Communications and Media in African History

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines how media technologies have constituted and transformed Africa’s multiple public spheres over the past two centuries. Exogenous and often ‘colonial’ in origin, print and electronic media have nonetheless induced new intellectual communities in which African actors played a determinative role. Knowledge and power had previously been tightly linked under the purview of precolonial elites. Colonial-era media transformed this relationship by attempting to democratize knowledge while monopolizing power, providing key opportunities for African political challengers. Newspapers and radio in particular extended the promise of political accountability, but often delivered the less-satisfying experience of state and corporate monopoly. Greater attention to the political economies in which media are embedded offers historians opportunity to integrate the material and economic lives of African actors with the better-studied intellectual trajectories of Africa’s varied public spheres.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Modern African History
EditorsJohn Parker, Richard Reid
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780199572472, 9780198779407
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013


  • public sphere
  • literacy
  • censorship
  • technology
  • press
  • radio
  • film
  • television
  • internet


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