Department of Anthropology

Sound Studies Lecture Series: Jesse Weaver Shipley

"Revolutionary Listening: Radio Broadcasting in Ghana’s June 4th 1979 Mutiny"

Mon, April 1, 2019 | SAC 5.118

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Before dawn on June 4th 1979 soldiers freed Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings from military prison in Accra, Ghana, where he was being held while on trial for treason for staging a failed coup d’etat several weeks previously. Rawlings and the soldiers immediately took over Ghana Broadcasting House which had the sole national radio transmitter. As the sun rose, Ghanaians awoke to hear Rawlings’s raw, passionate voice entering their homes, vehicles, and businesses. He began: “The ranks have just gotten me out of my jail cell. . . They have taken over the destiny of the nation. Fellow officers if we are to avoid any bloodshed, I plead with you to make no attempt to stand in their way… Natural leaders will emerge.” A few hours later, government forces retook the radio station and announced that the rebellion had been quelled. Ordinary citizens shuttered their windows and anxiously tuned in to their radios to find out whether the government or the rebels would succeed. The two sides fought to control the radio station and, over the course of 36 hours, rebels and government troops made announcements and counter announcements aimed at convincing their allies and foes that they were in charge. This paper shows how radio was crucial to the eventual success of the mutineers as their announcements helped turn various passive listening audiences and old regime loyalists into a revolutionary public.


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