Popular talk radio and everyday life in Mauritius

Doctoral Thesis


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This study has attempted to explore the myriad ways talk radio is tied to everyday life in Mauritius. As a point of departure, this study has considered the success of Mauritian private radio stations as a social phenomenon that deserves attention. It has delved into the ways talk radio, especially their morning talk radio programmes, are tied to notions of citizenship, democracy and development. Anchoring popular talk radio as practice, the study has used a multilevel approach to find out what do people do to talk radio, what kinds of engagement are pursued, which ethical considerations are valued and the implications for citizenship and democracy in a Mauritian context of power differentials and social inequalities. Following a three tier approach implying discourse analysis of morning talk radio, focus group discussions with listeners as well as in-depth interviews of journalists, this study has underlined the importance and significance of the new political that has emerged, highlighting the fact that the democratisation of the radio airwaves in 2002 has allowed political engagements and participation of ordinary people hitherto excluded from the Mauritian public sphere. Against the perspective that views the public sphere as constituted unequivocally in rationality and consensus, this study contends that talk on morning talk radio is inherently conflictual and is performed in reason and affects. Anger, fear, anxiety, hope and solidarity are discursive resources that define the life trajectories of ordinary people but are also ways for listeners to “feel their way” into the stories and to bond together to create a sense of engaged community however fleeting these communities may be. The ethics of care and solidarity afforded by talk radio journalists to these communities shift understandings of the liberal democratic norms of journalism from professionalism to “interpretive communities” that are characterized by social reciprocity. Adopting a decolonial approach that foregrounds the importance of listening to the lived experiences of people, this study finally makes the case for an ethics of listening that is based on re-imagining the conditions for talk radio journalists to listen deeply to people, especially to marginalized communities as a way for journalism to stay relevant while improving the capabilities of people and consolidating the conditions of living together well.