Language and the political imagination: connections and disruptions 
Fiona McLaughlin (University of Florida)
Friederike Lüpke (SOAS, University of London)
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Language and Literature
David Hume, Lecture Theatre A
Wednesday 12 June, 14:15-15:45 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

Language in Africa has long been a site of political imagining. This panel seeks to explore instances or moments in which ideas about language in Africa capture the political imagination, and to consider how such moments connect actors, speakers, and writers, or how they are disruptive.

Long Abstract

Language in Africa is a powerful site of political imagining. These imaginings include indigenous perspectives captured in naming and associating languages with place as well as colonial and postcolonial visions of language mapping (Irvine & Gal 1995). The ambiguous status of colonial languages as spoils of war (Yacine 1966) and as instruments of oppression continues to fuel heated debates, yet African alternatives are also colonially created (Makoni 2013). Discourses of the vernacular (Adejunmobi 2004) are played out in Nyerere's vision of standard Swahili as a unifying national language, in Senghor's vision of a French-speaking Senegalese citizenry, in the Academy of African Languages' (ACALAN) contemporary vision of a network of cross-border vernacular languages, or in Sulemaana Kantè's master plan for decolonising the African mind through a bottom-up standardisation project (Donaldson 2017). This panel explores moments in which ideas about language in Africa capture the political imagination. Such moments range from managing linguistic diversity in rural and urban polities constituted on the principles of firstcomer-newcomer dualisms (Lentz 2013), to the writing of the South African constitution which embraces multilingualism as a vision for the new nation, and to the teaching of tifinagh at a Tuareg cultural center in Bamako as a site of remembrance and a political vision of a greater Tamazgha. How do different actors/speakers/writers imagine language, and how is the political imagination mapped onto language(s)? How do these moments connect different actors/speakers/writers, and how are these moments disruptive? We invite papers that address these issues.

Accepted papers: