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The Politics of Language and Nation Building in Zimbabwe

Ndhlovu, Finex

The Politics of Language and Nation Building in Zimbabwe

Series: Africa in Development - Volume 2

Year of Publication: 2009

Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2009. XVI, 227 pp., 1 ill., 15 tables
ISBN 978-3-03911-942-4 pb.  (Softcover)

Weight: 0.360 kg, 0.794 lbs

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Book synopsis

This book examines the exclusion of minority languages (and their speakers) from the mainstream domains of everyday social life in postcolonial Zimbabwe. It considers forces of hegemonic nation building, subtle cultural oppression and a desire for linguistic uniformity as major factors contributing to the social exclusion of Zimbabweans from language groups other than Shona and Ndebele. The book interprets the various forms of language-based exclusion exercised by Shona and Ndebele language speakers over minority groups as constituting a form of linguistic imperialism. Contrary to the popular view that English is Zimbabwe’s «killer language», which should be replaced by selected indigenous languages that are perceived as more nationally «authentic» and better grounded in both pre- and post-imperial frameworks, this book argues that linguistic imperialism has very little to do with whether the dominating language is «foreign» or «indigenous». The author discusses oral submissions from minority language speakers, language experts, policy-makers and educators. While the focus is specifically on the politics of language and identity in Zimbabwe, this case study gives an insight into the complexity of identity and nation building in postcolonial Africa.


Contents: History of language politics in Zimbabwe – Language politics in colonial Zimbabwe – Language and politics in the postcolonial context – Language use in education, media, law and administration – Critique of mainstream discourses on language and Zimbabwean politics – Language and ethnicity in PF ZAPU and ZANU PF politics – Language and ethnicity in ZANU PF internal politics – Language and ethnicity in MDC internal politics – Language policy as a site of political contests – Everyday forms of language-based marginalization – Language and nation building or language and empire building? – National identity and discourses of exclusion – Language hierarchies and internal colonization – The future of marginalized identities – Strategies for the maintenance of minority identities – The Zimbabwe case study in global perspective.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

The Author: Finex Ndhlovu holds a Ph.D. from Monash University. He was formerly a lecturer in the Department of African Languages and Culture at Midlands State University and is currently Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Community, Ethnicity and Policy Alternatives (ICEPA) and the School of Communication and the Arts, Victoria University, Australia. His research interests focus on language politics and identity formation.


« ... essential reading for everyone interested in the consequences and prospects of language policies in Africa.» (Professor Keith Allan, Monash University)


Africa in Development. Vol. 2
General Editor: Jeggan C. Senghor