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Rhodes > English Language and Linguistics > Latest News

Visiting scholar tackles gender ideologies in Nigerian novels

Date Released: Wed, 25 November 2015 17:38 +0200

Amaka Ezeife, a visiting post-doctoral scholar from Nigeria, is investigating how euphemisms and their opposite, dysphemisms, are used to convey ideologies about gender in novels from her country. She presented some of her research at a Linguistics Department Research Seminar on Tuesday 24 November 2015.

As Dr Ezeife said in her talk, there are many approaches to the study of gender relations in linguistics and literary studies.  She combines aspects of different socio-cognitive linguistic frameworks (socio-cognitive CDA, conceptual metaphor, dominance and social constructionist theories of gender) to show how euphemistic expressions align with society’s expectations in shaping gender relations.  She is investigating how both euphemistic and dysphemistic expressions are used metaphorically to convey gender ideology in Nigerian novels.

A euphemism is an expression that states an unpleasant or controversial thing in more polite terms.  An example Dr Ezeife used was the expression “You are the one wearing the trousers in your household”, to mean “You are the true head of your household”.  By contrast, a dysphemism is an expression that states something in deliberately offensive or shocking terminology.  “The vulture you call a husband” is an example that Dr Ezeife found in her study.

Dr Ezeife interprets how Nigerian novelists use euphemisms and dysphemisms like these to portray patriarchal and feminist ideologies.  She studied three contemporary Nigerian novels dealing with gender issues: Sefi Atta’s Swallow, Akachi Ezeigbo’s Trafficked, and Abimbola Adelakun’s Under the Brown Rusted Roofs

Her analysis shows that men and women can be upholders of tradition through their euphemistic and dysphemistic uses of language.  Thus, she argues, it seems as though the sweeping wave of globalization has had little impact in eroding Nigeria’s cultural practices in the area of gender relations.

Dr Ezeife is visiting Rhodes University as an American Council for Learned Societies African Humanities Programme fellow.  She is from the Nwafor Oriza College of Education in Nsugbe, in Anambra State in Nigeria. 

Source:Ian Siebörger