Matylda Włodarczyk Adam Mickiewicz University “Social identities in an institutional network: Colonial Office correspondence on the Cape Colony in the early nineteenth century.”
This paper offers a sociopragmatic analysis of the correspondence of the British Colonial Office pertaining to the colonisation of the Cape of Good Hope in the early nineteenth century. This setting poses fascinating questions related to the alignment of letter writers with the institution and the other actors, as well as to the ways in which social/institutional identities are constructed. In these processes, the participants’ powers and obligations that are shaped by the institutional grid play a central role. At the same time, the growing professionalisation of the civil service determines linguistic expression in the Colonial Office. The paper provides a close characterisation of its internal dynamics, the power structures and the local grid of governance, as well as the transactional networks in 1796 and in 1827-30. My analysis focuses on the relation between institutional identities and person reference, and shows that Colonial Office correspondence is characterised by unique patterns of self- and addressee-reference, thus corroborating the precedence of local (institutional) factors over other determinants of person reference.