Exploring Intersections: The Language Question Again!

  • AK Onoma

Abstract

Many African countries have undertaken transitions to democratic rule since the early 1990s. While giving many people the rare opportunity to vote in competitive and pluralistic elections, there have been limits to the empowering effects of these transitions for many. The paper argues that the continued use of English, French and Portuguese in state and academic activities has minimised the empowering effects of these democratic transitions. The use of such languages contributes critically to limiting the ability of many Africans lacking fluency in them to participate in two important moments that define the possibilities
and limits of democratic decision-making. First, it limits their ability to
participate in discourses that determine what aspects of social realities should be subjected to democratic decision-making and what aspects should be insulated from popular participation. Second, it minimises the ability of many to contribute to discourses that define the appropriate ways of contesting whatever elements of political economies are included in the democratic space. International politico-economic institutions and external epistemic communities have had excessive influence on these two moments of decision-making. The paper
argues that generations of African scholars have collaborated in this process of disempowerment by refusing to take a concerted and determined stance against the dominant role of French, English and Portuguese on the continent. Because of this role, we should regard African scholarship as a force seeking to create a space for itself within a closed discursive and practical space rather than a radical force seeking to eliminate closure of discursive and practical spaces
generally.
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eISSN: 0850-3907