Alasdair Pinkerton – ‘Tuning In’: Radio Listening and ‘Aerial Sovereignty’ on the India-Pakistan Border (1950-1970)

 

 

 

 

Royal Holloway University of London Department of History
and The University of Leeds School of History


Event Date: 9 and 10 September 2010 
Royal Asiatic Society 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1

Alasdair Pinkerton – ‘Tuning In’: Radio Listening and ‘Aerial Sovereignty’ on the India-Pakistan Border (1950-1970)

India and Pakistan emerged as sites of immense – and intense – geopolitical activity between the 1950s-1970s as cross-border tensions and global Cold War priorities were negotiated and played out across the Indian subcontinent. Radio broadcasting emerged as a crucial medium, and ‘weapon’, in the prosecution and mediation of these encounters. This paper explores the ways in which Indian citizens became subject to local, regional and global propaganda and ‘public diplomacy’ over the airwaves. Using examples relating to the BBC World Service and the little known ‘Radio Free Kashmir’, this paper examines how radio broadcasts of various ‘colours’ (from ‘white’ persuasion to ‘black’ propaganda) challenged popular senses of Indian citizenship and ‘sovereignty’ – as expressed through archived letters, pamphlets and newspaper reports. Framed as an expression of techno-geopolitical intrigue, radio transmissions (and transmitters) also heightened anxieties over (i) India’s cartographic integrity and (ii) the maintenance of sovereign foreign policy, with particular regard to ‘non-interference’ enshrined within the non-aligned movement.

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