Colonial Letters and the Contact of Knowledges

Eric A. Anchimbe

English Linguistics

University of Bayreuth, Germany

Research Focus

Colonial and postcolonial linguistics, Sociolinguistics, World Englishes, Pragmatics, Postcolonial pragmatics, Applied linguistics, Political discourse, Computer mediated communication

Selected Publications

Summary of research topic in the CL&CL project

Discursive construction of Identities and power in colonial letters

While much of the research on (post)colonial linguistics deals predominantly with discourses produced in post-independence times, a look at communication and discourses produced during colonialism yields enormous insights into how the current (im)balances of sociopolitical power, linguistic stratification, identity restructuring, and cultural hybridism started and were negotiated then. Using letters written during British colonisation of Southern Cameroons (1916-1961), I take a look at these issues at a time when colonialism was in active exercise. The aim is to establish the significant role played by power (colonial vs. tribal, appointed vs. hereditary) and identity (ruler vs. ruled, indigenous vs. foreign) in choices in communication, the type of discourses produced, and the discursive strategies employed by each group. What constitutes power or identity for the colonial administration and the indigenous ethnic authority is different, and this difference, along with other cultural elements, must be factored into the reading of these letters for them to be understood properly. In this study, I will try to do just that.