A pioneering analysis of radio as both a cultural and material production, Communities of the Air explores radio’s powerful role in shaping Anglo-American culture and society since the early twentieth century. Scholars and radio writers, producers, and critics look at the many ways radio generates multiple communities over the air—from elite to popular, dominant to resistant, canonical to transgressive. The contributors approach radio not only in its own right, but also as a set of practices—both technological and social—illuminating broader issues such as race relations, gender politics, and the construction of regional and national identities.
Drawing on the perspectives of literary and cultural studies, science studies and feminist theory, radio history, and the new field of radio studies, these essays consider the development of radio as technology: how it was modeled on the telephone, early conflicts between for-profit and public uses of radio, and amateur radio (HAMS), local programming, and low-power radio. Some pieces discuss how radio gives voice to different cultural groups, focusing on the BBC and poetry programming in the West Indies, black radio, the history of alternative radio since the 1970s, and science and contemporary arts programming. Others look at radio’s influence on gender (and gender’s influence on radio) through examinations of Queen Elizabeth’s broadcasts, Gracie Allen’s comedy, and programming geared toward women. Together the contributors demonstrate how attention to the variety of ways radio is used and understood reveals the dynamic emergence and transformation of communities within the larger society.
Contributors. Laurence A. Breiner, Bruce B. Campbell, Mary Desjardins, Lauren M. E. Goodlad, Nina Hunteman, Leah Lowe, Adrienne Munich, Kathleen Newman, Martin Spinelli, Susan Merrill Squier, Donald Ulin, Mark Williams, Steve Wurzler