Challenging Intellectural Colonialism: The Rarely Noticed Question of Methodological Tribalism in Language Research

  • Finex Ndhlovu
  • Tomasz Kamusella


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.


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


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Finex Ndhlovu
    • 1
  • Tomasz Kamusella
    • 2
  1. 1.University of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  2. 2.School of HistoryUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

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