The Politics of Language in Eritrea: Equality of languages vs. bilingual official language policy
2010 (English)In: Journal of Asian and African Studies, ISSN 0021-9096, E-ISSN 1745-2538, African and Asian Studies, Vol. 9, no 1-2, 149-190 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
The article analyzes the discourse of politics of language in Eritrea. It argues that the language debate in Eritrea over equality of languages and bilingual official langauge policy is more about power relations than about language per se. It relates to politics of identity that derives from the construction of two identity formations as understood by political elites. Equality of languages is based on ethnic identity, whereas official language is based on the construction of supra-ethnic civic identity. According to the constructivist bilingual official language Arabic and Tigrinya are supposed to represent two different socio-cultural identity formation, notably, Islam-Arabic and Christian-Tigrinya. Consequently, the official language policy debate could be construed to derive from politics of power relation where two groups of elites supposedly representing the two identity formations are engaged in power competition reflecting real or imaginary socio-cultural cleavage of respective identity. In this sense the bilingual official language is designed to create social equilibrium wherein it is supposed that power would equitably distributed between two rival elite groups.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
The Netherlands, Brill, 2010. Vol. 9, no 1-2, 149-190 p.
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:nai:diva-1065ISI: 10.1163/156921010X491308OAI: oai:DiVA.org:nai-1065DiVA: diva2:325470