Globalization and Discursive constructions of identity in Two Generations: The Igbo People of Nigeria

Onyeibe, Anthonia Dumebi (2017) Globalization and Discursive constructions of identity in Two Generations: The Igbo People of Nigeria. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The aim of this thesis was to investigate identity as a process (Eckert, 2000), examining how identity is influenced by a range of factors in our environment and is constructed discursively during spontaneous interactions. The study focused on the Igbo tribe in Nigeria, and addressed issues of generational and cultural complexity, language and identity shift and death, and new visions of national identity. The focus was on (a) language attitudes observed, in particular the language attitudes of elders and youths towards the use of proverbs and the transfer of this identity-related language practice from one generation to another, and (b) language use through the exploration of instances of discursive constructions of identity as identified in the data. The study, which is inspired by ethnomethodology and is rooted in interactional sociolinguistics, aimed to identify the effect of globalization on identity construction, especially in relation to the issue of generational transition of discursive patterns, including the use of proverbs, and the change in patterns of expression by the younger generation. The study also examined the role of local context in relation to the expression of identity and how the context of an interaction influences identity by exploring identity theories and narratives. It illustrated stylization (Blommert, 2001; De Fina, 2006; Georgakopoulou, 2007; Weber & Horner, 2012) and contextualization cues were employed by speakers to construct different Communities of Practice (CofP) within the wider local community and express their attitudes and identities in a changing environment.
This was achieved by comparing the use of proverbs within each CofP via interviews with youths and elders (12 participants), and the observation of three CofPs (62 participants). The research was conducted over a period of two months and while the interview duration varied, the duration for observation of each CofP was 30 mins. The project also adopted where relevant a narrative framework and CofP framework, which focused on the importance of practice. These frameworks were essential in order to understand the use of social practice, discursive patterns, interactions and the concept of ‘process’ in the analysis of identity.
The research questions were: (1) Can traditions (and in particular the use of proverbs) that index the identity of Ute-Okpu people, survive with globalization? (2) Do younger speakers provide new variations on proverbs as a way of re-appropriating this inherited and culturally significant practice? (3) How do speakers of different ages feel about these acts of re-appropriation of cultural traditions?
Findings showed that the production of proverbs among Ika youths has declined as a result of their inability to speak the native language fluently. However, the research established that exploring new variations in the production of proverbs among Ika youths (Igbo tribe) indicated that the production of proverbs was transformed to cater for the younger speakers’ new social reality, a reality that combines a deep-rooted respect for inherited cultural structures and values, but also one that embraced a more accessible international context.
This study deepens understanding of Igbo proverbs and furthers research on language contact, globalization and language variation in the field of sociolinguistics. The recommendation arising from the research emphasizes an immediate focus on language variations and re-appropriations of proverbs by the youths in a world affected by globalization. It is further suggested that future research could focus on children’s use of proverbs in interaction and consider the extent to which they adhere to the traditional ways of producing proverbs or start re-appropriating these proverbs at a young age.

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