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Author: Debra Spitulnik
Title: Radio cycles and recycling in Zambia: public words, popular critiques, and national communities
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Source: Radio cycles and recycling in Zambia: public words, popular critiques, and national communities
Debra Spitulnik

Evanston, IL: Program of African Studies, Northwestern University
no. 8, pp. 10, 12, 14-16, 1994
Issue title: Institute for Advanced Study and Research in the African Humanities: Media, Popular Culture, and 'the Public' in Africa
Author Biography: Debra Spitulnik is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Emory University.

Radio Cycles and Recyclings in Zambia: Public Words, Popular Critiques, and National Communities [1]



Radio broadcasting plays a very powerful role in constructing the communicative spaces of nation-states. It goes without saying that part of this involves creating and enabling ways to imagine communities of the nation-state. (cf. Anderson 1983; Schlesinger 1991). And it is also directly implicated in the construction of public spheres, inasmuch as broadcasting is a very important site for enacting and regulating communication—and occasionally dialogue—between states and their citizens (cf. Aufderheide 1991; Habermas 1989). Much of the scholarship on these processes has focused on one or two basic projects: (1) the analysis of textual representations, e.g., of "the nation" or of "the citizen" in mass media, or (2) the documentation of significant historical shifts in the scale and mode of media production, circulation, and consumption that obtain within a given society. I am suggesting here that while studying textual representations and documenting large-scale historical shifts are extremely important projects, we also need to investigate the mass mediation of national identity and public spheres in a more dynamic way and at a more "micro-level."

In this discussion I propose that both the regular cycles of broadcasting and the recyclings of various broadcasting fragments are critical loci for investigating the dynamic processes in which media producers, media representations, and media consumers all interact to produce and define national communities. In particular, I focus here on radio's temporality and the recycling and reworking of mass-mediated state discourse within Zambian popular culture. Much of state discourse in Zambia is mass mediated, and in fact Radio Zambia is the primary mouthpiece of the state. It is a state-run, centralized monopoly with simultaneous national transmission, and almost hourly one can hear the broadcast of various political slogans, government directives, and voices of the national leadership.

One of the most striking features of modern Zambian life is that people are continually seizing on these media-circulated discourses of the state for both playful humor and political contestation. I shall propose that these practices are part of a very dynamic verbal culture of popular critique in Zambia which operates on "the 'poaching' of meanings" (Mbembe 1992:8). The discussion here is concerned specifically with the recycling of the Zambian national motto and the media-related origins of the ruling party's slogan. These cases represent a very small subset of the many media phrases that are recycled in Zambian popular culture, but they are particularly potent because of their links to state politics. Both slogans are connected with the regular cycles of radio broadcasting, and particularly its temporality. I argue that the temporal structure of radio broadcasting is intimately coupled with the progressive and habitual life of state politics. Radio, in a sense, clocks the nation. Thus the regular association of certain phrases with radio cycles and the life of the state becomes part of their meaning as they are recycled and recontextualized.

The discussion is framed largely as an exploration of the social life of the slogans themselves. I consider their history, structure, and circulation, as well as their resonances and parodying. But beyond this is a broader question about the social circulation of discourse, and particularly its relation to the linguistic mediation of large-scale social formations such as nation-states. The cases examined here exemplify how certain mass-media rituals, formulas, and cycles provide a kind of reservoir and reference point for phrases that circulate more broadly within a community. I suggest that these phrases can be understood as "public words" in two senses: (1) they are well-known standard phrases that circulate with such high frequency and wide scope that knowledge of them becomes integral to a particular kind of "public" community membership, and (2) in conjunction with (1), such words in effect become constitutive elements of public spheres or public domains.

"Public words," understood in this manner, are nothing particularly new, and they exist in societies of all scales and scopes. They may be proverbs, jokes, slogans, and other phrases that are remembered, repeated, and quoted long after their first utterance. Some public words are anonymous and unattributable, but for others the sources may be well known and perhaps even crucial to interpreting the phrase. Such phrases are part of what we might call a society's public domain: they are to a large degree shared by (or accessible to) all linguistically competent members of a community. In the United States such words are the stuff of popular culture, endlessly recycled and renewed by mass media, politicians, culture critics, bumper stickers, and the young and trendy. Examples include: "Make my day," "Where's the beef?," "Big brother is watching," "The buck stops here," and "Beam me up."

In studying the social circulation of language, linguistic researchers have tended to focus on narrative, oratory, ritual speech, and other very well bounded and easily identifiable speech genres. Little has been said, however, about the smaller, less bounded, or more dispersed types of language, e.g., the public words of street signs, graffiti, political parties, media personalities, and popular advertisements. I argue here that tuning into these "smaller" genres or "minor media" (Fischer and Abedi 1990:335ff) is one productive avenue for beginning an analysis of the linguistic intertextuality of the public sphere in a given society. Further, I suggest that for large scale societies—from the city to the nation and even the global village—the pervasive connections among these "smaller" genres (and between them and the larger genres) are actually constitutive and integrating features of what can be called a community.

"One Zambia, One Nation"

Across the three channels of Radio Zambia, across the myriad of programs on everything from Zairean rhumba music to the latest hybrid maize seed, and across the seven languages of Radio 1, one thing remained constant for nearly twenty years in Zambia: without fail, within an 18-hour period, the country's national motto was uttered on the national airwaves at least thirty times. "One Zambia, One Nation" was heard at the beginning of all the Zambian-language newscasts, which run three times daily in seven different languages (a total of 21 newscasts), and also at the onset of the English-language Main News (four times daily) and News Summary (five times daily). Shortly after the 1991 presidential elections in which Frederick Chiluba defeated Kenneth Kaunda (who served for 27 years), all slogans were removed from national broadcasting, including the national motto.

Like most national mottos, the slogan "One Zambia, One Nation" emerged in the context of political struggle and contained within it the force of multiple speech acts, a force mobilized in varying contexts of use: as a nationalist rallying cry, a leader's promise, a national pronouncement, a designation uniquely identifying Zambia in the community of nation-states, and a national boast. Furthermore, as Zambia's motto upon independence from colonial domination, "One Zambia, One Nation" signaled the new nation's mastery and re-appropriation of its former ruler's language.

The very form of the slogan is emblematic of its meaning and deserves close attention. First, there is the language of the slogan. Unlike almost all other political slogans in the country, the national slogan never occurs in a Zambian language. Since independence (1964), most political slogans in Zambia have been formulated in English and then translated into different Zambian languages. The national motto is uttered only in English, the country's "national language" and the language of Zambia's former colonial ruler. The unity that the slogan claims—or contains—is thus not just national but also linguistic (Kashoki 1979; Spitulnik 1992).

The slogan, in its elegantly simple form, makes a claim for a national identity and unity that is unproblematic. It is a straightforward assertion or self-declaration. "One Zambia, One Nation." Zambia is singularly singular. Four words strive to encompass everything about Zambia's nationhood. Through both syntactic parallelism and word repetition, the form of the motto places two noun phrases in relation to each other, and creates a further relation between the two head nouns which are modified by the same form. The poetic force of "One Zambia, One Nation" is thus based on a formal and semantic equivalence (cf. Jakobson 1960) where Zambia is proclaimed to be a nation and where the underlying essence of this existence is precisely what allows the equivalence in the first place: the common denominator "one"—unity and singularity.

During the final years of President Kaunda's government, however, Zambians to some degree rejected both the national community emblematized by this motto and the role of "the public" proffered to them through state broadcasting (cf. Spitulnik 1994a). In part, the slogan's simplicity—just declaring a national unity—was its very undoing. We will turn to this crucial issue shortly, after looking closely at the national slogan's typical mode of utterance. It is precisely this regular performance mode which enabled discontented Zambians to have their say.

The structure of the Zambian national motto lends itself to a particular performance style which enhances the semantics of unity. Until recently, it was uttered in a two part call-and-response style at political events and at the start of broadcast news. Typically, one person says "One Zambia" with a slightly rising intonation contour, almost as a query, which is then seconded by "One Nation," said definitively with a crisp falling tone. In political contexts, the first part is spoken solo, either by the highest-ranking official or local host of the event, and the assembled public collectively take the second part. Usually this is repeated several times, each part being spoken with increasing volume. Often it is followed by further sets of call-and-response slogans, for example:

CALL (solo) RESPONSE (chorus)
One Zambia One Nation
One Zambia One Nation
One Nation One Leader
One Nation One Leader
And that leader Dr. Kenneth Kaunda,
uwayaya 2
And that leader Dr. Kenneth Kaunda,

This performance style demands audience participation, and like all call-and-response styles, it compels the responders to answer or affirm what the leader has said. [2] When "One Zambia" is answered by "One Nation" in unison and with no hesitancy or variation, then unity is indeed enacted. Collectively, the Zambian people say their union. Spoken in a participatory fashion, the slogan also links Zambians with their political leaders in the production of a national pronouncement. The call-and-response performance mode itself thus drives the metasemantic equation of political, national, and crowd unity.

"One Zambia, One Nation" speaks of unity and stability as long as it has constancy of form, singularity of language, and unison in performance. As suggested above, these three features of the slogan—form, code, and usage—underpin its meaning and its efficacy. What if any of these features is altered? What if Zambians exploit their dominion in having the last word, and do not complete the formulaic recitation?

Indeed this was the case at several public gatherings that I attended in 1989 and 1990. For example, in March 1990, the University of Zambia hosted a highly emotionally charged rally to welcome Nelson Mandela on his first foreign visit after being released from prison. Before the opening speeches, a political leader's repeated cries of "One Zambia" met with weak, almost inaudible responses of "One Nation." The great physical and vocal enthusiasm focused on Mandela, his ANC entourage, anti-imperialism, and African nationalism could not be channeled into state patriotism. (see also Crehan 1990, The Guardian.) Mandela looked on, a bit stunned and saddened, as the political leaders strained to get some reaction from the mainly university crowd. The performance mode of the national slogan compels crowd participation, but people remain silent if they do not feel they participate in what the words stand for. Some muttered under their breaths "Two Nations," a counter-phrasing which had been around for some time.

Many Zambians have suggested that this alternative slogan is closer to the reality. In a letter read on a Bemba radio program, one listener suggested that the national motto be changed to "One Zambia, Two Nations" because there are two categories of people in Zambia: "bakankala na bapina," "the rich and the poor." [3] Employing this poetics of counting, people have also parodied the national slogan with parallel comments on the scarcity of national goods and services, "One Zambia, One Airplane" or "One Zambia, One Bus." After a long wait for a scheduled bus to arrive, one might hear, "Well you know it's 'One Zambia, One Bus,' it won't come for some time." Here, the common denominator "one" is not a national asset, nor is it strictly symbolic. Rather, it is a measure of the national deficit, the real material poverty and scarcity that most Zambians face on a daily basis.

Perhaps in its most extreme rephrasing, the national slogan was once parodied as "One Man, One Plate" on a Zambian television variety program entitled "Talent Express." The 30-minute show featuring music, poetry, and comic sketches was written and co-produced by students of a Lusaka college with the assistance of the then Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) Program Director. It was intended to be a regular weekly program, but it aired only once in late 1988 and was then canceled.

In this controversial "Talent Express" program, there was a short segment parodying the ZNBC evening television newscast. As discussed earlier, Zambian radio and TV newscasts always opened with the national motto followed by a political slogan, for example:

Broadcaster 1: One Zambia,
Broadcaster 2: One Nation.
Broadcaster 1: UNIP stands for peace and national unity.

Up until 1991, UNIP (the United National Independence Party) was the ruling party, and the political slogan at newstime was always about UNIP. [4]

In the "Talent Express" sketch, the mock newscasters opened the news with:

Broadcaster 1: One Man,
Broadcaster 2: One Plate.
Broadcaster 1: Hunger project stands for gastro-economic security.

Similar to the parodies of national transportation cited above, "One Man, One Plate" also exploits the trope of number to measure material rather than symbolic resources. Here, however, it contains a further commentary on what the nation owes to its people. Playing upon the well-known slogan of democratic suffrage "One Man, One Vote," it implies that such citizenship and political participation mean little until the basic human need for food is satisfied. If this was not enough of a biting allusion to what was in the minds (and not the stomachs) of many Zambians at the time, the mock party slogan adds the final touch. The grandiose sounding rhetoric of sloganeering is structured on tautology or glorification of the obvious. The project on hunger aims to end hunger.

Needless to say, this otherwise playful and amateurish student program, which also included a fashion show and some dance routines, hit a sore note among senior ZNBC administrators and beyond. It never appeared again.

"The Hour Has Come"

I now turn to a final case of the modified national slogan, one which was very powerful during the recent transition to multiparty democracy. Coined in 1991, it also builds on the trope of number to make its point: "One Zambia, One Hour." The difference, however, is that it does not measure material conditions like the other phrases; rather it quantifies the symbolic duration of the nation itself. Time is ticking away, and time is short.

The political countdown in recent Zambian history was actually first heralded by another slogan "The Hour Has Come," introduced in 1991 by the major opposition party, Movement for a Multiparty Democracy (MMD). MMD was formed in mid-1990 as pressure was mounting on the Kaunda government to lift the ban on the formation of other political parties. President Kaunda and his party had dominated Zambian politics since independence in 1964, and Zambia had been a one-party state since 1972. After constitutional reforms to change to a multiparty system, Zambia's first multiparty elections since 1968 were held in October 1991. MMD candidate Chiluba won by a landslide and replaced Kaunda as President.

As MMD gained momentum across the country during early 1991, some MMD sympathizers began to reformulate the "One Zambia, One Nation" slogan during government rallies. In response to the opening calls of "One Zambia," they metonymically alluded to their own by answering: "One Hour." "One Zambia, One Hour." The national motto was thus hijacked to challenge the durability of the state and to allude to the opposition party's threat: "The Hour Has Come." By telling the time, MMD supporters got two portentous slogans for the price of one.

The symbolism of political change in Zambia and many other countries around the world has often been cast in the tropes of time-reckoning—the clock, changing cycles of nature, and developmental stages of life. Here, it is important to examine how the MMD's leading slogan has links that reach back to the earlier nationalist slogans of the late 1950s and forward into the cosmopolitan world of international business travel. It is also linked more loosely to other popular conceptions of the government's sense of time and to that ever-present time keeper: national broadcasting.

Significantly, the precedents for "The Hour Has Come" go back to the colonial period. By the late 1950s, the two part call-and-response slogan "Kwacha, Ngwee," "The dawn is coming, shining and bright," had become one of the most popular nationalist slogans in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and neighboring Nyasaland (now Malawi). Originally formulated in the Nyanja language (Rotberg 1965:268), "Kwacha, ngwee" could pass just as easily as Bemba, Tonga, and several other languages of the region because of the cognate root -cha, "dawn." Depending on tone, Kwacha means either "The dawn is coming" or "The dawn has come." Ngwee, an intensifying particle meaning "light" or "bright", came to be more specifically associated with the small rays of the sun streaking out across the sky at dawn. In nationalist rallies, the collective response "Ngwee" was both a threat and a rejoicing. It came to symbolize—through enactment—the irrepressible multitude of African voices, the little rays piercing through the darkness and heralding the dawn of the new era (cf. Grotpeter 1979:135; Macpherson 1977:60; Masiye 1977). Soon after the slogan became popular, the colonial government made it illegal to shout it out. One might see the MMD's "The Hour Has Come" as the wristwatch version of "Kwacha, Ngwee" 'The Dawn is Coming'—but one must understand why the hour is significant. Furthermore, what is the significance in the shift from a naturalistic form of time-reckoning to industrial time? Any number of other slogans could have been employed to announce the temporal urgency or inevitability of political change, e.g., "The time has come," "A new day has come," "Now is the time," "Seize the moment," "Time is up," "A new era," "Into the twenty-first century," and so on. But what exactly is the special sense of temporality conveyed in the MMD slogan?

The origin of the slogan itself is significant here. The story goes that it came to one of the MMD leaders during a European business trip. During his last day he requested the service desk in the hotel to give him an early-morning, wake-up call as he did not want to miss his plane back to Zambia. In the morning the phone rang, and in his sleep he picked it up and heard a woman's voice saying, "the hour has come." A bit jarred by the phone and confused over this somewhat abstract phrasing, the MMD leader then realized that this was the wake-up call. Immediately upon his return to Zambia, he proposed it as the main slogan of the opposition party. This slogan, born on the phone in a European hotel room during a business trip, was not however without other precedents in Zambia. In fact, this is precisely where (and how) the MMD was able to exploit the phrase for all its resonances.

A sense of approaching time, as well as the importance of hours, and the connection between political news and time-keeping are all established through the structure of national newscasting. The processual clocking of radio communication is one of the backbones of broadcasting practice. For example, the entire medium of radio is punctuated by the practices of time-keeping, with announcers informing listeners that:

The time is now nine hours.

The time is coming on to thirteen hours.

Coming up at twenty-three hours, we'll have

Nshita nomba ni nine hours. [5] "The time now is nine hours."

Nshita naifika pa twelve zero one. "The time has arrived at 12.01."

Nshita yaafika pa thirteen hours. "The time is just arriving at...."

These basic anchors of broadcasting practice also serve as markers for radio listeners throughout the day. In fact, in some contexts, it is the tone on the hour (and not the verbal pronouncement of the time) that is used for time-reckoning. The sequence of two high-pitched, one-second tones alerts listeners of the approaching hour, and the longer four-second tone which coincides with the hour guarantees that the hour has unmistakably arrived. These pitches are such distinctive sounds that they can be heard and recognized much more readily and at greater distances than the human voice. People use them to set their watches, women who are visiting nearby neighbors occasionally use them to gauge when to return home to start dinner, and children who are playing outside use the tone to know when it is time to go home and wash up before heading off to school. Quite often, young children do not know the actual time; they just know that the time has reached an hour.

In these and many other ways, radio serves as a centrally coordinated site for representing the synchronized national community and for tracking its movement through time. [6] Broadcasting marks a calendar of national life and weekly work cycles and, by marking the time of everyday routine with regular newscasts and tones on the hour, it facilitates what could be called the "domestication of standard national time" (Moores 1988:38; also see Scannell 1988). Radio and television newscasts always occur "on the hour," and broadcasters frequently express the progressive aspect of temporal motion in terms of "the time coming on to" or "arriving at" a certain hour. For example:

This is Radio Mulungushi broadcasting to you live from Lusaka on FM stereo and the time is coming on to seven-ten....

Right, with the time coming on at nineteen minutes after seven....

And we're coming live on 92.2 megahertz for those on the hub of the Copperbelt. (Lawson Chishimba, 4/16/91)

Ah, when you hear the G. M. playing instrumentals and keeping a little quiet, you just know the hour is about to arrive and I'm about to hit the road for home.... (Leonard Kantumoya, 3/2/89)

Just before the evening television news, an actual analog wall clock is shown approaching the 19:00 hours newstime. This clock is used as a signal that the evening newscast is about to begin and as a time filler because ZNBC broadcast material is not always measured so precisely that every available second of airtime is filled to capacity. The clock is shown to fill the gap after the end of the previous program and any advertisements that are slotted to precede the news. The television news must come on precisely at 19:00 hours, and the camera fixes on the clock as the second hand sweeps across its face up to the hour. At the last three seconds before the hour, the distinctive tones ring out.

Significantly, the MMD symbol is an analog clock with the hands at 1:00. Presumably, this is not the time when the MMD leader got his wake-up call in his European hotel, nor the time shown on national TV, but it is the time of the most important radio newscast. Moreover, analogizing the cycles of the day to the life of the nation, if independence (1964) occurred at dawn, midday was then more appropriate to symbolize the time to take action and capture the moment for political change in 1991. During the campaign period, the MMD image of the clock was joined with a V-like hand gesture, used simultaneously as a symbol of victory ("V"), the hour (the single raised index finger), and plurality (two fingers vs. one), i.e. promultiparty. [7]

Finally, this discussion of the MMD symbol would not be complete without also considering the UNIP symbol with which it contrasts. Since the late 1950s the UNIP symbol has been the hoe: an emblem of hard work, cultural pride, rootedness to the land, and the rightful Zambian claim to that land during the independence struggle. However, in the context of intense urbanization (50% of Zambians now live in urban areas) and repeated failures on the part of government and foreign donors to strengthen Zambia's agricultural base, the symbol of the hoe (along with the leaders who carried it) no longer had the import it did during UNIP's early years. By contrast, the MMD symbol of the clock, in its associations with mass media, cosmopolitanism, and industrial—or businessman's—time, emblematized the progressive, free-market policies of the Chiluba platform and its promise to save the nation from economic ruin.

During election week in October 1991, a very clever cartoon of the showdown between these two perspectives appeared in an opposition newspaper (Figure 1). Wearing unlaced high-tops, boldly printed beach shorts, and sports jerseys, the two candidates are depicted stomping around on a stage under the banner "Grand Pre-Election Rap." Chiluba declares, "The hour has come to rap, rap rap!," while Kaunda counters, "I'm with the hoe so its no, no no." (The Weekly Post, no. 14, October 25-31, 1991, p. 10). The basic issue, in short, is the difference between progressive and conservative platforms and the latter's refusal to rap with the beat. Chiluba, like the radio deejay who announces the hour, is ready to rap, but Kaunda (although dressed the part) is not.

Undercurrents of Transportability

The MMD slogan and the parodies of the national motto show how individuals and groups are able to seize on and mobilize certain media-derived and media-circulated phrasings for both playful humor and political contestation. But it is important to place these potentials to recycle and re-signify media artifacts within a wider context of practices. The potential for media phrasings to be seized upon is not confined within the media. For example, in the sphere of Zambian politics, the discourse of temporality has largely revolved around the permanence of the head of state. Comparisons between Kaunda and the leader of neighboring Malawi, Kamudzu Banda, who has declared himself "President for Life," were common. This sense of the permanence of the national leader was also linked to the balloting process itself, where, during the years of one-party rule, elections were held every five years and Kaunda was the only presidential candidate on the ballot. Ballots asked the question "Do you wish to vote for Kenneth Kaunda as President?" and voters could place a check next to either "Yes" or "No." During Kaunda's 1988 re-election campaign the slogan "Vote Yes for KK, No Change" was quite common. Disgruntled Zambians turned this around with a joke, "If you vote 'yes,' then it's a yes vote for Kaunda. If you vote 'no,' it means 'no change'." In other words, it didn't matter what you voted, Kaunda would still win. The illusion of choice was undercut by implying that either selection would yield the same result: KK would still be the president.

While there is a broader cultural process in which the temporality of the nation is identified with the (im)permanence of the head of state, radio provides a kind of discursive backbone or undercurrent which regularly instantiates the voice of the state and the clocking of the nation. As stated earlier, the fundamental structure of radio broadcasting is built around the progressive and habitual life of state politics, which is manifested in everything from the coverage of national holidays to the predictable formulas at news time.

In addition, what underlies these various recyclings of the (mass-mediated) discourse of the state is a verbal culture of popular critique which operates on "the 'poaching' of meanings" (Mbembe 1992:8). In Zambian popular culture, alongside and not always directly linked to radio discourse per se, there is a more general culture of verbal practices which centrally employ devices such as secondary commentary, paradigmatic substitution, word play, metaphorical extension, altered intonations, and redefined acronyms in the critique of state power. [8]

In his essay on state power in Africa, Mbembe (1992) argues that such parodies and burlesque hijackings of meanings are part of the convivial relationship that subjects have with authoritarian regimes. They are not so much signs of resistance but of the impotence of postcolonial subjects who are still captivated by and hungry for the majesty of the state. Banc and Dundes (1986), on the other hand, argue that for the Romanian case, parodies and jokes about political slogans and policies are some of the most common forms of resistance in repressive environments.

The examples here demonstrate that such plays and parodies with the tropes of the nation-state are quite multifaceted in their power and import. In some cases the recycled slogans express cynicism and apathy, while in others they open up further possibilities for public discussion and political mobilization. Still other cases have illustrated how an expression that functions as a mildly humorous quip between friends can assume the character of biting satire when aired on national television. This suggests then that the recycling of mass-mediated state discourse is not always a sign of mass impotence or passive coping but a dynamic mode of critique which can serve multiple social and political functions.

Figure 1: Grand Pre-election Rap

For all of these phenomena, a larger analytic question arises: what kinds of generalizations can be made about the formal possibilities for the production and circulation of parodies and the reanimation of media fragments? The discussion here demonstrates that for the case of the Zambian national motto, three key linguistic features provide highly productive sites for substitution, play, and hyperbole: (1) the characteristic call-and-response performance mode, (2) the poetic parallelism, and (3) the counting scheme, upon which other numerical tropes can be imposed. In accounting for the coinage of the MMD slogan, one must consider the convergence of several factors: early nationalist slogans, the V-shaped hand gesture, Chiluba's emphasis on modern business and a free-market platform, and the well-known radio announcing formula which subtly links time-telling with newscasting and the life of the nation.

Another significant feature of these slogans, catch phrases, and other radio rituals is that they are designed for reproducibility, i.e., they are formulas. Radio broadcasting is constructed around verbal forms that are designed and destined for reproduction. To some degree, then, an element of popular circulation is already inscribed in them. But unlike the case of mechanically reproduced works of art (cf. Benjamin 1977), the criteria of authenticity and attributability are still vital for this circulation and recyclability. As we have seen, this is especially critical for political parodies, which presuppose the knowledge of an earlier, genuinely non-parodic form and/or the possibility of some kind of recoverable, i.e., citable, original source.

Conclusion: Public Words and Media Fragments

While radio fragments can be reworked in popular usage to yield playful humor and political contestation, there are infinitely more instances where the percolation of radio fragments into popular discourse is part of a more diffuse and ordinary process in which radio broadcasting serves as an exemplar of language use in general. Elsewhere I have discussed how the linguistic innovations mediated by radio broadcasting can be found at all levels: phonological, lexical, phrasal, morphological, syntactic, and beyond to speech styles, interactional routines, and genres of verbal humor (Spitulnik 1994b). I also have not been able to address here the related processes in which radio itself is a recycler of sorts. For example, one finds that program titles, broadcaster speech styles, and disc jockey nicknames all bear the traces of—or even directly invoke—other communication genres and public idioms. In this respect, broadcasting is itself a dynamically intertextual site in which a public repertoire of communication forms and modalities is continually being reanimated and recontextualized. One implication of this study, then, is to view broadcasting—as a far-reaching, ongoing, public communication form which is itself a constant reanimator—in the capacity of magnifying and even creating the "socially charged life" (cf. Bakhtin 1981:293) of certain linguistic and symbolic forms.

In addition to these innovative processes, I have argued that radio broadcasting is underlain by several regular processes which allow it to represent a synchronized national community and to mark its movement through time. The discussion here has suggested how the same media cycles which create this fixed and regular national community can be seized upon and recycled to contest that very stability. The regularity and predictability of mass-mediated state slogans—in contrast to other assertions of state power which are random, unpredictable, and submerged—enable the possibility of verbal anticipation and response. They also provide a publicly accessible reference point for numerous forms of political critique. These kinds of popular critique and recyclings are not necessarily parasitic as Mbembe would have us believe. Rather, they can be creative elements in processes of political transformation, and they can also, in a more basic sense, function in defining the common linguistic terrain which is part of the public life of a national community.


Anderson, B. 1983. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London:Verso.

Aufderheide, P. 1991. Public Television and the Public Sphere. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 8(2):168-83.

1. The material for this essay is drawn from 1988-1990 research in Zambia, which was supported by Fulbright-Hays and NSF fellowships and facilitated by the Institute for African Studies at the University of Zambia. A slightly longer version was presented at the "Media, Popular Culture and 'the Public' in Africa" conference at Northwestern University, and the writing of the present version was supported in part by the University Research Committee of Emory University. My sincere thanks goes to all the participants in the conference, and others who have offered their input at various writing stages, including Mark Auslander, Misty Bastian, Don Donham, Deborah Durham, Arjun Guneratne, Bruce Knauft, Ben Lee, Mwelma Musambachime, Johanna Schoss, Michael Silverstein, and Becky Tolen.

2. Call-and-response styles with a second part for mass or crowd audience participation are found worldwide in political meetings and demonstrations, as well as in different musical traditions, ritual speech, and religious sermon styles. The sources and parallels to the Zambian national motto are multiple. For example, as early as 1950, African leaders in Northern Rhodesia were using the American derived slogan "One Man, One Vote" to demand universal suffrage, and this became one of the two main nationalist slogans in the late 50s and early 60s (Rotberg 1965:229, 285, 310). Numerous types of call-and-response sequences were used in political rallies during this period, for example, this very popular Bemba expression referring to the expulsion of Europeans: call-Uwaisa? 'The one who came?,' Response-Kuya aya. 'He must go' (Makasa 1989:107, 110). Additionally, many ethnic groups in Zambia have oral traditions of proverb usage, storytelling, and riddling where a phrase is uttered, then followed by a pause after which a second phrase is uttered as a commentary or answer to the first (cf. Cancel 1989:66-67; Girard 1981; Kashoki 1972; Mpashi 1965). The performance style of these clever sayings is often similar to the two part call-and-response style of "One Zambia, One Nation," and while they have different poetic structures, their poetic functions are often similar. Usually, the forms of each half of a saying are different in syntax and length and there is no word repetition. Instead they frequently begin with a long ambiguous descriptive phrase (x), and end with a short noun phrase (y) which provides an unambiguous answer. The second part (y) often contains phonological parallels with elements of the preceding phrase, and often occurs in predicate form. The relation between the two parts of such sayings is usually that of predication, equivalence, or behavioral attribution, 'x is y,' 'x is the same as y,' 'y does x.' In the first two cases the poetic function is thus similar to that in the national motto. 2The president's name is frequently followed by various modifiers. Uwayaya, 'the one who keeps going,' is a popular Bemba one. It is also translated by some as 'forever.'

3. Radio 1, "Kabuusha Taakolelwe Boowa," March 25, 1990, letter 6.

4. Other slogans included: "UNIP demands hard work" and "UNIP is the pillar of the nation."

5. These examples are in the Bemba language, which—along with Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja, and Tonga—is one of the seven Zambian languages officially sanctioned for use on radio (cf. Spitulnik 1992).

6. Anderson (1983:30-31) makes an analogous argument for print media.

7. As far as I know, the image of the clock was actually preceded by the hand gesture. When the symbol of the raised index finger and thumb was rejected by the Zambian electoral commission as an MMD ballot symbol, the MMD drew up the clock design as an alternative symbol, iconic of the hand gesture (Times of Zambia, September 19, 1991, p. 1). Ballot symbols are especially important as they accompany the candidates' names and serve as an identifying mark for the many illiterate voters.

8. On these last three processes also see Mbembe 1992:7-11.

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