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The Power of Babel Language & Governance in the African Experience cover
  • ISBN: 9780226514291
  • ISBN10: 0226514293

The Power of Babel Language & Governance in the African Experience

by Ali A. Mazrui

  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
  • Publish date: 05/01/1998
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Description
Linguists estimate that there are currently nearly 2,000 languages in Africa, a staggering figure that is belied by the relatively few national languages. While African national politics, economics and law are all conducted primarily in the colonial languages, the cultural life of the majority of citizens is conducted in a bewildering babel of regional vernaculars and local dialects. In The Power of Babel, Ali Mazrui and Alamin Mazrui explore the cultural and political implications of this linguistic diversity, including the role of language in nationalism and expansionist policies, gender roles, and social theory, to provide one of the most comprehensive studies of the complex linguistic constellations of Africa.

The Power of Babel draws on Ali Mazrui's earlier work in its examination of the "triple heritage" of African culture, in which indigenous, Islamic, and Western traditions compete for influence. In bringing the idea of the triple heritage to language, the Mazruis unravel issues of power, culture, and modernity as they are embedded in African linguistic life. The first section of the book takes a global perspective, exploring such issues as the Eurocentrism of much linguistic scholarship on Africa; part two takes an African perspective on a variety of topics from the linguistically disadvantaged position of women in Africa to the relation of language policy and democratic development; the third section presents a set of regional studies, centering on the Swahili language's exemplification of the triple heritage. The Power of Babel unites empirical information with theories of nationalism and pluralism -- among others -- to consider the future of a linguistically pluralisticAfrica and to offer the richest contextual account of African languages to date.

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