A paper on the history of religious contact in Guinea, and what is has to do with Bourdieu

A couple of months ago a paper of mine, From the Qur’an to Christianity. Ethnolinguistic contact and religious conversion in West Africa, was pubished by Cahiers d’Études Africaines (n 239 (2020), p. 235-262, https://doi.org/10.4000/etudesafricaines.31573). This piece of research is a very unusual experiment for me, it is an attempt at reconstructing ethnolinguistic contact in the domain of religion and cultural practices accompanying it by using data in Mano, Kpelle and Manding (all Mande, spoken in Guinea). The conclusion I draw is that the language of Islam as practised by the Manding influenced the “traditional” religious language of the Kpelle, which in turn was incorporated in the Catholic religious register. Given a particular ethnolinguistic dynamics in the Catholic church in Guinea, the Catholic register of Kpelle came to influence the Catholic register of Mano (to the point of some prayers being word-by-word translations).

It is curious to look back at where I came from with this research. Continue reading

A new fieldwork-related book (not really about research)

That I have no idea when I will go to Guinea again makes me acutely nostalgic. I am now following an online bookmaking class, which I took because for ages I have had this plan of making a book about Guinea, about my hosting family, about the now 10-year experience of going there. The book I initially planned was more a traditional book with text, and the model I had in mind was Josef Brodsky’s “Watermark“, a depiction organized in short sketches of a somewhat similar experience of escaping to the very same place in the same season for many years (“At night, infinity in foreign realms arrives with the last lamppost” — especially at nights as dark as in Guinea). For Brodsky it was Venice during acqua alta, for me it is the dry season in Nzerekore. To my great surprise (I should have prepared better) and anguish and procrastination, what I end up learning is a variety of visual techniques.

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Translating a leaflet about COVID-19 into Mano: does one always have fever AND cough or either counts as a symptom?

Today my language consultant, Pe Mamy, and I finished preparing a translation of a leaflet about COVID-19 into Mano (he translated and I bugged him with my endless questions about Mano). I learned many things, including the following:

  • There is a special word for ‘shop’ (meaning a walled trading area, big, like a supermarket, or small, like a cellphone shop, as opposed to an open stand at a market, for example), pìlìkí
  • I did not know how to say in Mano “to sneeze into an elbow pit” (now I do: tùsóò ɓo kɔ̀ túkpáà yi, and no, tùsóò, which means ‘sneezing’, does not come from French tousser, according to Pe; well I guess the sound is similar for all human beings).

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