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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Advice as practical epistemology in multilingual Africa - an analysis of expert /user and user/ user contexts in Cameroon

Advice as practical epistemology in multilingual Africa - an analysis of expert /user and user/ user contexts in Cameroon


Project Director

  • Susanne Mühleisen

Summary

The speech activity of advice-giving and -receiving is part of learning experiences as well as an important aspect of the social organization and transfer of knowledge, of “practical epistemology” (Sidnell 2005b), in everyday life. This research project focuses on facets of learning (and resistance) in the context of advice-giving and advice-receiving in multilingual Cameroon. This study is situated at the interface of variational linguistics and pragmatics and will investigate Cameroonian English, Pidgin and selected indigenous languages contrastively and relationally with regard to norms and organization of this complex linguistic activity, the particular role (expert/user) as well as the uneven distribution of power and social relations (including gender and age) which is associated with the interaction. This will also be compared and related to advice-giving in French (cf. Drescher 2012) and to other postcolonial contexts in the African diaspora, Jamaica. Advice/ counseling will be considered in an exemplary way since it is an act of communication which involves knowledge transfer in many everyday situations (e.g. family life, romance) as well as in institutional contexts (e.g. the health sector, education). Arguably, advice in mediated contexts – e.g. in “Dear Dolly” advice columns in the Drum Magazinein postcolonial Anglophone urban centres in Africa - has played an enormous role in the negotiation of social norms in courtship and sexuality ever since the early 1960s (Mutongi 2003). This project is thus concerned with the interplay between multiple learning spaces and media in the speech activity of advice, blurring artificial dichotomies of learning in formal and informal, institutional and non-institutional, modern and traditional contexts.



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