Radio as an Expression of Nation and Sub Nation in Laos

Mary Traynor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Laos has had a particularly turbulent recent history. Since the late nineteenth century, its territorial borders have been defined and redefined at the whim of successive outside forces, its national identity contrived and manipulated to suit the dominant power of the moment. The articulations of nation status have, for the most part, been inaccessible and irrelevant to the inhabitants of Laos, who have been far more concerned with the day-to –day battle to survive. If, as David Morley and Kevin Robins argue, communication networks provide ‘the crucial, and permeable, boundaries of our age’ (Morley and Robbins, 1997:1), to what extent is radio an effective means of defining and communicating the nation-status of Laos? Since radio was first introduced in Laos in 1939, it has mirrored the country’s tumultuous narrative, exploited by dominant and dissenting groups as a voice of colonialism and revolution. More recently, increasing democratisation and globalisation of media have handed the power of radio to minority groups and diaspora, creating opportunities for those previously excluded from decision-making to contribute to debates on what it means to be ‘Lao’. This chapter examines radio’s role in the often contradictory attempts to impose a national identity on the inhabitants of Laos. It considers to what extent radio has contributed to the emergence of alternative national representations. It discusses the contemporary economic, political and cultural landscape and reflects on the opportunities and challenges it presents to radio as a manifestation of national identity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRadio in Small Nations: Productions, Programmes, Audiences
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2012


  • radio
  • laos
  • media for development


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