Course Spotlight: Languages, Gender, and Sexuality in African Contexts

Course Description

Photo of a Zanzibari bed covered with kangas and beads saying, “I love you” in English, decorated by Swahili Muslim women while teaching a bride how to please her husband. (Copyright 2011: Katrina Daly Thompson)

How are gender and sexuality constrained, constructed, performed, and resisted in and through language? We will address these issues through readings and discussion of theories of language and gender, queer linguistics, and feminist discourse analysis, alongside case studies in sociocultural linguistics and linguistic anthropology from Africa, including Nigeria, South Africa, and the Swahili Coast. As a final project, students will write a funding proposal to conduct fieldwork on a topic of their choice. Students interested in language, gender, and sexuality outside of Africa are also welcome and may write the final paper in relation to any linguistic context.

Course Details

African Languages and Literature 407: Language, Gender, & Sexuality in African Contexts
3 credits
Weds. 1:20-3:15, 378 Van Hise Hall
Spring 2018

About the Instructor

Katrina Daly Thompson is a language and cultural studies scholar with a primary interest in African discourse, and her research thus intersects with and draws on linguistic anthropology. As a linguistic ethnographer, Dr. Thompson takes a discourse-centered approach to African cultural studies and an interdisciplinary approach to language, culture, and society. Her research explores the relationships between language, power, and “identity” in Tanzanian, Zimbabwean, and transnational Muslim discourse. She approaches these topics through critical discourse analysis, sociocultural linguistics, feminism, and queer linguistics. Her work fits in with the framework Alistair Pennycook (2004) calls “language studies” (rather than linguistics): “We are engaged in a quite different project that tries to understand language in diverse contexts by drawing on cultural studies, philosophy, literary theory, postcolonial studies, sociology, history, gender studies, and more. The concept of language studies, particularly by analogy with cultural studies, perhaps presents us with a more useful framework for pursuing such goals.”