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ENGLISH 362C: Language Politics and the Literary Imagination in Africa

This seminar considers the tremendous linguistic diversity of the African continent and the cultural, political, and socioeconomic dilemmas that define the question of language policy in Africa since decolonization. In the modern world, some languages die, and others are killed. In this course, we will ask how the slow or rapid death of a language - the phenomenon known as linguicide - is a crucial but underexplored dimension of colonialism and slavery in the Atlantic, Saharan, and Indian Ocean worlds. In my usage, the search for a mother tongue denotes an array of literary and linguistic efforts to unify disparate peoples and to heal the divisions of colonialism in Africa and its diaspora. This phrase names an aspiration for individual and collective restoration of selfhood through language. But this effort has come at the cost of intense internal conflict in the African world. The quest for linguistic restoration is a key determinant of internecine strife and civil war in Africa. In more »
This seminar considers the tremendous linguistic diversity of the African continent and the cultural, political, and socioeconomic dilemmas that define the question of language policy in Africa since decolonization. In the modern world, some languages die, and others are killed. In this course, we will ask how the slow or rapid death of a language - the phenomenon known as linguicide - is a crucial but underexplored dimension of colonialism and slavery in the Atlantic, Saharan, and Indian Ocean worlds. In my usage, the search for a mother tongue denotes an array of literary and linguistic efforts to unify disparate peoples and to heal the divisions of colonialism in Africa and its diaspora. This phrase names an aspiration for individual and collective restoration of selfhood through language. But this effort has come at the cost of intense internal conflict in the African world. The quest for linguistic restoration is a key determinant of internecine strife and civil war in Africa. In Sudan, for example, British colonial authorities employed indirect rule to elevate the Arabic-speaking Muslim populations in the northern regions at the expense of the linguistically and religiously diverse populations of southern Sudan. Over time, the south became politically subordinate to - and economically exploited by - the north, and this process of disenfranchisement fomented a protracted civil war of the late twentieth century that resulted in the secession, in 2011, of South Sudan from Sudan. How have creative writers, theorists, and policy makers sought to reconstitute the colonized self via language and linguistic practices such as state-imposed language rationalization policies or the collective recovery of lost languages? And how do these thinkers strive to resolve or reimagine ongoing antagonisms in literary form? This course ponders these questions via readings of key authors such as Ngugi wa Thiong¿o, Assia Djebar, Abdulrazak Gurnah (winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature), Leila Lalami, and Sulaiman Addonia, among others."
Terms: Spr | Units: 5
Instructors: Rasberry, V. (PI)
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