On Pan-African Languages

In this discussion, Dr. Souleymane Bachir Diagne advocates for multiple Pan-African languages. While he includes the colonial languages along with Swahili in his formulation, he also suggests Manding and Fula.

His recommendation of Manding, which I would broaden to include the Mandé languages generally, is a logical one. These languages possess a high degree of mutual intelligibility.

His recommendation of Fula surprised me, though perhaps it should not have. When I was in grad school, a colleague of mine, Rama who was from Senegal, told me that she considered Fula to be an ideal candidate as a Pan-African language. Consider that it is enjoys a wide geographic dispersion (see the map below).


I consider Dr. Diagne’s suggestion that the colonial languages are acceptable vehicles of Pan-Africanism problematic for reasons that may be obvious. If they are not, you can read my thoughts on this here: http://libjournals.unca.edu/moja/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/MOJA21-v2i1-Rashid.pdf. I do accept that such languages are a part of our social milieu, however I also recognize that the impacts of languages extend beyond their utility and includes the political, economic, and conceptual. I contend that we leave the fetters of colonialism on our social systems and our minds by remaining wedded to these languages.

These criticisms notwithstanding, it is a worthwhile dialog.

Pan-African Forums – The Question of Language (23 Feb 2021) https://youtu.be/_BdKKOxYkdQ

On the determined pursuit of suffering

Shantideva, an 8th Century Buddhist monastic, in commenting upon the constancy of human suffering stated:

For beings long to free themselves from misery,
But misery itself they follow and pursue.
They long for joy, but in their ignorance
Destroy it, as they would their foe.

I am reminded of the continued applicability of his insights by the myriad contradictions around us. Consider the nations that are beset by climate catastrophes, while presently doubling their efforts to extract coal and oil from the Earth. Further, there are societies where democratic institutions are upheld as the bedrock of human freedom, whilst policy makers busy themselves eroding their foundations in order to usher in authoritarianism.

Sadly, such contradictions do not only exist on the level of the state, but also manifest themselves in our personal lives where many people act in a manner contrary to professed ideals and dismiss the apparent contradictions. In each of these instances, as Shantideva said people pursue misery with predictable results.


Polyculturalism-a conceptualization of culture that, rather than examine cultures as discrete social historical phenomena, instead focuses on the extent of their imbrication, that is the varying ways in which cultures and histories are inextricable, interweaved. It contrasts with multiculturalism, which often regards cultures as discrete entities.

This theory is elaborated upon at length in Vijay Prashad’s book Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting.