Communities of the Air

Radio Century, Radio Culture

Communities of the Air

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 8 illus. Published: June 2003

American Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Media Technologies

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.

s. 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


"[Squier] has done a commendable job assembling a diverse cast of contributors. Coming from a wide range of disciplines, they succeed in bringing refreshing and discerning perspectives to the subject. The book greatly enriches the expanding body of literature in radio studies while providing scholars more grist for their mills." — Christopher Sterling and Michael Keith, Communication Booknotes Quarterly

"Squier succeeds in her effort to bring broader attention to the study of radio as culture. Recommended." — C. L. Clements , Choice

"The dazzling variety of subjects and sites of investigation make this an exciting volume to explore." — Derek Vaillant, Journal of American History

Communities of the Air covers historical periods, genres, performers, program types, and audiences not previously discussed in this still all too thin area of radio studies.“ — Susan Jeanne Douglas, author of Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination

“Turn up the volume! At last, we’re tuned in to the right frequency for radio studies. We all listen to radio, we remember our lives through it—and now we have the tools to understand it too.“ — Toby Miller, author of Technologies of Truth: Cultural Citizenship and Popular Media


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Price: $27.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Susan Merrill Squier is Brill Professor of Women’s Studies and English at Pennsylvania State University. She is author of Babies in Bottles: Twentieth-Century Visions of Reproductive Technology and coeditor of Playing Dolly: Technocultural Formations, Fantasies, and Fictions of Assisted Reproduction and Arms and the Woman: War, Gender, and Literary Representation.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Communities of the Air: Introducing the Radio World / Susan M. Squier 1

Radio Technology across the Twentieth Century

AT&T Invents Public Access Broadcasting in 1923: A Foreclosed Model for American Radio / Steven Wurtzler 39

Compromising Technologies: Government, the Radio Hobby, and the Discourse of Catastrophe in the Twentieth Century / Bruce Campbell 63

A Promise Diminished: The Politics of Low-Power Radio / Nina Huntemann 76

Radio Cultures

Caribbean Voices on the Air: Radio, Poetry, and Nationalism in the Anglophone Caribbean / Laurence A. Breiner 93

The Forgotten Fifteen Million: Black Radio, Radicalism, and the Construction of the "Negro Market" / Kathy M. Newman 109

Packaged Alternatives: The Incorporation and Gendering of "Alternative" Radio / Lauren M. E. Goodlad 134

Science Literacies: The Mandate and Complicity of Popular Science on the Radio / Donald Ulin 164

Not Hearing Poetry on Public Radio / Martin Spinelli 195

Radio Ideologies

In the Radio Way: Elizabeth II, the Female Voice-Over, and the Radio's Imperial Effects / Adrienne Munich 217

"If the Country's Going Gracie, So Can You": Gender Representation in Gracie Allen's Radio Comedy / Leah Lowe 237

"Are You Lonesome Tonight?”: Gendered Address in The Lonesome Gal and The Continental / Mary Desjardins and Mark Williams 251

Wireless Possibilities, Posthuman Possibilities: Brain Radio, Community Radio, Radio Lazarus / Susan M. Squier 275

Contributors 305

Index 307
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3095-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3083-7
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