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Even More Radio History Books for the Holidays

Constant critic that I am, I recently tweeted Radio Survivor to comment on a recent post about their radio history book recommendations, and the focus on the US experience of radio. They offered me a shot at sharing my own list, so I’ve compiled a somewhat eclectic list of books about radio from across the pond. You all can decide what forms the connective tissue among them, but I would recommend the keywords: Radiokunst (radio art), radio as tactical media, radio as critical theoretical foil.

• Matthew Collin: Guerrilla Radio: Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio and Serbia’s Underground Resistance

Matthew Collin’s book is a highly charged and highly readable account of the role Serbian pirate station B92 played in the antiwar movement during the Bosnian war in the early 1990s and the Kosovo war in the late 1990s. Based in first-hand accounts with many of the station’s key personalities, it recounts their support of underground (read: banned) music, independent journalism, and various social movements through their use of the radio medium. In the UK Collin’s book can also be found under the title This is Serbia Calling: Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio and Belgrade’s Underground Resistance (

• Kate Lacey: Feminine Frequencies: Gender, German Radio, and the Public Sphere, 1923-1945

For anyone interested in the early days of German radio and the central role played by women in broadcasting in both Weimar-era radio, and the radio in the Third Reich, then Kate Lacey’s illuminating study is just the ticket. It provides an in-depth look at the simultaneous emergence of the radio medium entering the private sphere of the home and of women entering the public sphere of workplace social politics.

• Douglas Kahn and Gregory Whitehead, ed.: Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio, and the Avant-Garde

A must-read for connoisseurs of sound art, Kahn and Whitehead’s volume assembles a collection of original essays that explore the finely tuned relationships between sound, radio, and avant-garde experimentation to uncover the importance of the aural for understanding the periods of modernism, postmodernism, and postwar experimentalism in the arts. Accompanying these insightful essays are translated gems by such art luminaries as Antonin Artaud and F.T. Marinetti, which help locate each scholarly essay in its contemporary artistic context.

• John Mowitt: Radio: Essays in Bad Reception

John Mowitt explores radio from the standpoint of its place within the history of twentieth-century critical theory. A challengingly fun read, the book understands radio to be a foundational medium for the production and transmission of mass culture. Mowitt thus engages the work of such heavy hitters as Walter Benjamin, Frantz Fanon, Raymond Williams, Theodor Adorno, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre for grasping how radio became a significant metaphor and object of study for a range of critical theoretical approaches, like phenomenology, cultural studies, and existentialism.

• Daina Augaitis and Dan Lander, ed.: Radio Rethink: Art, Sound, and Transmission

Another collection, Augaitis and Lander’s book gathers together twenty-three essays from media scholars, media and performance artists, and radio practitioners to amplify the how and the why of artistic engagement with the radio as medium, and the radio as device.

• Heidi Grundmann and Elisabeth Zimmermann, ed.: Re-Inventing Radio: Aspects of Radio as Art

In a similar vein to Augaitis and Lander’s volume, Heidi Grundmann and Elisabeth Zimmermann from the Kunstradio project out of Vienna, fashion a massive (541 pages!) anthology consisting in scholarly essays, interviews, artist portraits, and project descriptions to move radio forward from its cultural historical role as communications medium, and re-invent it in terms of contemporary artistic possibilities.

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