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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Centre for Journalism and Mediastudies Research

Everyday Matters. Material Historiographies of Television in Cold War Contexts

This project studies material artifacts - such as broadcast buildings, production and preservation technologies - that were used in the everyday work practices of Romanian television (TVR) and British television (the BBC) during the Cold War. The aim of this study is to investigate ‘hidden practices’ of the way the two broadcasters have negotiated state power and East/West relations during this period of conflict. Negotiations of power that occurred as part of the daily work of broadcast institutions remain undocumented by archived, institutionalized broadcast histories.

By applying a new research angle, that of material artifacts, to histories of broadcast institutions, this project makes several contributions to the field of television history.

Methodologically, it allows the retracing of the everyday context of television broadcasting, something which television scholars have decried as ephemeral and lost.

Theoretically, this project acts against naturalized understandings of television as a ‘black box’ of our societies that readily reproduces the dominant power and instead, shows the negotiations of power and tensions that go on within broadcast institutions as part of their everyday activities.

Historically, this project provides novel narratives and new understandings of the broadcasters’ relations with state power and their relations with the East/West during the Cold War.

Historiographically, the project adds a new method of study - material historiography – to the recent transnational turn in television history. This method allows us to do television history bottom-up by studying everyday broadcast practices that are not documented by national histories of television. It gives us access to the study of tensions, contradictions and exclusions from the nation-centric historical narratives. This new method based on material artifacts as unfamiliar objects of study in television history provides a framework of study in which the West becomes as unfamiliar as the East, allowing new historical knowledge on both Western and Eastern European television to emerge. This makes it possible for socialist television histories to be included on the European television research agenda by revisiting the current Western-centric field of study, rather than by taking Western conceptual frameworks for granted.

Television Histories in (Post)Socialist Europe

This project brings together a network of researchers who have done pioneering work on (post)socialist television histories in Europe. It aims to develop a research agenda for this novel field of study by enhancing scholarship on the topic, by developing themes of research, methods and theories that are specific to the historical realities of (post)socialist television. This research agenda will propose an understanding of (post)socialist television beyond political histories of the nation-state and beyond discourses of Cold War isolation and East-West antagonism. 

This research network makes a crucial contribution to the field of European television history. While recent comparative and transnational approaches in this field have demonstrated the need for (post)socialist television histories in Europe, there is currently very little scholarship in this area. This absence is explained, among other reasons, by non-native scholars, lack of access to Eastern European national languages and cultures, without which television historical research in these countries is not possible. Collaboration is central to enabling research to these hard-to-access areas of European television research.

By proposing a collaborative framework that is well integrated within the latest initiatives in the field of television studies in Europe and by developing a research agenda that will form the basis for a comparative research proposal and joint publications, this project reclaims (post)socialist television histories from the margins of other disciplines and presents them as a cohesive area of study that enhances and revises European television scholarship.

Last modified:17 January 2014 11.30 a.m.