Cfp: Articulating belonging: translingualism, belonging and the creation of South African social collectivities

deadline for submissions: 
May 8, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
University of Amsterdam/University of Gent

In the creation of nation-states during the 19th and 20th century, standardized and official languages were of key importance to develop feelings of belonging to social collectivities through the public sphere. However, contemporary global neoliberal conditions have put pressure on Romantic notions such as belonging, togetherness and culture, that used to be seen as the building blocks of national identity. Postcolonial and decolonial debates have, furthermore critiqued the presumed monolingual character of communities and nations (Yildiz 2012; Mignolo 2003) by pointing to their linguistic heterogeneity. The complex linguistic context of South Africa offers a fruitful starting point to explore the recalibrated relationships between language, the creation of social subjects, the politics of belonging and social group formation (Yuval-Davis, 2006, Meinhof and Galasinksi, 2005). 


This conference wants to zoom in on translingualism and transculturality – broadly understood to refer to the fluidity and dynamism of linguistic and cultural borders – in South African literature and culture. The conference has at least three aims. Firstly, it wants to explore how narrative art forms (literature, performance poetry, cinema, theatre and so forth), but also more popular expressions (television series, newspapers, advertisements, graffiti, songs) linguistically produce, and critically reconsider the relationship between language and membership of social collectivities within the South African context. Secondly, this conference also wants to explore how language variations, multilingualism and translingualism in cultural representations index complex social and cultural entanglements in the day-to-day, ordinary lives of South Africans. Thirdly, it wants to investigate how translingualism, the use of multiple language varieties and different languages in narrative texts “destabilize” the position of dominant and/or standardized languages and what such minorizing practices (Dagnino, 2019) might imply for how language construes social subjectivity and categories of belonging in the South African context.


This call invites proposals for papers that reflect on:

  • How translingual South African literary texts create (new) social subjects and categories of belonging;

  • How popular genres (such as hiphop/rap and genre fiction) contribute to a critical analysis of the relation between language and belonging in the South African context; 

  • The minorizing of (standardized) Afrikaans and English through the use of other languages and language varieties and what the destabilizing of these languages implies for belonging and the construction of social collectivities;

  • How language use functions as a form of “border work” that sustain or challenge, resist and rebel against the inclusion and exclusion created by the politics of belonging;

  • The (linguistic character of) the cultural public sphere in this process of creating belonging and togetherness in the South African context;

  • Translingualism and translation of South African literature (in any South African language) as world literature.


We invite those interested to submit a short abstract (no more than 300 words), accompanied by a biographical note (150 words) by 8 May 2020. A notice of acceptance will follow by the end of May 2020. The conference will accept contributions in Afrikaans, Dutch and English. The selected presentations should be 20 minutes. The conference organizers foresee the possibility to deliver papers by Skype in cases where travel to Amsterdam cannot be arranged. A possible publication of (selected) contributions is considered.

Please send your proposal to before 8 May 2020. 


The organizing committee:

Yves T’Sjoen (UGent en UStellenbosch)

Annelies Verdoolaege (UGent)

Margriet van der Waal (UvAmsterdam)