Interview with Gloria Chuku

Gloria I. Chuku is Professor of Africana Studies with a specialty in African History and the Department Chair.

1) How would you describe your major fields of scholarly interest?

I am a historian with over 25 years of teaching and research experience; and also Professor and Chair of Africana Studies, and Affiliate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, and the Language, Literacy and Culture Ph.D. Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA. My research focuses primarily on Igbo history, women in colonial and postcolonial political economies, ethnonationalisms and conflicts in Nigeria, and African nationalism and intellectual history.

2) What got you interested in Biafra? 

I was drawn into Biafra as a historical inquiry in the early 1990s when I conducted research for my doctoral dissertation on “The Changing Role of Women in Igbo Economy, 1929-1985.” Since then, I have conducted more research on women and the war, focusing primarily on their contributions and survival strategies during the war and how the conflict affected them, their families and communities. I have published part of my research findings as book chapters. Currently, I am working on a book manuscript: Confronting the Silences: Gender, Ethnicity and the Nigeria-Biafra War which argues that analyzing the dynamic intersection of ethnic and gender identities is crucial to our understanding of the complexities of the war.

3) What specific topics did you talk about at the conference?

I presented a paper titled: “Women and the Politics of Gender and Ethnicity in the Nigeria-Biafra War.”

4) What lessons do you believe can be learned from the Nigeria-Biafra war (or the response to the war)?

Although a toddler when the war broke out I was one of the fortunate Biafran children who survived starvation and the war. My family and other Igbo families felt the impact of shortages of food, medicines and other supplies; constant air raids; displacements; human and material losses; and fear and uncertainty. The lessons of the war can be ascertained from many levels, including individual, family, community, state, and federal. For many individuals and communities in war-torn southeastern Nigeria, the war was a devastating experience and has left physical and emotional scars on the survivors, including orphans, widows/widowers, parents without children, and the socially stigmatized and depressed. For many of these survivors, war is bad and everything should be done to prevent any other hostilities; and the issues that led to the outbreak of the war promptly and adequately addressed. But at the state and federal levels, it does not seem that any lessons have been learned from the war. There have been conscious efforts to suppress the memory of the war. For instance, there has been no national conversation on the war, or any truth and reconciliation efforts; there has been non-inclusion of the war in the country’s school curriculum; and scanty academic accounts on the conflict.