In 2015, The University of Alabama’s Department of English welcomed Dr. Cajetan Iheka to its faculty. Dr. Iheka first attended college in Nigeria before coming to the United States and earned his PhD from Michigan State University. Recently, his paper, “Colonial Trauma in Oyono’s ‘Houseboy’ and Condé’s ‘Crossing the Mangrove’” won the African Literature Association’s Best Article Award for an outstanding article in African literary studies published in a major peer-reviewed journal.
Reminiscing about his initial attraction to the United States university system and to UA in particular, Iheka explains, “The longer I stayed in the States, the longer I fell in love with the system and the availability of resources for research. I decided that if I got a job, then I would stay, but if I did not, then I would go back to Nigeria. When I visited UA, I really liked the college, my future colleagues, the generous sources, and of course, the warm weather.”
Currently, Iheka is working on a book that looks at the ways African literature depicts human impacts on the environment in Africa. He has recently returned from a research trip to Nigeria. Iheka compares environmental events in Nigeria to similar ones in the U.S. For example, when the BP oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico the company’s CEO was forced to develop strategies to mitigate the environmental disaster.
Iheka questions why events like the Gulf oil spill prompt action in the U.S. whereas those in Nigeria do not: “Even the BP CEO flew down from Britain to try to take control of the situation, but if it happens back in Nigeria, no one seems to care.”
In his book, Iheka also plans to include chapters that focus on environmental issues impacting the African continent beyond Nigeria. Living in the states has exposed Iheka to the different ways that communities and oil companies handle complications and use their power.
Whether he is teaching African and Caribbean literatures, film, postcolonial studies, or eco-criticism, Iheka’s interactive classrooms analyze different possible answers to complex questions. The Department of English is fortunate to have a faculty member whose enthusiasm for research extends to the world beyond his classrooms.