Ecolinguistics (Re)presentations of Mnemonics and Transgenerational Trauma in Niger Delta Ecopoetics

Author: Emmanuel Edafe Erhijodo (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)
Speaker: Emmanuel Edafe Erhijodo
Topic: Linguistic Landscapes
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


The bearers of postmemory are often born in the wake of a traumatic past and by default negotiate those experiences passively or proactively. Some previous studies have explored the transgenerational effects of the Nigerian Civil War (NCW), the Rwandan genocide, and the South African apartheid modelling on the Holocaust and its transgenerational effects. However, not so much attention has been given to examining the linguistic diversity of minority tribes whose trauma arises mainly from ecological degradation occasioned by the socio-economic activities of licensed corporations prospecting oil in their locale. This study therefore attempts an ecolinguistic investigation of the Niger Delta whose people suffer transgenerationally the effects of exploitation, bunkering, and militancy by exploring ecopoetry from the region. The selected poets, Tanure Ojaide, an eyewitness, and Stephen  Kekeghe, a vicarious witness, respectively problematize as quotidian the climate crises of the region in Songs of Myself: Quartet (2015) and Rumbling Sky (2020). While engaging the ecosophy, both poets deploy metaphors that emblematize the traumatic experiences of the people dichotomised along the lines of linguistic diversity. The ‘crispy’ nature of these double-edged metaphors that the poets use to foreground the environmental decay, on the one hand, and decry it, on the other, is termed traumatogenic. Multi-site ethnography, participants’ observation and interviews were conducted. Arran Stibbe’s cognitive approach (stories we live by) undergirds the critical analysis to which the data are subjected in investigating how the language of these transgenerational victims is impacted. The contributions from this study, it is hoped, may significantly provide insights into how the ecological degradation adversely affects the language of minority tribes in the Niger Delta and other places where victims could easily become positioned into trauma; and also to provide timely reparations and avert these recurrences.

Keywords: Ecolinguistics, ecosophy, mnemonics, ecopoetics, Niger Delta.