[P5803] Arabic Radio Broadcasting in the Early Mid-20th Century

Created by Andrea L. Stanton
Tuesday, 10/06/20 01:30 pm


This historical panel brings together five scholars working on 1910s-1940s Arabic-language radio broadcasting. Radio history remains an understudied sub-field within Middle Eastern studies, and this panel is intended to spark more sustained conversations about radio broadcasting, sound studies, and sounded histories.

Participating scholars will present a set of papers that are attentive to the matrix of opportunities and challenges presented by written and recorded archives, public and private. Their papers engage the relationships between states and radio broadcasting stations and consider the rich complexities of radio broadcasting, audio cultures, and aurality. The first paper examines the two decades leading up to the inauguration of the BBC’s Arabic and World Services, arguing that British imperial governance shifted from a narrow focus on winning over native elites to a mass cultural politics enabled by wireless broadcast technologies, with Egypt as a central locus of this transformation. The second paper traces some of Egypt’s early private radio stations, which operated from the late-1920s until May 1934, when they were all forcefully shutdown by the Egyptian government. Shedding more light on this important early period in Egyptian radio history and highlighting the role of some of these unacknowledged early radio pioneers, partially fills-in an important void in the history of early Egyptian media. The third explores content aimed at Gulf listeners in early BBC Arabic radio broadcasts during the late 1930s. It highlights how negotiations among British officials and local subjects surrounding broadcast content represented a push and pull between aspirations for Arab unity and the realities of governing and living within an effective extension of British India. The fourth paper focuses on the theatrical plays and poetry broadcast on the BBC’s Arabic service in the 1930s and 1940s, highlighting the importance of cultural programming in attracting listening audiences, and emphasizing broadcasting stations’ role in shaping mid-century Arabic drama and poetry. The fifth paper examines radio listeners’ responses to the Palestine Broadcasting Service (1936-1948) and emphasizes the various ways in which Arab Palestinians listeners engaged with the station and influenced its operation, thereby arguing for the importance of the PBS as a platform for Arab Palestinian culture.

Collectively, these papers argue for the integration of radio history and other media histories into political histories, as well as cultural and social history. More broadly, they argue for the importance of integrating sound into historical research – for sounded histories.


Hist; Media Arts




Marwan M. Kraidy

(Northwestern University Qatar)
Marwan M. Kraidy is Professor of Global Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He writes about the nexus of Arab media, culture and politics. Recently he was the Edward Said Chair of American Studies...
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Andrea L. Stanton

(University of Denver)
Dr. Stanton is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of Denver. Her research focuses on media and religious identity, and investigates the relationships between new technologies and claims...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;