Accepted paper:

Campaigning Kenya*n


Natascha Bing (Leipzig University)

Paper short abstract:

Looking at rallies in Kenya's 2013 elections the paper gives examples of linguistic strategies being used in the politicians' mobilisation efforts. While the political aspirants enforce exclusive identity politics by using "vernaculars", they also operate through polylingual inclusive practices.

Paper long abstract:

Based on the findings of my fieldwork conducted in the forerun of the 2013 Kenyan general election, I will focus on linguistic practices of Kenyan politicians. The talk provides insights into local understandings of language and politics, putting assumptions about the homogeneity of nations, languages and their interrelation to a test. While Kenyan politicians enforce exclusive (sub-)national identity politics, they also operate through polylingual inclusive practices, articulating their belonging to a united yet heterogeneous nation. They appeal to the electorate by using the 'language(s) of the people' and make use of fluid linguistic practices. Peter Kenneth's slogan "tunaswesmake" (we can make it), Rachel Shebesh's designation as "Manzi wa Nai" (Young girl of Nairobi), Raphael Tuju and his "Poa Campaign", as well as Musalia Mudavadi's slogan "Niko Freshi" (I'm fine/fresh/I feel good) are only some examples. A new understanding of a heterogeneous nation, reflected in a fluid use of language, completes the aspiration of a unified homogenous nation commonly expressed in the (stabilized) national language Kiswahili. The 'turbulent' (Stroud 2015) varieties being used in the political campaigns evolve as a symbol and medium of a distinctive Kenyan way of life, labelled as 'Kenya*n'. The gender-star serves as a placeholder for a broad spectrum of the nation's meaning, irritating the homogenous idea of the nation and a standardized stable national language attached to it (cf. 'Metrolingualism' Otsuji&Pennycook 2010). The construction of 'the' nation - as the potential electorate - is diverse and so are its practices dynamic and unstable.

panel Pol27
Playing to the crowd: performance and the politics of campaign rallies