Challenging intellectural colonialism: The rarely noticed question of methodological tribalism in language research

Finex Ndhlovu*, Tomasz Kamusella

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)


This concluding chapter extends the definitional understanding of the notion of tribalism and uses it to probe the limits and pitfalls of mainstream sociolinguistic methodological and conceptual approaches that bear the hallmarks of colonially invented or -imposed notions of ‘tribes,’ ‘tribalism’ and ‘standard languages.’ The overall intention is to suggest alternative and quite contemporary theorization on language and society, which could help scholars push back the frontiers of colonially inherited understandings of language that do not sit well with the real language practices of real people in everyday real life in southern Africa. A major line of argument advanced is that the genealogy of all ‘named’ (i.e., officially recognized and shaped as entities in its own right, or Einzelsprache) African languages, including those covered in the preceding chapters of this volume, takes us back to the colonial archives of western knowledges about Africa and African identities and of indigenous knowledges that were suppressed, erased or lost under colonial rule. The chapter concludes by calling for a conscious epistemological turnaround in scholarly debates and research on the social and political histories of African languages.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Social and Political History of Southern Africa's Languages
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781137015938
ISBN (Print)9781137015921
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Colonial archives of knowledge
  • Intellectual colonialism
  • Named languages
  • Official languages
  • Philosophy of language
  • Standard languages
  • Tribalism


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