When Breeze FM, a radio station in the provincial Zambian town of Chipata, hired an elderly retired schoolteacher in 2003, no one anticipated the skyrocketing success that would follow. A self-styled grandfather on air, Gogo Breeze seeks intimacy over the airwaves and dispenses advice on a wide variety of grievances and transgressions. Multiple voices are broadcast and juxtaposed through call-ins and dialogue, but free speech finds its ally in the radio elder who, by allowing people to be heard and supporting their claims, reminds authorities of their obligations toward the disaffected.
Harri Englund provides a masterfully detailed study of this popular radio personality that addresses broad questions of free speech in Zambia and beyond. By drawing on ethnographic insights into political communication, Englund presents multivocal morality as an alternative to dominant Euro-American perspectives, displacing the simplistic notion of voice as individual personal property—an idea common in both policy and activist rhetoric. Instead, Englund focuses on the creativity and polyphony of Zambian radio while raising important questions about hierarchy, elderhood, and ethics in the public sphere.
A lively, engaging portrait of an extraordinary personality, Gogo Breeze will interest Africanists, scholars of radio and mass media, and anyone interested in the history and future of free speech.
About the author
Harri Englund is professor of social anthropology at the University of Cambridge.
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