Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Call for Papers - Print Media in the Colonial World

Print media in the colonial world: form, function, and the power of knowledge in the colonial public sphere

Across the colonial world, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw a flourishing of newspapers and periodicals. Some were published in colonial languages, others in local vernaculars or newly standardised lingua francas. Some were published by the colonial state or religious organisations, others were set up using private funding on the initiative of an enterprising editor. These publications sometimes lasted only a few issues before disappearing just as quickly as they had appeared, while others lasted for decades and evolved to meet changing expectations and demands from their readers and publishers.

In recent years a growing body of literature has addressed the varying role of print media hitherto explored largely for their anti-colonial content, uncovering once forgotten newspapers in archives and libraries around the world and mining them as a source with which to write the intellectual, cultural and social history of colonial societies. But this literature has tended to focus on specific regions, and to focus more on the content than the form. At the same time, a body of literature has explored the role of media in particular empires, focusing on the creation of new networks of exchange through the press, yet this literature has less to say about the press produced in colonial societies for local readerships.

Print publications across the colonial world existed in an ambivalent relationship to colonial power and in a nexus of transnational entanglements. In West Africa, newspapers worked to cultivate anti-colonial alliances, yet printed government advertisements. Pan-African ideas were developed in newspapers funded by Asian capital. In Egypt, newspapers and journals run by Syrians were criticised as overly sympathetic to British power. There were commonalities of form, layout and imagery shared between newspapers published by the colonial state and those financed and produced independently. Expectations of the newspaper as a purveyor of truth and a source of information, whether through didactic editorials, question and answer columns or the printing of announcements, were often shared between newspapers published by the colonial state and those published independently and sometimes in opposition to the colonial state. To what extent did this edifying form, which sought to educate and inform readers, serve to make ‘good subjects’ – whether colonial or nationalist? Such publications served to connect people beyond their locality to the wider world, whether through the use of a lingua franca such as Swahili, Arabic or English, or through imagining print as a medium which would travel to the far reaches of the globe, but newspapers also served to accentuate local identities through standardising and publicising vernaculars, as in the case of Kenya’s Kikuyu and Luo language press. Can these newspapers, then, be thought of as part of a global story? And how far did periodicals serve as a space for enforcing and reinforcing standards, through the use of standardised fonts, alphabets, languages, or editorial and visual conventions?

This conference is interested in exploring the varied and developing anatomy of locally produced colonial periodicals, and the relation of this communicative form to governmentality. Through an assemblage of research papers from colonial regions around the world, the conference aims to build up a comparative picture of print media in the colonial world, asking how print media as a space of knowledge construction facilitated new and existing spheres of rule. The conference seeks to build on recent scholarship and bring together scholars in history, literary studies, visual studies, anthropology and other associated disciplines working on periodicals in societies across the colonial world in order to explore common themes and reflect on the place of the newspaper in colonial societies. In particular we invite paper proposals which explore the following themes in either locally-based colonial periodicals or newspapers:

- Print media as a didactic space or ‘encyclopaedia’
- Authorship, editorial policy, financing and the legal framework in which print media in the colonial world operated, particularly relating to censorship, sedition, defamation and libel laws.
- The relationship of print media to the colonial state and their role in shaping modes of political engagement and mobilisation, and understandings of the public.
- Language and the role of newspapers in standardising and popularising vernacular language and new lingua franca.
- The visual in colonial print media (illustration, caricature, photography, typography, lay-out).

A comparative perspective, engaging with the methodological questions at hand in several settings, is encouraged.  Papers for the conference will be pre-circulated to allow for maximum discussion, and participants will be asked to have their papers ready by 1 February 2015. The conference will be held on 16 and 17 April at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH) in Cambridge, UK.
 The organisers, Andrew Arsan, Emma Hunter and Leslie James, welcome abstracts of no more than 250 words in .doc or PDF format to the following email address:
Please include a position, institutional affiliation, and email address in your abstract.
 The deadline for submission of abstracts is: 15 June 2014.