This panel seeks to highlight the methodological and theoretical relevance of language-related questions to intra-continental migrations within sub-Saharan Africa. We address issues regarding the ways in which population movements affect language practices especially in urban settings.
Although many Africanists working on migrations advocate for a multidisciplinary approach to migrations on the African continent (e.g. Kane & Leedy 2013), the linguistic dimension of population movements has hardly been considered. This 'missing link' may well have to do with the arbitrary division of labor among academic disciplines. However, it also reflects the fact that non-linguists have hardly realized the contribution that a sociolinguistic perspective can make to the already complex picture. In this panel, we intend to highlight the methodological and theoretical relevance of language-related questions to intra-continental migrations within sub-Saharan Africa.
We will explore what impact different types of mobility (e.g., forced vs. free and circular vs. long-term migrations) have on population contacts and the migrants' language practices. We will address at least some of the following questions: Do institutional categories such as refugees, (il)legal immigrants, and displaced people, commonly used in migration studies, shed light on language dynamics? Do the distinction between rural and urban zones and its correlation with particular population movements within and across them help explain adequately the processes of language spread and change? Are cities as dense language contact zones more likely to foster the emergence of contact languages than rural settings often mischaracterized as linguistically homogeneous? Does mobility entail the reconfiguration of language indexicalities and how? Does the migrants' language competence in the host population's language(s) guarantee their socio-economic integration, in sub-Saharan Africa, as commonly claimed regarding migrations in the Global North?