Implications of Oxfam inclusive language guide

This is on my mind. From a cultural anthropological perspective, I am wondering how Oxfam imagined its inclusive language guide would be domesticated in the different geographies and cultures in which it works.

Take for instance, in the context of the Iteso, the fifth largest first nation of Uganda. In Ateso (the language of Iteso), the word for parent is “aurian”, which means he or she who engaged in sexual intercourse and made the child. It connotes heterosexual parents – a man and a woman who made the child.

Now, in the tradition of “it takes a village to raise a child” the day to day usage of aurian or auriak (plural) may extend to the wider blood relatives and clans-folk of those who made the child. In Ateso, for example, one refers to the sister of one’s mother (toto) as toto and similarly to the wife of one’s father’s brother as toto. And one refers the brother of one’s father (papa) as papa; and similarly the husband of one’s mother’s sister as papa. The sister of one’s papa is referred to as aunt (ija) and the brother of one’s toto is referred to as uncle (mamai).

Each – toto, papa, mamai, ija – have a specific roles assigned to play in raising a child and in the collective may be referred to as auriak. And the roles are gendered; meaning that while we recognize the role of many as auriak, it is necessary when referring to them singly to not refer to them as aurian or auriak.

Among Iteso, it is important to specify how one is aurian or among auriak. Iteso, indeed, rarely use aurian or auriak without providing context of how one is aurian or how they are auriak. And so, in popular discourse in Ateso you hear one being described as “toto naka na aurie eong (my mother who gave birth to me)” or “toto na erai inac ke a toto ka (my mother who is the sister of my mother). And so forth.

Therefore, the adoption of the Oxfam inclusive language guide may be resisted among Iteso on grounds that it would generate significant confusion. If enforced, it may actually work counter-productive for Oxfam programmes implementation.

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