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2017 Coordinate Organization Small Grants: Supporting the Igbo Studies Association International Annual Conference

By Ada Azodo, President, Igbo Studies Association

The Igbo Studies Association held its 15th Annual International Conference and meeting in Owerri, Nigeria, on June 8-10, 2017. The three-day conference at the Greatwood Hotel, Owerri, welcomed scholars and professionals from all parts of Nigeria, Europe, United States of America and Canada.

Part of the funding for the ISA conference and meeting in Owerri came from the African Studies Association’s 2017 small grant awards opportunity for Coordinate and Affiliate Organizations, supported by ASA’s 50th Anniversary Fund for activities ranging from conferences in Africa to travel expenses by scholars.

“The Board of Directors of the African Studies Association at their 2017 spring meeting awarded eight grants to some Coordinate and Affiliate Organizations. The Igbo Studies Association is happy to be one of the beneficiaries of these grants, which ASA awarded for the first time ever this year,” ISA President, Dr. Ada Azodo said. “We are very grateful for the ASA grant award,” she continued, “for it enabled ISA to create this wonderful opportunity for students, educators, activists, university academics, independent scholars, community leaders, entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, clergymen and nuns, and statesmen and stateswomen to gather in Owerri to share their various research interests and receive constructive feedback from their peers.”

The 2017 conference theme, “Ntọ-Ala Igbo: Retelling Our Story, Rekindling Our Values,” attracted more than 200 paper presentations, artwork exhibitions, book and clothes selling and buying, and music and dance performances. There were several addresses, debates and discussions on panels and roundtables, which focused on Igbo personhood in the 21st century.

“Issues discussed and debated at the conference, such as identity politics, lack of opportunity, endangered values and customs, need for added attention to science and technology, significance of language and literature, linkages between politics, economy and development, urgent need for security of life and property, and many more are very important issues to the Igbo, especially at this time of political tension in Nigeria,” said ISA Public Relations Officer, Dr. Chidi Igwe. “This type of conference,” he added, “creates opportunities to advance knowledge in several areas that interest the Igbo Studies Association.”

On the first day, in addition to networking and entertainment —these opportunities were provided throughout the three days of the conference—, three special guests, Dr. Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Prince Dr. Philip Njemanze and Chancellor/Proprietor Dr. Gregory Ibe, addressed the importance of science and technology, and investment and entrepreneurship to the economic development and sustainability of Igboland, highlighting strategies for promoting and maximizing opportunities for entrepreneurship and investment in Igboland.

A special Executive plenary roundtable on “Igbo Past, Present, and Future: Leadership and Development” focused on Igbo leadership vis-à-vis the socio-economic and political and legal problems raised by the Fulani herdsmen’s menace and lawlessness and the resultant conflict over land tenure, ownership and rights between indigenous populations and aspiring settlers.

On the second day, topics on various panels covered the potential peril to Igbo indigenous religious and customary institutions, as well as the far-reaching immigration and emigration issues of this epoch, as massive populations fleeing adverse climatic conditions, environmental degradation, religious persecution, ethnic squabbles, conflicts and wars alter the local, national and global political topographies and cultural demographic landscapes.

On the third day, Chief Dr. Ernest Nneji Emenyonu, Professor in the Humanities at the University of Michigan, Flint, USA, gave the Ihechukwu Madubuike Annual Keynote Lecture. During his address titled “OUR IDENTITY, OUR DESTINY: Who Do People Say We ARE…and?,” the eminent Igbo scholar enjoined the Igbo to be relentless in embracing good moral attitude at work and play, in private and public spheres of life, and at the lowest and highest echelons of the society.

The three-day conference concluded with the annual general meeting of the Association, during which the President’s State of the Association Address focused on the challenges, joys and a tripartite hope of the Association.

“Some of the challenges of the changing times,” Dr. Azodo said, “include dilemma about the right moral decision to make in the face of the unprecedented influx of immigrants into the Igbo heartland. Some of the areas of joy include the strong growth in the Association’s membership, a safe and sound treasury, ISA visibility on the Web and through the ISA Newsletter and Igbo Studies Review publications, not to mention outreach and partnership with other academic organizations and institutions, such as the African Studies Association. The Igbo Studies Association’s hopes for the future,” Azodo concluded, “are to move the Association forward through the award of the Don Ohadike Book Prize, founding of a secretariat and a stable home in the diaspora, and activation of a sponsorship campaign for the Igbo Studies Endowment Fund, a venture already deliberated and reported on by the Ad-Hoc Endowment Committee, and whose report was approved in principle since 2009.”

The 16th Annual International Conference and Meeting of the Igbo Studies Association will be held at the Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois, USA, on May 9-12, 2018, under the principal theme of "Igbo Ga Adi: Projecting Igbo Values and Customs."

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