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Now, where was I….?

October 16, 2011

I AM still here, though sometimes I have felt  like an electron: more a probability than a presence these last few months.  (I keep hoping I might upgrade my status to neutrino – might make time planning a bit easier, though would seriously screw up my lessons on narrative…)  My activity here on the blog has been inversely proportional to my activity in the world it seems.  Now with the new term of teaching started in Utrecht, I have spent a rare month or so NOT travelling (much).   It’s worth taking a brief moment to catch up.

After my visit to THATCamp in Florence (previous post) it was off to Oslo for the Exhibiting Europe conference 7-9 April, where I gave a paper about the problems and possibilities of  ‘Europeanizing’ digital content, based in part on my experiences building “Inventing Europe”.  I suggest that as much as the goal of radical access to cultural heritage is a laudable goal, ‘Europeanization’ must not be thought of in terms of frictionless mobility

1930s radio in the Norsk Teknisk Museum

in a uniform European space.  Instead, we need to think of platforms for exploration and display that actually highlight and promote acts of translation and transgression.  An article based on this talk will appear this year in a special issue of the online journal Culture Unbound.  The day after, had a wonderful tour of the Norsk Teknisk Museum, with whom I am working on the Inventing Europe project, where of course I indulged in my habit of taking photos of old radios…

A few weeks later, I was off to Munich 28-30 April for a conference in honour of the 60th anniversay of Radio Free Europe, Voices of Freedom – Western Interference organized by the Collegium Carolinum in Munich, together with the Czech Centre and the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (Prague).     It was a fascinating conference (a full report by Julia Metger from Berlin can be found here), where the reminiscences of former employeees and directors – including the president of Estonia – combined with the work of a new generation of scholarly historical researchers – which is occasionally a volatile mixture.  My own talk (partially scuppered by a corrupted powerpoint file) talked about the complex layering of spaces – technological, administrative and lived – generated by broadcasting during the Cold War.   I will publish a chapter based on the talk in a book based on the conference, edited by Anna Bischof and Zuzana Jürgens.   It became abundantly clear the schizoid world that many of the exiled employees were living in: on the one hand having to deliver a ‘surrogate home service’ to a country to which they could not return, and live daily lives in Munich, where their work was often not valued  and where their lives were under threat.

A week later, it was off to London for a talk at the Victoria and Albert museum to give a talk  called “Black Magic, White Magic: Chocolate as Medicine from Aphrodisiacs to Anti-oxidants” at a “Chocolate Study Day”.  This was in connection with their display “So noble a confection: Producing and consuming chocolate 1600-2000”, and also included a wonderful tasting.  The audience were enthusiastic, and of course the talk was great fun.

Then,  it was back into the world of radio.   At the start of July, I went to the IAMHIST conference in Copenhagen.  The theme of the conference this year was cultural memory.  I had put together a panel together with my old pal and co-conspirator David Dault, now of Christian Brothers University, and the independent scholar and translator Katy Scrogin, where we explored the appropriation of new technologies within conservative social movements.  The papers looked at the intersection of media, freedom and commemoration.  David looked at the long tradition of Biblical footnotes, in which the Protestant tradition of free engagement with the text is coupled with lengthy exegetical glosses designed to shut down possible readings (usually those which poke at current relations of power).  Katy looked at the use of blogs and discussion forums in combination with the Tea Party movement, and in particular their engagement with the US Constitution and its meanings.  I, perhaps the odd man out a bit, looked at the commemoration of offshore radio.  I pointed to the specific (and limited) visual and aural vocabulary that turns the story into a

l to r Katy Scrogin, Erin Bell and David Dault at the Danish Architecture Museum for a nice lunch after our panel

narrative of neo-liberal triumph.  We had the good sense and fortune to be able to have Erin Bell from Lincoln University as a commentator, who managed to tie things together inquisitively and elegantly.  I also got to make the acquaintance of the LARM project, a very exciting project aimed at making Denmark’s audio heritage available.   (Read the report on the conference by Sian Barber on the EUScreen blog).

July was still young, however.  Next stop was the UK once more, first London, for a meeting with one of my other co-conspirators, Kristin Skoog from Bournemouth University, with whom I am developing a programme of transnational research on women and radio.  Together, we went over the materials we had found on the early years of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television,  mostly in the correspondence of Willimien Hendrika (Lilian) Posthumus-van der Goot (1897-1989), which is held in the Aletta archives in Amsterdam.  This was fascinating work, where we traced the developing relationships between a number of women broadcasters throughout the world, including Janet Quigley and Isa Benzie of the BBC, Gabriele Strecker of the Hessischer Rundfunk in Germany, and the American Dorothy Lewis (of UNESCO) – and we even found a letter from my great aunt Nena Badenoch, then president of the American Women in Radio and Television.  Then we were off to Gregynog Hall, Wales for the Broadcasting in the 1950s  conference, where we presented our paper.  It was a very inspiring and intensive conference, including a fascinating keynote lecture by Michele Hilmes, based on her recent book on transnational broadcasting history, a great talk on listening by the brilliant Kate Lacey, and a whole programme that opened up new transnational perspectives on broadcasting that are going to be keeping us busy for years.

At the start of September, we had our last workshop surrounding the book I will be editing together with Andreas Fickers and Christian Henrich-Franke, called Airy Curtains in the European Ether: Broadcasting and the Cold War, which will be appearing with Nomos.  This book will be based on a research collaboration called “Transmitting and Receiving Europe” that has been running since 2008.  The book takes a new look at Cold War history by unpacking the densely-layered spaces of broadcasting constructed by technological, administrative and ideological regimes of circulation.  Broadcasting is viewed here as part of a dense, multi-media ensemble, that created a series of unexpected and shifting interconnections throughout the Cold War.  We expect the book to come out next year: watch this space!

I have also had a round of presentations of the soon-to-be completed online virtual exhibit, “Inventing Europe” .  First was the ICOHTEC Conference in Glasgow 2-6 August together with Slawomir Lotysz of Zielona Gora and Kimmo Antila of the Museum Centre Vapriikki, then at the Artefacts Conference in Leiden on 25 September, together with professor Johan W. Schot.

In short, it has been a very full Spring and Summer.

Now, where was I…?

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