Dissertation Defense: Andrew Marshall
Candidate: Andrew Marshall
Advisor: Lahra Smith, Ph.D.
Title: Language Policy and the Nation in East Africa
How do state language policies influence and reflect differing conceptions of the nation and languages’ relation to it over time? In investigating the politics of languages and national identification, I compare the development of language policy and its role in nation-building in the neighboring ethnolinguistically diverse, postcolonial states of Kenya and Tanzania. In both countries, Kiswahili is the most widely known language and the sole, state-recognized national language, a legal status distinct from Kiswahili’s shared status with English as one of the two official languages, but most citizens speak other indigenous languages as their first languages. The meanings associated with Kiswahili’s national language status, both in formal policies and in Kenyans’ and Tanzanians’ understandings of that status, vary significantly between the two states and reflect differing conceptions of the relationship between language(s) and the nation. Through interviews, archival research, and multi-sited ethnographic observation in each state, I trace the development and present status of state language policies regulating parliamentary debates, subnational assembly and council debates, and schools’ language(s) of instruction. Differing conceptions of the nation contributed to earlier post-independence policy decisions, such as the Kenya National Assembly’s 1974 change from English to Kiswahili as its language of debate, and contemporary language policy debates and implementation continue to reflect and influence how Kenyans and Tanzanians understand their nations. Linguistic nationalism’s “one nation, one language, one state” slogan does not describe either of this dissertation’s cases or most other states today. Close study of the contested meanings and interpretations of national language status and other aspects of state language policies contributes to a more complete account of conceptions of the nation and nation-building in ethnolinguistically diverse societies.