Keynote Speakers


Professor Ailie Cleghorn

Professor Ailie Cleghorn

Professor Ailie Cleghorn, who completed her doctoral degree in Comparative Sociology of Education at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, is a full-time faculty member affiliated with the Educational Studies Program at Concordia University in Montreal. She has thirty years’ teaching and research experience, and her research has focused mainly on language issues, especially in African primary and pre-primary school settings. Her many co-authored publications include Issues in African education: Sociological perspectives, with Ali A Abdi (2004),  Shades of globalization in three early childhood settings: Views from India, South Africa and Canada, with L Prochner (2010), Complex classroom encounters: A South African perspective with R Evans (2012) and Teacher education in diverse settings: Making space for intersecting worldviews, with Prochner, Kirova and Massing (2016).


Abstract of keynote paper to be presented at the Joint Annual Conference of the South African Association for Language Teaching and the Southern African Linguistics and Applied Linguistics Association  2019

University of Pretoria

30 June–4 July

Africa is Not Alone: Indigenous Languages in Contemporary Canadian Society

Ailie Cleghorn

This presentation will address the conference theme, ‘Indigenous languages in contemporary African society’, from a comparative historical and socio-linguistic perspective. The three-part presentation will be visually supported by making use of PowerPoint, maps and photographs.

In Part 1, I will clarify some important differences between Canadian and Southern African terminology (indigenous languages, indigenous knowledge, aboriginal peoples, First Nations peoples, reserves, homelands, high-density suburbs). This will be followed by a discussion of the ways in which Canada’s quest for truth and reconciliation differs from that of South Africa, and of the recovery measures the Canadian government and its citizens are now taking, as expressed in two documents: the 2012 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, They came for the children: Canada, aboriginal peoples, and residential schools; and the TRC’s 2015 Calls to action, 94 recommendations to all levels of government, ie  federal, provincial, territorial and aboriginal, to change policies and programmes and move forward with reconciliation.

Part 2 of the presentation deals with how Canada is beginning to include many indigenous languages in the planning of educational programmes in a number of indigenous / First Nations communities. In one example, I will draw in particular on Carol Rowan’s research on the Inuit of Northern Quebec as reported on in an article titled ‘Disrupting colonial power through literacy: a story about creating Inuktitut-language children’s books’. I will also describe the very preliminary efforts that several Canadian universities are making to design a mandatory undergraduate course in Indigenous Studies that informs students about their own, until now, rather silent history.

Part 3 will be a discussion of indigenous peoples’ linguistic and educational rights, with particular reference to recent research conducted by Hays and Matengu on the San of Southern Africa and the chapter titled ‘Whose African education is it?’, contributed by Cleghorn and Matengu to the Palgrave handbook of African education and indigenous knowledge, which will be published shortly. The question ‘Whose Canadian education is it?’ will refer to a few community-driven programmes designed to promote indigenous language acquisition and encourage the regeneration of the cultural and linguistic rights of the First Nations.


Francis B Nyamnjoh

Francis B Nyamnjoh

Francis B Nyamnjoh holds BA and MA degrees from the University of Yaounde, Cameroon, and a PhD (1990) from the University of Leicester, UK. He served as Head of Publications at the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) from July 2003 to July 2009, and in August 2009 he joined the University of Cape Town as professor of Social Anthropology.

He has taught sociology, anthropology and communication studies at universities in Cameroon and Botswana. In 2003, his extensive research and publications on Cameroon and Botswana earned him the Senior Arts Researcher of the Year prize, and in October 2012 he received a University of Cape Town Excellence Award for his exceptional contributions as a professor in the Faculty of Humanities. He was also the recipient of the 2013 ASU African Hero  annual award awarded by the African Students Union, Ohio University, USA; the 2014 Eko Prize for African Literature; and the ASAUK 2018 Fage & Oliver Prize for the best monograph for his book #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at resilient colonialism in South Africa.

Professor Nyamnjoh received a B1 rating from the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) and has been a fellow of the Cameroon Academy of Science since August 2011; a fellow of the African Academy of Science since December 2014; a fellow of the Academy of Science of South Africa since 2016; and Chair of the Editorial Board of the South African Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Press since January 2011. His scholarly books include Africa’s media, democracy and the politics of belonging (2005); Insiders and outsiders: citizenship and xenophobia in contemporary Southern Africa (2006); C'est l'homme qui fait l'homme: Cul-de-sac ubuntu-ism in Côte d'Ivoire (2015); #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at resilient colonialism in South Africa (2016); Drinking from the cosmic gourd: How Amos Tutuola can change our minds (2017); Eating and being eaten: Cannibalism as food for thought (2018); and The rational consumer: Bad for business and politics: Democracy at the crossroads of nature and culture (2018).


Amos Tutuola as a quest hero for endogenous Africa: actively anglicising the Yoruba language and yorubanising English   

By Francis B Nyamnjoh 


People, things and ideas all move in predictable and unpredictable ways. No particular group, community or society has a monopoly on such circulation. Mobility or circulation leads to encounters of various forms, encounters that are (re)defined in many ways. If people, their things and ideas circulate, it follows that their personal or collective identities also move and, through encounters with others, constantly have to navigate, negotiate, accommodate or reject differences in an open-ended manner, which makes them permanent works in progress. No mobility or interaction with others leaves anyone, anything or any idea unchanged, even if such interactions are not always equal and do not always result in immediate, palpable or tangible change.

This is the framework I bring to my reflections on indigenous languages in Africa and their encounters, and negotiations with and navigation of colonial languages. Drawing on the writings of Amos Tutuola, a writer who actively sought to yorubanise English and anglicise Yoruba, I argue that Africans have never been passive in the way in which they embraced, internationalised, used and reproduced European languages. If anything, just as they were able, long before encounters with Europeans, to cultivate intelligibility from encounters between indigenous languages (hence the more appropriate term endogenous languages), Africans have actively sought to Africanise European languages, even when the colonising forces and their postcolonial successors were determined to settle for nothing short of deleting, reformatting and installing a whole new linguistic ‘software’ in the African mind and social imagination.

The address explores how Tutuola successfully employed his creativity and imagination in conversation with Yoruba folktales to use and appropriate the English language to activate himself and his people through stories. Using both English and Yoruba, and navigating between languages and worldviews, he shared African modes of thought in a colonial language and promoted conviviality between different traditions and generations of being and becoming African. His focus on giving incompleteness a chance, rather than embracing the extravagant illusion of completeness fuelled by spurious affirmations of superiority and autonomy, speaks more to the logic of inclusion and less to that of exclusion and the violence of conquest and conversion. Through his creative appropriation of various African and European influences in his life, Tutuola successfully stressed the need for conviviality between change and continuity, individual freedom and collective interest, tradition and modernity, Africa and the rest. In particular, his writing poses a challenge to conventional assumptions about indigeneity and authenticity versus imports and hybridity, and forces us to rethink what really counts as ‘indigenously African’.


Beatrice Fraenkel

Beatrice Fraenkel

Beatrice Fraenkel is a Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, where she teaches the Anthropology of Writing. She applies a pragmatic approach to her research and teaching. Her early work, La Signature, Genèse d’un signe  (Gallimard, 1992), deals with the history of the performativity of a sign. She has discussed the Austin theory on speech acts in several papers, for example ‘Writing acts: When writing is doing’ (in The Anthropology of Writing, David Barton & Uta Papen (eds.), London, 2010).  She has developed several research programmes on the uses of written documents in workplaces. With Anni Borzeix, she co-edited Langage et travail, communication, cognition, action (2001, Paris). Following an initial field survey conducted in Manhattan in September 2001, she published a monography, Les écrits de Septembre, New York 2001 (2002), and several studies, including ‘Catastrophe writings: in the wake of September 11’  (in Mary Shaw & Marija Dalbello (eds.), Visible writings: cultures, forms, readings, Rutgers University Press, 2010). In recent years, she has led research on ‘écritures exposées’ (exposed writings) in several public spaces. She was the co-curator of Affiche-Action: Quand la politique s’écrit dans la rue, an exhibition at the Bibliothèque de Documentation Internationale Contemporaine (Hôtel National des Invalides, November 2012 to February 2013) and the co-author of the exhibition catalogue (2012). Currently she is a member of the Steering Committee of the Iris programme ‘Scripta’-PSL, 2016–2018.


A pragmatic approach to writing seeks to describe the type of acts we perform in and through writing and reading in various situations. Among the resources that writing offers for action, graphics is largely underestimated. We propose here a preliminary identification of typical elementary graphic acts in the context of a literate culture. We distinguish a first set of acts that concerns the early stages of learning how to write, and the acquisition of related skills: the act of signing, the act of writing and the act of spelling. A second set of acts refers to the advanced learning of reading and to skills that are related thereto: creating salience and graphic significance but also, and more exceptionally, in the case of disasters for example, creating written environments able to deploy an aesthetic force that corresponds to the situation.

Fraenkel, Béatrice. (2018). Graphic Acts: gestures, spaces, postures [Actes graphiques: gestes, espaces, postures], L’Homme, 227-228, pp 7-20

Fraenkel Béatrice. (2018). The concept of a writing event [La notion d’événement d’écriture], Communications & Languages, 197 - September, pp 35-52

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