Participant Info

First Name
Rebecca
Last Name
Scales
Affiliation
Rochester Institute of Technology
Website URL
https://www.rit.edu/cla/history/faculty/rebecca-scales
Keywords
cultural and social history of 20th-century France; radio and sound studies; media history; disability and medical history; disabled veterans; colonialism; global history
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

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About Me

I am an historian of twentieth-century Europe, with a special focus on the social and cultural history of modern France. My scholarship reflects my wide-ranging interests in the history of the body and the senses, global and imperial history, and the history of science, medicine, and technology.

My first book, Radio and the Politics of Sound in Interwar France, 1921-1939  (Cambridge, 2016) examines the democratization of radio in France, illustrating how broadcasting became a new platform for political engagement by transforming the act of listening into an important, if highly contested, practice of citizenship. Rejecting older models of broadcasting as the weapon of totalitarian regimes or a tool for forging democracy from above, the book offers a more nuanced picture of the politics of radio by uncovering competing interpretations of listening and the many diverse uses of broadcast sound that flourished between the world wars.

I am continuing my research into radio and broadcast sound as part of the Leverhulme-funded international research project “Connecting the Wireless World,” which studies transnational radio encounters in the twentieth century.

With Andrea Stanton and Alejandra Bronfman, I am co-directing a 2021 NEH Seminar on Radio and Decolonization.

I am currently working on an NEH-funded book project titled Polio and its Afterlives: Disability and Epidemic Disease in Twentieth Century France, the first scholarly studio of polio and its survivors in France. Although polio has largely disappeared from public memory, mid-century polio epidemics claimed the lives of thousands and left many people with permanent disabilities. Weaving together histories of epidemic disease, public health, and medicine with the social and cultural history of disability, this interdisciplinary study examines how polio restructured France’s welfare state and health care systems, fueled vaccine development and biomedical research, and mediated France’s geopolitical status during an era of decolonization and rising American predominance. Moreover, by charting the lives of polio survivors across the tumultuous political landscape of the twentieth century, this book will also uncover the complex and shifting intersections between disability and citizenship, providing a new framework for understanding the history of inclusion and exclusion in modern France.

Recent Publications

Radio and the Politics of Sound in Interwar France, 1921-1939 (Cambridge University Press, February 2016)

La Tribune de l’Invalide: Radio Broadcasting, Disability Activism, and the Remaking of the French Welfare State,” forthcoming, French Politics, Culture, and Society, 37, 3 (Winter 2019), 53-78.

“Jacques Lusseyran et l’étranger: regards sur l’Amérique” in Jacques Lusseyran: entre cécité et lumière, ed. Marion Chottin, Céline Roussel, and Zina Weygand. Paris: Éditions rue de l’Ulm, Presses de l’École normale supérieure, 2019, 87-104.

“Métissage on the Airwaves: Towards a Cultural History of Broadcasting in French Colonial Algeria, 1930-1935,” Media History, 19, 3, 2013, 305-321.

“Subversive Sound: Transnational Radio, Arabic Recordings, and the Dangers of Listening in French Colonial Algeria 1934-1939,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 52, 2, 2010, 384-417.

“Radio Broadcasting, Disabled Veterans, and Politics of National Recovery in Interwar France,” 1928-1935,” French Historical Studies, 31, 4, 2008, 643-678.

Media Coverage
Country Focus
France
Expertise by Geography
France, Western Europe
Expertise by Chronology
20th century
Expertise by Topic
Colonialism, Medicine, Science, Technology, World War I