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The Power of Babel

Language and Governance in the African Experience

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 local and regional dialects, making language itself the center of debates over multiculturalism, gender studies, and social theory. In The Power of Babel, the noted Africanist scholar Ali Mazrui and linguist Alamin Mazrui explore this vast territory of African language.

The Power of Babel is one of the first comprehensive studies of the complex linguistic constellations of Africa. It 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 issues 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 offer the richest contextual account of African languages to date.

235 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1998

African Studies

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Language and Linguistics: Anthropological/Sociological Aspects of Language

Table of Contents

Introduction: Africa’s Linguistic Legacy: Between Expansionism & Nationalism
Ali A. Mazrui, Alamin M. Mazrui.
Pt. I: Global Africa
1: Language & Race in the Black Experience: An African Perspective
Ali A. Mazrui
2: African Languages in the African-American Experience
Alamin M. Mazrui
3: Linguistic Eurocentrism & African Counter-Penetration: Ali Mazrui & the Global Frontiers of Language
Alamin M. Mazrui
4: Language & the Quest for Liberation: The Legacy of Frantz Fanon
Alamin M. Mazrui
Pt. II: Continental Africa
5: Language in a Multicultural Context: The African Experience
Alamin M. Mazrui, Ali A. Mazrui.
6: Language Planning & Gender Planning: Some African Perspectives
Ali A. Mazrui
7: Language Policy & the Foundations of Democracy: An African Perspective
Alamin M. Mazrui
8: Language Policy & the Rule of Law in ’Anglophone’ Africa
Alamin M. Mazrui, Ali A. Mazrui.
Pt. III: Regional Studies
9: Dominant Languages in a Plural Society: English & Kiswahili in Post-Colonial East Africa
Alamin M. Mazrui, Ali A. Mazrui.
10: A Tale of Two Englishes: The Imperial Language in Post-Colonial Kenya & Uganda
Alamin M. Mazrui, Ali A. Mazrui.
11: Roots of Kiswahili: Colonialism, Nationalism & the Dual Heritage
Alamin M. Mazrui
12: The Secularization of an Afro-Islamic Language: Church, State & Marketplace in the Spread of Kiswahili
Ali A. Mazrui, Pio Zirimu.
13: The Linguistic Balance Sheet: Post-Cold War, Post-Apartheid & Beyond Structural Adjustment
Alamin M. Mazrui, Ali A. Mazrui.

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