The anthropology of radio fields

Lucas Bessire, Daniel Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


This review surveys a resurgent ethnographic interest in radio media in order to identify the contours and potentials of an emergent anthropology of radio. We first locate such scholarship in relation to long-standing questions about the nature and power of technological mediation, as well as voice, sound, and aurality. This allows us to reveal how conceptualizations of a singular ontology of radio often implicitly underwrite most accounts of its social power. Finally, we draw attention to how recent but rarely consolidated anthropological efforts to engage ethnographically with radio technology and its sensorial affordances require critically rethinking the relationships among radio, ontology, and mediation. In doing so, this review advances a new working definition of radio: not as an old medium on the verge of obsolescence, but as a vibrant domain for acoustically resignifying the ontological that merits sustained ethnographic exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-378
Number of pages16
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Media
  • Ontology
  • Radio
  • Sound
  • Voice


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