Panel 32

Women, men, language and movement: African language and gender (im)mobilities

Panel organiser: Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju, Department of English, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria.


Migratory encounters are inevitably cross-cultural, linguistic and gendered. Language is not only prominent in trans-border transactions, but also in the management of all personal and social interactions in new and sometimes hostile cultural climes. In short, language is the vehicle of passage, of sundry performances of gender and sexuality within and across borders, and of the transformation of gendered consciousness. Embedded in new language ecologies, native notions of gender and sexuality sprout new meanings and trajectories, while gendered notions in host nations undergo complex linguistic transformations. The feminization/masculinization, gendering/degendering of language across borders appears to be a definitive north-south migratory phenomenon which is apt to be investigated.

This panel explores encounters that focus the sociolinguistic implications of migration for Africans, and for Africa, as evidenced in different domains, especially the domains of gender. The panel enquires into how contact languages impact perceptions of gender, and, more generally, how migration impacts the language and practice of gender and sexuality across African borders. The significance of language in the ‘globalization’ or ‘universalization’ of gender norms, in the learning and unlearning of gendered culture, and in the transformation of gender positioning or agency is a crucial undertaking here. We also investigate how notions of gender conflate with migrant vulnerabilities, such as a lower status as migrants, to generate conflicts of gendered identities and create complex ‘home and away’ gender norms within migrant environments. The role of language in the theorization of gender and sexuality in Africa, compared with the global north, for example between African Womanism and Western Feminisms, forms a prominent background to the work of the panel.

DATA SOURCE: The panel welcomes the exploration of language, gender and migration situations in real-life ethnographic settings, as well as cognate narratives in popular culture forms such as drama, film, music and social media.

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