Breaking Linguistic Borders: Language as a Tool of Exclusion or Belonging in Equatorial Guinea

            Spanish colonialism in Equatorial Guinea was a period marked by a conflux of ethnicities, cultures, and languages, as indigenous populations, contract workers from other African countries, and Spaniards negotiated co-existence. Language served a gate-keeping function within this multicultural society, with Spanish taking precedence in the linguistic hierarchy. On both institutional and personal levels, Spanish was often used to demarcate limits of inclusion and exclusion. This presentation will examine language use in La Guinea Española, a magazine published in Equatorial Guinea between 1903 and 1969 by Spanish Claretians, and Palmeras en la nieve (2015), a film that questions the concepts of borders and belonging through the story of Killian, a Spaniard born in Equatorial Guinea whose linguistic explorations help him discover a sense of belonging between the two cultures. With reference to Chela Sandoval’s discussion of “split consciousness” in Methodology of the Oppressed, wherein she writes of a “location, which is neither inside nor outside, neither good nor evil . . . an interstitial site out of which new, undecidable forms of being and original theories and practices for emancipation, are produced” (85), language’s role in Equatorial Guinean society will be analyzed as a tool capable of creating more nuanced meaning than that provided by the inclusion or exclusion binary. Both La Guinea Española and Palmeras en la nieve reveal that, despite its role as an official tool of colonization, language in Equatorial Guinea can be subverted as a tool of resistance and redefinition of the meaning of belonging


  • Indigenous Literature, Linguistics, Identity, and Policy