inviting papers that investigate the literary impact of radio across the decolonizing world, this seminar aims to stimulate fresh conversations at the intersections of radio and institutional studies, postcolonial and decolonial theory, media and mediation. We welcome interventions that address the relationship between postcolonial literatures (in any language) and radio from the birth of the medium through to the present. In the past fifteen years, there has been an exciting increase in studies of radio and literature, creating a foundation for further research into the archives, politics, and forms of radio broadcasting in the decolonial era. We seek new perspectives on well-known radio institutions and programs as well as on archives and writers that have not yet been taken up within radio studies. 

Potential topics include, but are not limited to: 

  • authors’ agency and control over creative works and programs;

  • radio producers as editors;

  • audience responses to literature on air; 

  • the magazine as an audio form;

  • voice: literary voice, broadcast voice(s), oral literatures, the resisting voice;

  • archive: radio archives, archival inequalities, radio as archive;

  • conceptualizing listening within the decolonizing world; 

  • intersectionality and experiences of oppression within radio institutions, as well as literary explorations of intersectional identity on air;

  • the persistence of a metropole’s power through its literary institutions;

  • the establishment of national broadcasters in newly independent states and their involvement with national literatures;

  • the paths from radio broadcast to print publication.

Please submit your paper proposal through the ACLA portal by September 30, 2023: Direct inquiries to seminar organizers Ben Fried ( and Julie Cyzewski (