The BBC’s Corporate Cosmopolitanism: The Diasporic Voice Between Empire and Cold War

  • Marie Gillespie
  • Eva Nieto McAvoy


The history of the BBC World Service is intimately connected to the history of late imperial Britain. This chapter sheds light on the way metropolitan, imperial and diasporic intellectuals interacted on the radio in a period of intensive collaboration which began with the Second World War and continued into the Cold War era. In this period, intellectuals and broadcasters such as George Orwell and Zulfaqar Ali Bokhari became ‘cosmopolitan brokers’ in a common struggle against fascism, but they also fulfilled the strategic and propaganda needs of the British Foreign Office. In nuanced reconstructions of the effects of translation and cultural ‘ventriloquism’, the chapter draws out the rich and complex interplay between centripetal and centrifugal forms of cosmopolitan thinking which emerged on air as well as off air. In this process, the voices of Indian and Caribbean intellectuals such as Mulk Raj Anand and Una Marson are contextualised in their interactions with intellectuals from eastern European Jewish, African and English origin in a way which highlights that a common presence on the radio did not always reflect common political ambitions or social experiences.


BBC Diaspora Imperial Britain Second World War Cold War Mulk Raj Anand Una Marson George Orwell Arturo Barea Ilsa Barea Ventriloquism Impartiality Radio Postcolonial Postimperial Corporate cosmopolitanism 



We are very grateful to Dr Gerd Baumann, Marie’s close friend and fellow anthropologist, now sadly deceased. Gerd worked with Marie on the Tuning In project – his very last project – for several years and co-authored many articles with her. We hope that we have been able to do justice to his inspiring contributions to the project and will always remember him with love and fondness. We dedicate this chapter to him.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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