Archive | March, 2015

A research visit to Benin

In this post, Prof Tony Chafer reports on his recent research trip in Benin and some of the challenges and opportunities available there for scholars working on French West Africa. Having worked on decolonisation in former French West Africa for many years, Alex Keese and I wondered why no one, in the many studies we have read, has used the Benin archives. We knew of academics who had used the Senegal national archives, those of Mali, Mauritania and – to a lesser extent – Côte d’Ivoire, but no one, it seemed, had used the Benin archives. Yet Dahomey (modern Benin) had once been described as the Latin quarter of Africa, because of the number of French-educated Africans trained there, and graduates from its schools were to be found working for the colonial administration throughout French West Africa. The territory’s importance for any study of decolonisation in West Africa was thus beyond doubt. Initial prospects for the visit did not look good. There was no sign of the national archives on the internet and it was only when I stumbled across a local press article on the web, reporting on the events that had been organised that week to mark the […]

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Study day report: “The power of language in post-colonial Africa”

On Wednesday 11 March 2015, the Francophone Africa, Languages Across Borders, and International Development Studies and Security Issues research clusters in the Centre for European and International Studies Research (CEISR) at the University of Portsmouth jointly organised a study day focusing on “the power of language in post-colonial Africa”. The aim of this interdisciplinary event was to bring together African and European writers and scholars to explore the uses, misuses and challenges facing the former colonisers’ languages at a local, regional and national level in Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone sub-saharan Africa. The event began with a brief introduction, where the conference organisers, Olivia Rutazibwa (International Relations/ EU Studies), Mario Saraceni (Languages/ Linguistics) and Joanna Warson (History/ Area Studies), explained their research background and interest in the conference theme. The first panel concentrated on Anglophone and Lusophone Africa, with papers from Tope Omoniyi (Roehampton) and Margaret Clarke (Portsmouth). In his paper, Prof Omoniyi, a sociolinguist, considered the relationship between public health and language, focusing especially on the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In particular, Prof Omoniyi emphasised the persistent gap between policies that assert the importance of making multilingual resources on public health available and the reality on the ground. The […]

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