Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Radio ways: Society, locality, and FM technology in Koutiala, Mali
by Tower, Craig, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2008, 351; 3331153
Abstract (Summary)

This study in media anthropology uses participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, and recorded broadcasts to analyze how people use FM radio technology in the Koutiala area of southeast Mali, and particularly how they use FM radio to produce locality by relating audience members to one another, to the dominant national culture, and to international donor groups. The current state of FM broadcasting in Mali emerged when radio regulation was loosened during the transition from one-party state to multi-party democracy in the early 1990s.

I examine the diverse practices of social interaction facilitated by FM radio stations, or what I call "FM radio ways." I argue that because of their precarious financial positions, radio stations use one set of strategies to their listening audience and another set to address a secondary non-listening audience of donor groups. I show that FM stations write documents in French for donor groups, describing their programs using discourses of democracy promotion and minority culture preservation. For their largely illiterate listeners, FM stations produce most programs in the unofficial national language, Bamanankan, and read paid interpersonal announcements on the air, relying on the system of face-to-face communication for the recirculation of messages broadcast using radio technology. I use observations and interviews to argue that the most popular FM stations in Koutiala encourage messages and donations from ardent listeners by engaging in localized factional conflict with government officials, other radio stations, and individuals who have aggrieved club members. I argue that FM stations allocate program time to different listener groups according to their place in the national ethnolinguistic and religious hierarchy, using these programs as icons of social identity along patterns established by the national radio station. In Koutiala, my interviews demonstrate that stations represent localized rural ethnic groups, like the Minyanka, with a few minority language programs, while obscuring traditional Minyanka ritual practices which many dominant Muslims view negatively.

This study offers insights into how locality is created through the mediated circulation of social information and knowledge, and how everyday uses of media technologies in new contexts may alter scholarly understandings of their role in society.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Launay, Robert
Commitee: Hansen, Karen Tranberg, Hoffman, Katherine E., Schwoch, James J.
School: Northwestern University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 69/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Mass communications
Keywords: Africa, Cultural representation, FM technology, Koutiala, Language ideology, Mali, Media anthropology, Politics, Radio, Technology
Publication Number: 3331153
ISBN: 978-0-549-88412-5
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