Mobility within Africa: A Sociolinguistic Perspective
Date and Start Time 30 June, 2017 at 14:00
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?
Chair: Susana Castillo Rodriguez
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
How a Sociolinguistic Perspective Can Contribute to a Better Understanding of African Mobilities within the Continent
In this paper I advocate for a sociolinguistic approach to African migrations within the continent. I argue that a South-to-South focus prompts us to highlight the role of economic practices in the spread of languages in contact settings.
This paper takes as its point of departure the following observations: 1) Research on South-to-North migrations has been over-represented in migration studies in comparison to that of its South-to-South counterpart; 2) the linguistic dimension of population movements has hardly been considered by Africanists working on migrations within the continent; 3) there is a scarcity of sociolinguistic descriptions about the ways in which African speakers manage their language repertoires in different settings and, broadly, in different socio-cultural ecologies; 4) our knowledge on the linguistic diversity of the continent is still spotty; and 5) the inaccuracy of the early descriptions and codification of African languages that created arbitrary linguistic and socio-cultural boundaries complicates our task as analysts of language dynamics.
Based on different first-hand and second-hand fieldwork data, I show how a sociolinguistic approach can contribute to a better understanding of migrations within the continent. For instance, it highlights the fact that mobility is linked to a world of practices and ideologies; therefore it cannot be reduced to spatial trajectories, as refined as our description of them may be. I argue that examining migrants' language repertoires gives us access to this world of practices in which the repertoires reflect speakers' histories of social encounters. Finally I argue that a South-to-South focus prompts us to examine the role of economic practices in the spread of languages in contact settings.
Saved by Lingala: Indexicalizations of an exogenous language in Goma, DRC
Lingala is originally exogenous to the city of Goma yet has acquired a role of importance -- even to the point of life-saving -- in the militarised region of the city. This is due to indexicalizations of the language in the context of struggles over 'autochtony' and belonging.
Lingala, spoken in the western and northern DRCongo, is originally exogenous to the area of Goma, a city in the extreme eastern parts. Over the last decades the language has assumed a place and role of importance in the city. Yet, this 'place and role' cannot simply be accounted for mechanically, i.e. by reference to migrations of Lingala-speaking Congolese to the east. Rather, attention must be devoted to indexical appropriations of Lingala by Goma residents, which are to be understood in the context of ideologies of "autochthony," intertwined with the military-political volatility of the Rwandan-Congolese borderland. "True" Congolese are pit against "Rwandese intruders". In the military-political ecology the cross-border language (Kiswahili) is no longer suitable for symbolizing one's national, Congolese origins. The emergence of autochthony as the primary frame of reference results in a form of indexicality centered around a language originally exogenous to the area, i.e. Lingala. For Goma residents, being able to speak a few words in Lingala indicates that you are connected to the interior and to the capital Kinshasa in particular, and as such it eliminates uncertainty concerning your Congolité. The form of indexical appropriation sketched here is specific to the Rwandan-Congolese borderland, but interacts with, and reinforces, other second-order reinterpretations of Lingala found elsewhere on Congolese territory, such as the indexing of toughness (based on Lingala's close association with the military) and the indexing of urban sophistication and modernity (based on its association with the capital Kinshasa).
Literacy, precarity, and mobility in a West African city: the emergence of an autobiography
This paper looks at manifold issues of social and physical mobility through the literacy practices of an urbanite from Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) who through his autobiographical writing(s) self-identifies as a subaltern-on-the-move. His autobiography is a process and a product of literary becoming.
The literary 'object' under consideration is a 500-page autobiography written in a mixture of different 'Frenches' as well as the Abidjan urban vernacular known as Nouchi. The 'emergence' in the title refers to the text trajectory largely coinciding with the collaboration between the author ‒ whose nom de plume is Marcus Mausiah Garvey ‒ and myself as an anthropologist. An eight-year long literary companionship resulted in the publication of 'Le companion: journal d'un Noussi en guerre: 2002-2011' in 2016.
The proposed ethnography of grassroots literacy is grounded in dialogical analyses of Garvey's writing and rewriting in combination with conversations about diversity and inequality in (school-based or popular) writing, in languages and repertoires (such as French, Nouchi, slangs, etc.), and how these correlate to generational, ethnic, regional, etc. positions and identities. On the whole, Garvey's literary endeavour appropriates a multivalent expressive medium and operates repositionings and re/de-identifications aimed at transcending established boundaries and mitigating intersected exclusions. Such complex literary process, this paper argues, targets precarity and offers insights into multiple aspects of mobility.
The precarity represented in (the emergence of) 'Le companion' is précised in the 'Noussi' label. This idiosyncratic reworking of 'Nouchi' indexes not only the many aspects of urban and urban-rural, national and international, generational and social, as well as ideological and (geo)political subalternity and enclavation but also indexes the desire and the potential to transcend it. Thus, as a product and a process of literary becoming, 'Le companion' addresses manifold issues of social and physical mobility.
Mobility of urban Deaf persons in Africa: The creation of sign languages and identities
This paper discusses the mobility of urban Deaf persons in West and Central Africa with focusing on the creation of transnational/national sign languages and identities among Deaf communities. The history and the actuality observed in the field of English/French-speaking countries will be shown.
This paper discusses the mobility of urban Deaf persons in West and Central Africa with focusing on the creation of transnational/national sign languages and identities among Deaf communities. The history and the actuality observed in the field of English/French-speaking countries will be shown. During the era of colonial rule by France, Britain and Belgium, there existed no school education for the deaf in West and Central Africa. It was 1957, when Andrew J. Foster, an American Deaf pastor/educator, founded the first school for the deaf in these areas in Accra, Ghana, just the year of the independence of this country.
In 1973, his mission founded the Christian Center for the Deaf in Ibadan, Nigeria for the purpose of the training for the teachers in French-speaking countries. The series of teacher-training courses in Ibadan invited at least 163 trainees from at least 19 countries in Africa.
After the training, these trainees returned to their homeland to become teachers for deaf children and became the core persons who created national and transnational sign languages. The schools and churches for the deaf founded and managed by them in urban areas became the nodes of the signing communities and the transnational mobility of Deaf migrants.
Both transnational and national identities of the Deaf were created among them through the frequent international exchanges of Deaf persons. This paper also points out that the naming of their sign languages is also one of the results of the mobility of urban Deaf persons within African Continent.
Acculturation and Integration: Language Dynamics in the rural North-urban South Mobility situation in Ghana
This paper investigates whether or not the level of acculturation among female migrants of northern origin plays a role in their acquisition and use of the dominant language (s) of their host communities (3 highly multilingual urban markets) in the south.
In this study, I re-examine basic assumptions of Schumann's Acculturation Model, a socio-psychological model of L2 learning in three highly multilingual markets in urban Ghana. Ghana is a highly multilingual country with over 80 living languages spoken by some 25 million people across 10 geographical and administrative regions (Ethnologue 2016). Typically, linguistic diversity is very dense in urban centres which become melting pots for the various ethnolinguistic groups in the country. The literature is replete with studies on the migration of young females from Northern Ghana to urban markets in the south as head porters (load carriers), popularly called Kayayei. Nevertheless, many of these studies have been concerned with either sociological factors or economic ones, or even health. Very little research has focused on the linguistic dimension of rural-urban migration in Ghana. Ansah et al (2015) have reported evidence of linguistic challenge as well as second language acquisition (with varying degrees of success and use) among female migrants in three urban markets in Accra.
Specifically, I investigate the role social dominance patterns plays in second language acquisition among these female migrants in urban markets in Ghana, i.e. are migrants who are originally from sociolinguist groups with high level of linguistic vitality more likely to acculturate to the dominant language of their host community than their counterparts from sociolinguistic groups with less vitality. I also examine the integration strategies these migrants adopt in their acquisition and use of the dominant language in their host communities.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.