Orthopraxy, writing and identity: Shaping lives through borrowed genres in Congo

Jan Blommaert


This paper explores grassroots historiographical writing from Congo in the context of globalization. The authors are both sub-elite writers, producing text for First-World readers, and they spend enormous efforts at producing a generically regimented text, based on borrowed models of text and textuality that are seen to offer spaces for identity-construction. Performing such models of text and textuality is a construction of Self vis-à-vis history. But in order to understand such moves into identity-constructing spaces, we need to take account of different economies of meanings and signs. The identity construction only works in one particular economy of meanings and signs, but loses ‘meaning’ as soon as it is being inserted into other economies. The shift from one frame into another involves relocations of referential and indexical meanings attached to signs, a phenomenon of semiotic mobility that needs to be addressed sociolinguistically. Detached from their local semiotic environment, such texts become ‘orthopractic’: Performances of shape detached from locally valid indexicalities.

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