Caroline Ritter

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Department:
History
Term:
Fall 2012

My dissertation examines British broadcasting, publishing, and film services in Africa to investigate how Britain used the domain of culture to further its imperial endeavor during and after decolonization. In the 1930s British colonial officials introduced broadcasting services, publication bureaus, and film units into Africa under the rubric of colonial development. Radio, film, and mass-produced print represented a cultural project of empire because they shared the ability to spread the English language and British traditions of expression across a vast space cheaply. Over the following decades, an increasing number of British actors became involved in producing and distributing British culture through these media. They ranged from official institutions, such as the British Council and Information Services, to non-state forms of overseas representation, such as NGOs and the BBC External Services. My dissertation will show that at its inception the cultural project of the late empire centered on British culture and the British expertise necessary to deliver it, and therefore represented a version of empire that could outlast political control. However, with the approach of decolonization many organizations recognized that their success hinged on incorporating Africans and African culture into their work. I argue that British cultural work was able to persist through a broad distribution of agency among both British and African actors, but it was this flexibility that ultimately created the conditions for its own critique.