Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
In southwestern Cameroon, the work of the Limbe Wildlife Centre (LWC) occurs across three main lingua francas: English, French, and Cameroonian Pidgin English (‘Pidgin’). During the sanctuary’s core day-to-day operations, animal keepers, primatologists, and foreign volunteers switch between these three languages as needed. However, in addition to caring for animals, the LWC also runs numerous public outreach and education activities. Unlike the flexible, multilingual communication that occurs during animal care, outreach activities entail stricter rules for which language can or should be used at any given time – rules that do not always reflect the actual linguistic competencies of either the people leading outreach programming, or the competencies of those targeted to receive it. This paper examines the linguistic asymmetries that occur across tours and education programming (led by English speakers for a French-speaking audience), social media (written by French speakers for an English-speaking audience), and community development (led by French speakers for a Pidgin-speaking audience). Across these activities, these linguistic mismatches not only reflect individual, institutional, and national ideologies about language and language usage, but also demonstrate how the institution imagines the publics (Warner 2002, Jackson 2008) it hopes to engage in the name of environmental conservation.