chapter  27
19 Pages

Writing in English(es)

ByTope Omoniyi

In this chapter, my objective is to determine what variation between different writing spaces and moments brings to the World Englishes (WE) debate. In other words, if we shift the focus from the actors to the spaces of action, then we can appreciate the skills with which writers converge with or diverge from different varieties to invest their writing with particular effects. As cultural producers, like actors, writers can and do get into character(s) and it is up to their readers to discern these characters in order to grasp the full meaning of a story. The spaces and moments of narration are instigators for these, as I shall illustrate from my own writing later. I shall discuss the ideological complexity of the two categories Writing in English and Writing in Englishes within the framework of a sociolinguistics of globalization (Blommaert 2010) and the practice of writing in diasporic contexts. I shall explore notions of linguistic capital (Bourdieu 1991), heteroglossia (Bakhtin 1981) and Kamau Brathwaite’s ‘Nation language’ (1984, 1995) to proffer explanations for a postcolonial writer’s code choice. I contend that the normative categorization of writers by reference to geographical or

regional identity is problematic in our contemporary world in which writers engage in unceasing dialogues with worlds beyond their own. Consequently, they find themselves in the cross-currents of global ‘transcultural flows’ (Pennycook 2008, and this volume), facilitated by ease of travel, the information superhighway and its virtual communities and networks, and other textual contact experiences. Using reflexivity as part of an (auto) ethnographic regime, I shall interrogate the varieties of English in my own writing and explore the tensions that are the consequence of my multiple cultural locations and third space experiences (Bhabha 1994; Bhatt 2008), both in real time and in virtual reality. The third space is a construct rather than a territorial reference per se

and, as such, it is a useful frame within which a writer’s voice can be examined. It is the idea of performance related to a perception of contact. So, for a writer, invoking such in-between realities results from a perceived audience or readership for whom contacts, pidgins and creoles have a meaning. It is important to declare that I have multiple subjectivities in this task. I am a

sociolinguist (I-Sociolinguist) trying to deploy sociolinguistic tools in looking at the I-Poet author of the poetry I have written and published. This I is further complexified by the contrasting and peculiar spaces of identity within which my poems have come to life and the roles I had in those spaces and the manner in which those roles inflected my perception of Self and therefore my use of language. My relationship with English, the language in which I write, varies between all of those spaces. By this I am implying that my linguistic resources, particularly at a register level, encode the space(s) of birth in the poems such that my trajectory up to the birth moment is discernible. These experiences resonate with those conveyed by Wimal Dissayanake who notes that, in the works of postcolonial writers, old and new,

the complex relationship between self, narrative, and language becomes evident. These writers are seeking to gain entrance to their multifaceted subjectivities by ‘decolonizing’ the English language and the sedimented consciousness that goes with it. Many of them regard the English language as the repressive instrument of a hegemonic colonial discourse. They wish to emancipate themselves from its clutches by probing deeper and deeper into their historical pasts, cultural heritages, and the intricacies of the present moment. Through these means they seek to confront their protean selfhoods. What is interesting is that these writers are striving to accomplish this liberation through the very language that has in the past shackled them to what can be characterized as an ambiguous colonial legacy.