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Against Isolation: Transnationalism and Literary Dialogue in Dutch-Afrikaans Formations

Critics on both sides of the so-called ‘Afrikaans question’ tend to characterise the language as a hyper-local, and hence insulated, socio-cultural phenomenon. For supporters, this serves to foster cohesive group identities; for detractors, it threatens to detach Afrikaans linguistic groupings from broader (inter)national economic, political, and humanitarian agendas. What these attitudes have in common, is a marginalising approach that views Afrikaans in isolation from global trans-linguistic networks. Despite the language’s acknowledged ancestral integration with Dutch and Dutch-colonial cultural groupings, and continued interactions between Afrikaans and Dutch literary systems, historians of Afrikaans neglect the mutual the impact of Afrikaans and Dutch linguistic and literary practice on one another in favour of separatist accounts of both traditions’ sovereignty.
This project proposes a re-evaluation of the historiography of Afrikaans to account for the inter-linguistic dialogue and exchange that continue to characterise the language’s literary and social practices. Starting with a focus on recent interactions between Afrikaans and Dutch literary systems (both in the Netherlands and Flanders), the project develops a transcultural account of Afrikaans as internationally networked linguistic and literary system. It complicates separatist constructions of the language’s politics, and intervenes in debates about the relationship between language, identity, and geo-cultural heritage.


Fellows involved in this project


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