Radio Fields

Anthropology and Wireless Sound in the 21st Century

298 pages

5 halftones, 2 tables

November, 2012

ISBN: 9780814738191



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Lucas Bessire is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma.  

All books by Lucas Bessire

Daniel Fisher is a lecturer in Anthropology at Macquarie University. 

All books by Daniel Fisher

Faye Ginsburg is David B. Kriser Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Graduate Program in Culture and Media at New York University.

All books by Faye Ginsburg

Radio is the most widespread electronic medium in the world today. As a form of technology that is both durable and relatively cheap, radio remains central to the everyday lives of billions of people around the globe. It is used as a call for prayer in Argentina and Appalachia, to organize political protest in Mexico and Libya, and for wartime communication in Iraq and Afghanistan. In urban centers it is played constantly in shopping malls, waiting rooms, and classrooms. Yet despite its omnipresence, it remains the media form least studied by anthropologists.
Radio Fields employs ethnographic methods to reveal the diverse domains in which radio is imagined, deployed, and understood. Drawing on research from six continents, the volume demonstrates how the particular capacities and practices of radio provide singular insight into diverse social worlds, ranging from aboriginal Australia to urban Zambia. Together, the contributors address how radio creates distinct possibilities for rethinking such fundamental concepts as culture, communication, community, and collective agency.


  • "Radio Fields crackles and buzzes with the social life of radio and the noise of an anthropology of close listening. I can't imagine a more well-theorized and deeply grounded entrée to the sensory mediation politics of radiophony in global public culture."

    —Steven Feld, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Music, University of New Mexico

  • "In a series of striking case studies, Radio Fields reveals the vibrancy and diversity of wireless technologies across an enormous geographic range. From radio that constitutes the nation to the pirate, religious, indigenous and ‘free’ radio that provide alternatives to it, the essays draw out the breadth of contemporary radio practices.  Mixing together technological analyses of voice, liveness, and immediacy with their political effects, the volume shows how radio is felt as well as heard, and brings out the entanglements of audition, religion, technology, and politics that makes up the social life of radio around the world."

    —Brian Larkin, Barnard College, Columbia University

  • "Its potential for creating renewed interest and research on radio's relationship with culture and social change has been carefully cultivated, and that may ultimately be a much more significant achievement."

    —Peter Hart-Brinson, Mobilization

  • "Radio fields has been recognized as a stimulating subject of research by a handful of interdisciplinary and regionally focused volumes, but Radio Fields represents a concentrated effort to insert an anthropological voice into their discussions...Radio Fields is poised to inspire further research."

    Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute