Kristi Rhead

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10624

Approve Date

September 29, 2023

Project Title

Rhead, Kristi (Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of) "Radio Réunion: Freedom, Identity, and Sovereignty in the Auditory Archive"

This project explores Réunion Island, a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean, through the lens of Radio FreeDom, a local, unfiltered radio station. On Radio FreeDom, any listener can call in to the on-air hosts at any time to discuss any subject live on the radio. With nearly 30% of the population tuning in and callers participating in dialogue all day, the station is colloquially called the “voice of Réunion.” I will use archival and ethnographic methods to explore Radio FreeDom’s legacy as Réunion’s first “free” radio station broadcasting in the local Creole language, investigating how callers negotiate their relationship with France and the Indian Ocean region live on the radio. Never home to indigenous inhabitants, Réunion was populated through 400 years of migration from Asia, Africa, and Europe, largely through slavery and indenture. Studying Réunion reworks Atlantic stories of slavery and creolization through Indian Ocean histories of circulation and exchange, offering possibilities for rethinking freedom, sovereignty, and identity. Finally, the project considers the methodological implications of extending ethnographic observation from the voices of individual interlocutors to the “voice of Réunion,” and how collective listening practices on this grassroots radio station contribute to anthropological knowledge and public history.