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Feminist avenues for listening in: amplifying silenced histories of media and communication

Birdsall, C. & Carmi, E. Feminist avenues for listening in: amplifying silenced histories of media and communication. Women's History Review, 31(4), pp. 542-560. doi: 10.1080/09612025.2021.1944345


This paper proposes a feminist critique of the media and communication field by offering a different soundtrack to guide future historical research. By shifting the focus from well-known protagonists, and acknowledging process and community rather than individuals, we aim to amplify ‘hidden’ domains of gendered labour and layers of media technologies and services. We propose the ‘listening in’ model as a different way to engage with histories of media and communication, providing four pathways for how the histories of film, radio and internet in particular have been theorised and researched. These pathways focus on multiplicities of expertise, layers of infrastructure, users, and the media canon. For the first pathway, we show how media production has always been a collective work of multiple expertise. The second pathway breaks with the distinction between media and communication and emphasises reciprocal processes of media production. For the third, we demonstrate how media theory and research have tended to assume specific ideal bodies while ignoring others. For the final pathway, we propose a rethinking of how media histories and theories are narrated via the usual protagonists and call for a new canon to achieve a richer and more nuanced understanding within the field.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Publisher Keywords: Listening in, feminist media history, sound studies, gendered labour, race, disability, science and technology studies (STS), radio history, film history, internet history
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
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