Languaging in Entangled African Spatialities

Author: Marcelyn Oostendorp, Rehema Abiyo, Samantha Roman (Stellenbosch University, South Africa & Aston University, United Kingdom) Sylvia Nahayo (Makerere University, Uganda)
Speaker: Marcelyn Oostendorp, Rehema Abiyo, Samantha Roman, Sylvia Nahayo
Topic: Linguistic Landscapes
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 Colloquium


This colloquium wants to challenge dichotomies between urban/rural, public/ private and multi/monolingual by foregrounding entangled African spatialities. In African sociolinguistics there has been an emphasis on studies conducted in urban areas and a false dichotomy that urban areas are multilingual, while studies on rural areas tended to view “each community (or “tribe”) as having its own language” (Di Carlo, Good, & Diba 2019). Increasingly, this dichotomy is questioned with an acknowledgment that urban and rural in Africa are “two intertwined spaces” (Mohr & Steigertahl 2020: 247). Recent research from African researchers have not only challenged the urban/rural divide but have also pointed out how linguistic landscape studies have privileged particular modalities, materialities and a “physical” conception of space (Banda & Jamaima 2015; Peck & Stroud 2015). This colloquium adds to this emerging body of research and present research from Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa that all engage with data that point to the need for more nuanced understandings of language, space, and materiality and how they mutually shape each other.

The colloquium will consist of 4 papers, convened by Marcelyn Oostendorp:

Challenging notions of language, space, and materiality in African sociolinguistics
In this introduction to the colloquium, Marcelyn Oostendorp (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), will provide an overview of recent research in African sociolinguistics that has questioned spatial and linguistic dichotomies.

Glocal entanglements in the linguistic landscape of Tana River Country
Rehema Abiyo (Stellenbosch University, South Africa & Aston University, UK) reports on a linguistic ethnography conducted in Tana River County (Kenya) and points out how local and colonial languages interact in the linguistic landscape. She argues that specific materialities are essential to expressing local identity.

Transnational linguistic repertoires of Samia speakers in Uganda and Kenya
Sylvia Nahayo (Makerere University, Uganda) focusses on the cross-border language community of the Samia in Uganda and Kenya. Her linguistic ethnographic study showed how the Samia’s mobility between countries, and urban-rural centers, shaped their linguistic repertoires. Samia speakers are thus argued to inhabit a multilingual identity.

Discursive placemaking in South African cookbooks
Samantha Roman (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), uses multimodal discourse analysis to looks at the entanglements of language, food, and (urban)space in the discursive construction of place in two South African cookbooks. Food, language, and relationality is shown to be interweaved in discursive placemaking practices.

Keywords: language and materiality, space, African sociolinguistics