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Bookbeat: December 2004

Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South

Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South by Brian Ward, Department of History
(University Press of Florida, 2004)
Available through Amazon

For History Professor Brian Ward, there are certain moments in the civil rights struggle that are impossible to understand fully without appreciating the role of radio.

Ward’s new book, Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South, examines both well-known and obscure sites and events in that struggle. “Even during some of the best-known campaigns and events,” he says, “there are things that don’t make any sense without recognizing the role that radio played, especially in the African-American community. It helps to explain some otherwise inexplicable parts of the movement.”

The book grew out of Ward’s earlier work on the connections between music and civil rights. “It became clear there was a hidden story about how radio, in particular black-oriented radio, had interacted with the civil rights movement,” explains Ward. “Radio has been important in raising funds, mobilizing people to protest and register to vote, and as a vehicle for spreading ideas about how the struggle might be waged. It had done all that at the same time as entertaining African Americans—creating a sense of pride in community and self-respect that was vital to the trajectory of the movement.”

Brian WardWhile historians of the civil rights movement have been interested in the role of the media, they have tended to dismiss its impact on white American racial attitudes and not paid much attention to how the media worked in the black community. One of the arguments of the book, says Ward, is that radio was demonstrably more effective than television or the print media in reaching black southerners.
Ward relied on a variety of sources for his social and cultural history: traditional archival sources, such as the papers of civil rights organizations and activists; radio station records (which proved erratic due to the frequency with which stations were bought and sold); the papers of the Federal Communications Commission; contemporary newspapers and magazines, and interviews with activist disc jockeys and station executives.

Although the book focuses on how radio worked in the African-American community, Ward argues that it also had authority with and impact on white listeners. “Once the signal is up there, if you have a receiver you can tune in and listen, whether it’s political messages or pop culture. If you’re white, especially a white southerner, that can change your perspective and provide a little breach in the wall of prejudice.”

Radio was not just a tool in the struggle, says Ward, it was also a site of the struggle—a struggle for better pay and greater employment and ownership opportunities.

—Michal Meyer

Brazilian Science Fiction: Cultural Myths and Nationhood in the Land of the Future

Brazilian Science Fiction: Cultural Myths and Nationhood in the Land of the Futureby M. Elizabeth Ginway, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
(Bucknell University Press, 2004)
Available through Amazon

Professor of Portuguese Libby Ginway sees Brazilian science fiction as a tool for discovering and describing the South American nation’s experience of modernization in her new book, Brazilian Science Fiction. Her study, which spans the period between 1960 and 2000—from before the military dictatorship, through the reintroduction of democracy, and up to the present day—shows Brazilian science fiction responding to issues of identity, forced economic development, colonialism and globalization.

In Brazil as elsewhere, science fiction is considered somewhat marginal as a literary phenomenon, but Ginway believes this lack of prestige heightens the genre’s usefulness as a cultural barometer. “Popular genres tend to have the pulse of the political unconscious. They reveal cultural trends long before literary fiction begins to reflect them,” explains Ginway. “It has a sociological value for me, and it is very useful for the way it reflects Brazilian thinking on such issues as globalization, postcolonialism, foreigners and fear of technology.”

Ginway points out that Latin American science fiction is often taken more seriously outside Latin America than in its home territory. This is particularly true of Brazilian science fiction, which has a small readership in Brazil. Ginway attributes this relative lack of interest to the popularity of magic realism in Spanish America and the strong realist and naturalist traditions in Brazil.

Elizabeth GinwayAccording to Ginway, Brazilian science fiction has changed over time. “In the past, it was used as a way to try to protect the traditional national identity from the inroads of the ‘brave new world’ of technology,” she says. “Contemporary authors, in contrast, are more interested in the deconstruction of these traditional myths of race, gender and class.” A clear example is the use of robots. Early robot stories, she says, portray their protagonists through the Brazilian myth of benevolent slavery, while current robot stories deal with violent crime, class issues, and the possibility that robots will replace human workers.

Ginway came to the University of Florida in 1995. Along with science fiction, her interests also include 19th-century Brazilian literature and the formation of the Brazilian identity. She is currently collaborating on a bibliography of science fiction in Latin America and teaching an undergraduate and graduate class on science fiction in Brazil.

—Michal Meyer

Sound Matters: Essays on the Acoustics of German Culture

Sound Matters: Essays on the Acoustics of German Cultureedited by Nora M. Alter, Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies, and Lutz Koepnick
(Berghahn Books, 2004)
Available through Amazon

The sounds of music and the German language played a significant role in the developing symbolism of the German nation. In light of the historical division of Germany into many disparate political entities and regional groups, German artists and intellectuals of the 19th and early 20th centuries conceived of musical and linguistic dispositions as the nation’s most palpable common ground. According to this view, the peculiar sounds of German music and of the German language provided a direct conduit to national identity, to the deepest recesses of the German soul.

This volume gathers the work of scholars from the US, Germany, and the United Kingdom to explore the role of sound in modern and postmodern German cultural production. Working across established disciplines and methodological divides, the essays of Sound Matters investigate the ways in which texts, artists, and performers in all kinds of media have utilized sonic materials in order to enforce or complicate dominant notions of German cultural and national identity.


Brave New Neighborhoods: The Privatization of Public Space

Brave New Neighborhoods: The Privatization of Public Spaceby Margaret Peggy Kohn Department of Political Science (Routledge, 2004)
Available through Amazon

Fighting for First Amendment rights is as popular a pastime as ever, but just because you can get on your soapbox doesn’t mean anyone will be there to listen. Town squares have emptied out as shoppers decamp for mega malls; gated communities keep pesky signature gathering activists away; even most internet chatrooms are run by the major media companies. Brave New Neighborhoods considers what can be done to protect and revitalize our public spaces. In recent years, courts have upheld prohibitions preventing homeless people from begging in the subway, tenants from distributing newsletters to their neighbors, and activists from leafleting in front of the post office. Brave New Neighborhoods lays out the blueprints of the future towns these changes have created, and in this new geography, the First Amendment comes from the wrong side of the tracks.


Metaphorical Circuit: Negotiations Between Literature and Science in 20th Century Japan

Metaphorical Circuit: Negotiations Between Literature and Science in 20th Century Japanby Joseph A. Murphy, Asian Studies Program
(Cornell University Press, 2004)
Available through Amazon

Metaphorical Circuit follows a series of first-rank 20th century Japanese thinkers as they pose the question of whether the techniques and modes of reasoning of the sciences can provide more substantive knowledge claims in the realm of culture. Beginning from the rapid institution of late 19th century Japan of a modern university system, this study argues that the clean separation of literature and science in the new space was a point of acute and continuing concern for intellectuals. Despite the vigor and sustained science-literacy of their engagement, Mori Ogai, Natsume Soseki, Terada Torahiko, Edogawa Rampo, Maeda Ai and Karatani Kojin offer no easy answers as one after another these thinkers run their analyses into fragmentation, discontinuity and contradiction.


The Hindu World

The Hindu Worldedited by Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby, Department of Religion
(Rutledge, 2004)
Available through Amazon

The Hindu World is the most authoritative and up-to-date single volume on Hinduism available today. In 24 chapters, written by leading international scholars, it provides a comprehensive and critical guide to the various literatures, traditions, and practices of Hinduism. Ideally tailored as an introduction to key topics in Hinduism and for use as a definitive reference source, the book offers fresh insights into many aspects of Hindu life. It reflects upon the impact of recent poststructuralist approaches while emphasizing Hinduism’s classical heritage and everyday customs in ways that will be familiar to Hindus themselves. Exploring the enormous diversity of Hinduism’s multi-dimensional culture while considering its status as a category for analysis, the book achieves a distinctive creative balance between scholarly “outsider” perspectives and the beliefs and values of practicing Hindus.


Jane Dominguez

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