Anthonia Kalu on the Power of Literature

Profile by Grace Ishimwe.

Dr. Anthonia Kalu is a professor in the Departments of Comparative Literature & Foreign Languages; and, Gender & Sexuality Studies at University of California-Riverside. She will be speaking on Friday, April 20th on the panel “Women and Gender in the War and After,” on the topic: “No Victor, No Vanquished: Women, War and the Paradox of Peace in Igboland.”

Dr. Kalu has always been interested in literature. Her father was an English teacher who focused on the classics. As a result, she developed a passion for reading and writing, and by the age of eight had read several books in his library, including the unabridged version of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations as well as the works of children’s writers like Enid Blyton.

When the Biafra War broke out, she was among the young students across Igboland who were sent home from different schools that remained closed throughout the war. Eventually; large numbers of Igbo people were displaced within Nigeria and Biafra. As the fighting continued, access to markets became limited and supplies of all items, including food, gradually became unavailable and people in Biafra found themselves living in a state of fear, lack and uncertainty.

Today, the effects of the Biafra War are still felt in Igboland. The Infrastructure in the region is poor, education and business ownership is not accessible to a majority of the population, and many problems continue to arise from the absence of peace and justice induced by the war. For many women economic stress from the Biafra War is still very strong as women struggle to assert themselves.

According to Dr. Kalu, there are many lessons that can be learned from the Biafra War. War is not an avenue to peace, and the current national leadership should learn that excluding any group from forward movement is detrimental for the nation as a whole.

Interested in learning more from Dr. Kalu on the Nigerian/Biafran war before the conference? 

Read this beautiful piece on Humanitarian Interventionism at the blog, “Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa,” and Dr. Kalu’s collection of short stories, Broken Lives and Other Stories, about women, children and others as they struggled to survive the Nigeria-Biafra War.

Before arriving at UCR, Dr. Kalu taught at the Ohio State University-Columbus, Ohio. In Summer 2014, she served as a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow at the University of Ilorin-Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria on capacity building, research development and mentoring for faculty and graduate students.

She has served as president of the Women’s Caucus of the African Literature Association (WOCALA), and on the Steering Committee of the Women’s Caucus of the African Studies Association. She is a Past President (2013-2014) of the African Literature Association (ALA), and has served as a Board Member for the African Studies Association (USA).

Grace Ishimwe is a staff member of the Institute for African Studies and a senior in the Elliott School concentrating in international development and global public health.