Eric Anchimbe

Eric A. Anchimbe teaches English Linguistics at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. He has done research on political discourse in Africa, focusing mostly on political discourses produced by the common people in their attempt to forge a place for themselves in the political process. His most recent edited books include Postcolonial Linguistic Voices (with S.A. Mforteh, de Gruyter, 2011), and Linguistic Identity in Postcolonial Multilingual Spaces (CSP, 2007). His papers have appeared in journals like Journal of Language and Politics, World Englishes, English Today, and Journal of Pragmatics.


Plenary Title: “Dialogue under Colonialism: The Discursive Enactment of Colonial Power, Roles, and Identities”

Although a lot has been written about the postcolonial states that resulted from European colonialism of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries, not much has been written about the colonial period, at least not from a linguistic perspective and not with data from original archives. This paper intends to add to the small amount of literature that already exists by investigating the different discursive strategies British colonial authorities in charge of the Southern Cameroons territory, as well as Cameroonian native administrators, used in their written (letter) communications.

Letters were the only major means of communication at the time because the British colonial office was located in Enugu, Nigeria. The letters studied here are about the Johannes Manga Williams case – he was the traditional leader of Bimbia (Victoria, now Limbe) and also the native administrator of the area for the British colonial administration. Written between 1948 and 1952, these letters reveal interesting facets of dialogue under colonialism. In the back and forth exchanges between Manga Williams and the British authorities about his request for a car, allowances and police protection, several linguistic strategies are used to enact power and construct identities, such as colonisers vs. colonised; resident foreigner vs. native; master vs. (obedient) servant; colonial (superior) administrator vs. native (local) administrator; imposed administrator vs. born hereditary chief; etc. Power and authority are played out in various asymmetric ways; for instance, while the resident British administrator has the power to force Manga Williams into early retirement, Manga Williams has the power to remain chief of Bimbia with more or less the same authority over his people even without the title or position of native administrator. Similarly, even though he ends his letters with the expression “I am, Sir, Your humble Servant”, the tone of Williams’ letters does not always project him as a servant or as humble.