The John Bullen Prize
Bocar Niang’s study of mass broadcasting is an important reflection on the dominant role of this medium in the construction of state authority and the official ideology of negritude in the history of Senegal and of West Africa. From the introduction of the radio in 1939 by France, through the period of independence, until the 1970s when African socialism developed, radio has been an essential strategic tool in the development of political life in the country and in the affirmation of the authority of the existing power. However, as Niang demonstrates in the case of Senegal, propaganda has a particular trajectory and has undergone significant transformations. In the postcolonial context, where the official ideology favours orality and the use of national languages, the role of radio goes beyond propaganda, and Niang convincingly demonstrates that radio had several functions in the formation of public opinion.
Through a detailed study of the sound archives of Radio-Television of Senegal (RTS), of the archives of the Association colonies-sciences at the National Library of France, of several newspapers, and with the help of numerous oral interviews conducted with former hosts of the first French African radio station, Niang offers a new perspective on the role played by the media in postcolonial politics. His intervention in the history of negritude offers an innovative perspective on the development of postcolonial ideology and on the cultural revolution of black Africa. His thesis is stimulating and provocative in several ways. Situated in the era of the Black Lives Matter movement, this thesis demonstrates the important intersectionality of political, cultural and intellectual criticism in rejecting and contesting cultural assimilation.
This clearly written thesis makes an important contribution to the historiography of Senegal and French Africa as well as to postcolonial studies. It is an exceptional model of a thesis and was thus considered the most deserving PhD dissertation for the John Bullen Prize in 2020.