The colonial linguistics of governance in Sudan: The Rejaf Language Conference, 1928

Ashraf Abdelhay, Busi Makoni, Sinfree Bullock Makoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This paper explores the discursive history of language-making in the context of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, focusing on a significant colonial moment of standardisation: The Rejaf Language Conference (RLC) of 1928. Through inspecting the report of the proceedings of the RLC, the paper contends that this institutional event contributed to the construction of racial and regional differences by, then: (1) being informed by scientific theories of racial categorisation as an epistemological basis for creating a stratified local sociolinguistic system; (2) with a Eurocentric audience design, inventing technical versions of local vernaculars and language groups imbued with specific indexical values, anchored to specific localities and social identities; (3) relationally, vernacularising Arabic by reworking its ideological load and orthographic order determined by a colonial economy of education; (4) artefactualising a pluralistic image of the society as an effect and function of institutional linguistic classification of forms tied to specific localities and people; and (5) resulting in the planned absence of a perceived indigenous lingua franca in the Southern Sudan. The RLC as a relatively regimented format, characterised by a rationalised absence of the local voice, was one of the significant contexts in which the very disciplinary identity of linguistics was rationalised, resisted, and maintained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-358
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of African Cultural Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Music
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


Dive into the research topics of 'The colonial linguistics of governance in Sudan: The Rejaf Language Conference, 1928'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this