SoCondDi: Roland Kouassi on Urban Talk in Post-Colonial Africa


By Andries W. Coetzee
Feb 10, 2013 Bookmark and Share

Roland Kouassi

SoConDi will have a special presentation by Professor Roland Kouassi this week. Professor Kouassi is a faculty member at at the University of Cocody in Côte d'Ivoire and is currently a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of Michigan. He has done extensive research on the linguistic situation of Côte d'Ivoire, with a special focus on  language contact  in urban environments in Côte d'Ivoire. His presentation at SoConDi will focus on this aspect of his research. Full information about his presentation, including a title and abstract, is given below.

Identity and Ideology in Urban Talks in Post-colonial Africa: the Case of Nouchi

French colonial policy incorporated two major concepts of assimilation and association. Assimilation presupposed the inherent superiority of French culture over all others, so that in practice the assimilation policy in the colonies meant extension of the French language, institutions, laws, and customs. The policy of association also affirmed the superiority of the French in the colonies, but it entailed different institutions and systems of laws for the colonizer and the colonized. Under this policy, the Africans in Cote d’Ivoire were allowed to preserve their own customs insofar as they were compatible with French interests. At the same time, the real practice was oriented toward making French be the language and getting rid of “indigenous” languages. Most Ivorians who entered formal education were therefore “encouraged” to speak only French or strongly discouraged to speak their mother tongues.

Since Independence, however, the situation has not really changed. The Constitution does consecrate French as the official language, the unique language of formal education and public administration. In these dynamics, young people who were early dropouts or unschooled, living in the streets of cities (especially in Abidjan) found it difficult to communicate when they belonged to different linguistic backgrounds. They needed a lingua franca. They created Nouchi. This presentation gives a  description of Nouchi and tries to discuss the politics of identity and ideology involved.