Indigenous activists globally have used radio broadcast to directly challenge authority within colonial regimes. How has this use of sound by Indigenous activists advanced anti-colonial struggles? I analyze how Indigenous social actors use the medium of broadcast to draw sound into the social practice of anti-colonial struggle. I use two historical examples of anti-colonial radio programming: The Voice of Free Algeria, a program broadcast during the Algerian War for Independence from 1954 to 1962, and Radio Free Alcatraz, a program broadcast during the Indigenous-led occupation of the island of Alcatraz off the coast of California from 1969 to 1971. I find that in both anti-colonial struggles, the broadcasting process disrupted the colonial soundscape in three main ways. First, in recentering Indigenous voices as protagonists, the broadcasts decentered the dominant narrative of colonial powers. This perspectival shift threatened the existing order of non-Indigenous residents as the authorial voice. Second, in circumventing the state to air these two programs, the broadcasters rejected state authority to define and restrict Indigenous voices. Third, in conspiring with non-Indigenous outsiders to air the programs, the practice of broadcasting Indigenous voices contributed to a broader movement-building process. This collaboration involved non-Indigenous and settler actors in anti-colonial struggle. By using a socio-sonic, production-oriented analysis as the framework for understanding Indigenous soundwork, we can better identify related mechanisms across anti-colonial struggles.
Anti-Colonial Struggles on Air: Challenging the Colonial Soundscape through Indigenous Soundwork
Laura Garbes is a PhD candidate in sociology at Brown University, where she studies racism and cultural organizations. Her dissertation explores how sound, performance, and labor became racialized in the public broadcasting industry, and why it matters for both workers and audiences.
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Laura Garbes; Anti-Colonial Struggles on Air: Challenging the Colonial Soundscape through Indigenous Soundwork. Resonance 1 December 2021; 2 (4): 604–622. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/res.2021.2.4.604
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