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HomeResistance and protest in postcolonial Africa: representations in language and literature

Resistance and protest in postcolonial Africa: representations in language and literature

Exploring verbal and nonverbal expression and representation of resistance, dissent and dissidence in Postcolonial Africa

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Published on Tuesday, June 08, 2021 by João Fernandes

Summary

Language and discourse are central in power mediation in any society. This concern has provoked scientific burgeoning that led to the development of a social approach to linguistics, called critical linguistics (CL), which recognized power relationships as a central theoretical issue, and discourse as well as text as its main unit of analysis. Given the complexity of globalized understandings and practices of citizenship and political engagement, there is a need to explore how Africans are participating as activists and emancipated citizens in a vibrant public sphere. This volume seeks to explore the verbal and signed acts of resistance and protest in the postcolonial context of Africa from a variety of angles and epistemological approaches.  It explores how knowledge and political/social call to action (rejecting leaders, resisting, dissenting)  is perceived, shared and used  by the individual and/or social groups in postcolonial Africa.

Announcement

Argument

Language and discourse are central in power mediation in any society. This concern has provoked scientific burgeoning that led to the development of a social approach to linguistics, called critical linguistics (CL), which recognized power relationships as a central theoretical issue, and discourse as well as text as its main unit of analysis. This perspective in apprehending the role and nature of language and discourse was at the base of the development of methodological and theoretical approaches such as discourse analysis (DA), and critical discourse analysis (CDA), within the field of text linguistics. In this light, and in the view of Fairclough (1989), language is a form of social practice as using language is the commonest form of social behaviour. Language and discourse are also central in critical theory as it is claimed by Hegel, that criticism is not simply a negative judgement, but has a positive emancipatory function.

It is within this framework that this research project seeks to explore the manufacturing of acts (verbal and nonverbal) of dissent in postcolonial Africa. Dissent, protest and resistance have been established as the new forms of power negotiation and the expression of popular emancipation in democratic societies. In fact, resistance to established oppressive orders and social injustice has always characterized the history of humanity, as the oppressed has never achieved freedom without protest, resistance and even bloody battles.

Critical Linguistic studies of verbal acts of dissent have been carried out from the prism of CDA. Hill (2018) has examined the language of protest in which she views protest as expression of different types of dissent and as an alternative to war. Other works have looked at the use of music, literature, and other media in dissent enterprises around the world.  However, a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the verbal and nonverbal act of resistance has not been undertaken on Africa from the vintage point of post-colonialism.  This volume seeks to fill the gap.

Given the complexity of globalized understandings and practices of citizenship and political engagement, there is a need to explore how Africans are participating as activists and emancipated citizens in a vibrant public sphere. This volume seeks to explore the verbal and signed acts of resistance and protest in the postcolonial context of Africa from a variety of angles and epistemological approaches.  It explores how knowledge and political/social call to action (rejecting leaders, resisting, dissenting)  is perceived, shared and used  by the individual and/or social groups in postcolonial Africa.

The following research questions guide our investigation:

What linguistic, verbal, and nonverbal signs (and symbols) are used in manufacturing, structuring, and sustaining resistance movements in Africa? In other words, how do activists and protesters get engaged linguistically and semiotically in processes of resistance?

What discourse pattern is used in popular mass mobilization?

  • How are acts of dissent expressed and represented in other and modes channels like music, literature, media, etc.? What the role does the digital culture play in protest?
  • Given the context of Postcolonialism, what discourse (views) surrounds protests? These views might be from the pro and anti-protest.
  • How do incumbent regimes communicate their crisis management when the outcome of repression is violent and bloody?
  • What discourse and representation do established regimes use to apprehend and shun protest acts.
  • At the discourse level, what are the discursive, pragmatic, rhetorical, and multimodal strategies and tools used?
  • The postcolonial Africa is an environment where democracy is still a nascent, compared to western countries where it has been in force for centuries. Are there similarities in the way protest is made in Postcolonial Africa in Western democracy?
  • Is there a form of indigenization and tropicalisation of the language of protest?
  • How do African express their awareness of their role as king makers, and/or source and receptors of the action of elected leaders.
  • Given the multiplicity of channels and modes, how is resistance verbalized and represented in media such as music, literature, tags and graffiti, etc.

From a multidisciplinary approach, iconic communication (Barker and Yazdani, 2000) during protests will be explored from a diversity of theoretical perspectives including Systemic Functional Perspectives (O’Halloran 2004), Semiotic Approaches (Kress and Van Leeuwen 2001) and Conceptual Metaphor theory (Lakoff 1980, 1984; Kövecses, 2010, 2020).

  • From a thematic perspective, we seek to explore: hate speech, tribalism, secessionism, feminism, human rights, democracy, trade unions, Minority groups, etc.
  • From the disciplinary and epistemological perspective: we envisage papers in the domains: sociological, historiographic appraisal of the typology of protest movements in postcolonial context, critical discourse and multimodal analysis of protest messages and speeches, rhetoric of protest, the rhetoric of conservative resistance, discourse pragmatics, semiotic of protest graffiti, musical engagement in political protest, literature of protest or engaged literature, social media discourse (text and emojis), media discourse

Background: The socio-cultural and political context of protest Postcolonial Africa

Why is resistance or protest an issue worth researching?

More than ever before, protest and resistance have become recurrent (recursive) forms of democratic expression in Western democracies. The most recent and vivid example is the ‘Stop the steal protest’ of January 6th 2021 that lead to the storming of the Capitol by pro-Trump militants during the certification of the results of elections in the USA. This last event comes after a series of protest that have marred American tranquility. Protests are triggered by all sorts of events, all of them having enduring social injustice, socioeconomic precariousness, sociopolitical dissatisfaction, oppression and disillusion as the root cause. The recent enduring movements like that of the Gilets Jaunes  in France,  the George Floyd and “Black life matters” protests in the US, the street protest in Hong Kong, are not aberrations but rather a culmination of decades of struggle.  Protests pave the way to a new phase in the fight for better leadership that would bring about more social justice, equality and better living conditions for the people.

Africa is becoming acquainted with the new waves of popular emancipatory expression of dissatisfaction, and it is worth apprehending the issue from the benchmark of postcolonialism (Said 1978). The history of Africa also provides accounts of dark periods during which Africans have been through bondage: from the slavery ordeal to the very recent colonial experience. In fact, the quest for independence by Africans met fierce and bloody resistance from the colonial powers who were not ready to let go the territories which they had long exploited.

In the aftermath of independence, the struggle changed its form, shape and target. In fact, the masses in the newly created political entities soon discovered that beyond the proclaimed independence, there was need for more freedom and democracy. As a result, their fight was redirected from colonial powers to new targets: neocolonial entities that have been established as the colonial masters have passed on power to indigenous leadership and administration.  New forms of democratic governance was introduced in Africa in the 1990s following the Eastern wind. There was great expectation that more public participation to debate on public life would lead to regular power change, and indirectly to socioeconomic transformation that would foster the wellbeing of the population. More than thirty years, the populations have been disillusioned as they come to realize that there has been political status quo despite of parody of democracy.

Protest and mass protest as a means of expressing despair

In this postcolonial context (Said 1978), characterized by the emancipation of conscience, (empowerment of masses and civil society organizations), Africans seem to have reached another state of maturity as democracy has established  multiparty system, human rights, and freedom of speech as core values. It is claimed that the governments are face with a huge challenge that dictator did not experience: governing king-population.  Populations in post-colonial Africa are getting more conscious of their rights and are no longer ready to tolerate poor governance. They seem to be inspired by trends in western context.

The development of technologies of information and communication have given rise to new form of communication also play an adjuvant role in this trend. The widespread use of social media has fostered spontaneous and uncontrolled mobilization of the masses. The mainstream media were too rigid and censored by the governing powers. The heavy use of the digital and social media was instrumental in disseminating the images and messages of the protests aiming at the mass mobilization during the Arab Spring that lead to the toppling of presidents and governments. The Arab springs seem to have ushered us in a new era. They were the most telling episodes of the fact that the masses can decide their fate. More recently, the Friday protests in Algeria was a sign that these forms of public expression have come to stay.

Most political protests in Africa seem to follow a despairingly familiar script: people, unable to earn a proper living and yearning for political change as democratically elected leaders are not able to meet their needs; reelection of long serving leaders leading to the reproduction of corrupt system, after a parody of elections; contested results of electoral events setting off a wave of protests causing angry mob to go rioting in the street; military exaction or excessive use of force leading to dead casualties; and people calling for decisive police accountability. Some of these mass protests and uprisings have led to the abdication of long serving leaders in African countries; protests seem to have become very effective tools of political bargaining in Postcolonial Africa.

Resistance through protests also portrays vividly an aura of frustration and indignation to the system of governance which offers no hope for tens of thousands of people in the countries. An exasperation when one does not foresee any hope for any lasting change in one’s condition if the system has not changed. A return to status quo appears to no longer be politically viable. Rather than going to the extreme situation by resorting to immolation like it was the case of the young Tunisian which triggered off the Arab springs, activists and engaged citizens use a variety of channels, signs and words to express their discontentment and inclination to dissention.

We welcome individual paper abstract submissions. Submissions should include author’s name, affiliation, contact details, paper title, and abstract of no more than 500 words.

The abstract (in English or French) shall be sent to the following two emails: rostandngouo2000@yahoo.fr and alicehounda@gmail.com

Important dates

  • Publication of CFP: February 2021
  • Deadline for the submission of abstract: 30th June 2021

  • Notifications: The abstract will be peer-reviewed and notifications will be sent as soon as they are ready by July 5th. Full papers are highly welcome.
  • Symposium: 06th July 2021, University of Maroua; Presenters will receive 15 minutes for lecture and 5 minutes for discussion.

Publication outlet: full papers will be double-peer reviewed and published.

We have undertaken discussions with a journal for a special edition and a publishing house for publication. You will be advised when a decision has been reached on the best and fastest option.

  • Deadline for the expression of interest and submission of abstract: 30th June 2021
  • Notifications: after peer-review, notifications will be sent as soon as they are ready until 5th July
  • Full papers: 30 August 2021
  • Reviewers’ feedback: 15 October 2021
  • Corrected papers: 20 November 2021
  • Publication of the volume: January 2022

Scientific committee

  • Professor Edmond Biloa, University of Yaoundé 2
  • Professor Fotsing Mangoua, University of Dschang
  • Professor Mbassi Ateba, University of Maroua
  • Professor Innocent Chiluwa, Covenant University
  • Professor Tandia Mouaffo, University of Dschang
  • Professor Jean Benoit Tsofack, Université of Dschang
  • Professor Alpha Ousman Barry, Université de Franche-Comté
  • Professor Zouyane Gilbert, University of Maroua
  • Professor Dinga, University of Douala
  • Professor Tonye Alphonse, Université de Yaoundé 2
  • Professor Lem Lilian Atanga, Université of Florida/University of Bamenda
  • Professor Meutem Kamtchueng, University of Maroua
  • Professor Ebehedi King Pauline, University of Maroua
  • Professor Silvia Bonacchi, University of Warsaw, Poland

Coordination

Herbert Rostand Ngouo and Hounda Alice, University of Maroua

Places

  • Maroua, Cameroon

Date(s)

  • Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Keywords

  • Protest, postcolonial, language, resistance

Contact(s)

  • Herbert Rostand Ngouo
    courriel : rostandngouo2000 [at] yahoo [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Herbert Rostand Ngouo
    courriel : rostandngouo2000 [at] yahoo [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Resistance and protest in postcolonial Africa: representations in language and literature », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, June 08, 2021, https://calenda.org/883414

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