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Fraser, Alastair (2024) 'The Limits of Governmentality: Call-in Radio and the Subversion of Neoliberal Evangelism in Zambia.' Journal of African Cultural Studies, 36 (1). pp. 41-57.

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The spread of mobile telephones in Africa has enabled a broad range of citizens to join live conversations on call-in radio shows. Both African governments and foreign aid agencies claim that broadcasting such debates can raise awareness, amplify the voices of the poor, and facilitate development and better governance; they now fund a large share of interactive shows in some countries. Critics of such participatory initiatives typically accept that they have powerful effects but worry that debates among citizens are deployed as a technology of “governmentality”, producing forms of popular subjectivity compatible with elitist economic systems and technocratic political regimes. This article argues that instrumentalising political debate is harder than either side assumes, and that the consequences of these shows are mainly unintended. It develops an in-depth case of a Zambian call-in radio programme, “Let’s Be Responsible Citizens”, emphasising the ability of the show’s audience, and its host, to subvert the programme’s surveillance and governmentality agenda, and to insist that the key responsibilities of citizens are to criticise, rather than adapt to, policies and systems of governance that do not meet their needs.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Radio; call-in; interactivity; governmentality; social accountability
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
ISSN: 13696815
Copyright Statement: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2023 16:36
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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