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Gullah, African Continuities, and their Representation in Dash’s Daughters of the Dust

Keywords: Julie Dash , Daughters of the Dust (film) , Gullah language (Geechee , Sea Island Creole) , Creoles , African linguistic continuity , authenticity.

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This article examines Julie Dash's 1992 film Daughters of the Dust in relation to linguistic debates about the Gullah language. Dash's emphasis on Gullah culture's African continuities resembles a body of linguistic scholarship stressing African retentions in the Gullah language. Problematically, most theories of African linguistic continuity rely on troubling assumptions about authenticity and temporality, positioning Gullah as a pure preservation of African languages, and thereby implying that it embodies an earlier stage of linguistic development. Yet, this paper argues that Dash acknowledges Gullah's African continuities without perpetuating ideological assumptions about authenticity and temporal development. Dash creates characters from divergent cultural and linguistic backgrounds, who speak different levels of dialect and demonstrate a range of stylistic variation within the Gullah language. In doing so, the film rejects simple conceptions of African continuity and authenticity in favour of theories of linguistic and cultural convergence, componentiality, and flexibility.


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