Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie JHU '03, award-winning novelist
Moderated by Chiedo Nwankwor, Visiting Research Associate and Adjunct Lecturer
April 14, 2017
Celebrated author and advocate for rights of women and underrepresented people worldwide Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discussed feminism and culture as part of a conference hosted by the African Studies Program: "The Political Economy of Gender and Women’s Empowerment in Africa." The conference also featured speeches by Her Excellency Professor Hassana Alidou, Niger's Ambassador to the US, and Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, Deputy Director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation.
Chiedo Nwankwor began the conversation with a few questions about the perceptions and social roles of women in the US, Nigeria, and the Nigerian diaspora. Adichie said it is difficult for a woman to come to the US from Nigeria on a journey to find herself, only to discover she is still defined and limited by her domestic identity.
Readers of her latest book Americanah asked what were the key lessons Adichie wanted people to take away from this novel. The book's most important points were the complexity of African experiences and the necessity of kindness, Adichie said.
Asked to elaborate on a recent comment about the dangers marriage poses for women, Adichie said the institution of marriage is a source of joy and partnership, but a woman must be clear that her rights are at risk if it is not established at the beginning that compromise is for both partners. For the marriage to be equal it has to start with the woman mattering equally, she said. Similarly, Adichie referred to a distinction among feminist theory between those trapped by the "glass ceiling" and those struggling at the "crumbling floor." Conversations must be had about both issues because for people who have access, the ceiling is the problem, while those same people are unaware of the problems experienced by women who lack access and empowerment.