Capturing Believers: American International Radio, Religion, and Reception, 1931-1975
Stoneman, Timothy H. B.
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Capturing Believers provides a history of the reception of American conservative evangelical missionary broadcasting from its inception in 1931 through the rise of the commercial era in 1970. The dissertation narrates accounts of two major Protestant stations, HCJB and ELWA, located in Ecuador and Liberia, respectively, as well as the U.S.-based project to build a custom transistor radio for the mission field. Employing a case-study approach, the thesis demonstrates the innovativeness of religious broadcasters who formulated a range of pragmatic responses to the drastic shortage of receiving sets in the southern hemisphere, including the use of social convention and the development of pretuned receiver technology. Missionary stations imported not only radios, but a constellation of American values into host countries through their reception activities. Overall, officials employed creative methods to construct a particular type of listener experience known as radio capture, characterized by regular listening in a domestic setting. By penetrating into the home or village and exposing listeners to proprietary broadcasts on a continual, even daily, basis, missionary receiver programs legitimized American conservative evangelicalism abroad and sowed seeds for a widespread revival of Protestantism in Latin America and Africa after 1970.