By Ifetayo M. Flannery (Temple University)
September 13, 2013
Just as the summer began to unfold in May of 2013, the first Ghana Studies Association Conference was convening. I was unaware that this conference would become the highlight of the season. From great lengths, students and scholars gathered in Kumasi. By way of age, geography, expertise, and nationality, each panel developed into a global discourse on Ghanaian affairs.
I was fortunate to be the moderator for the panel themed Diaspora. The papers presented covered a stretch of perspectives on diasporic communities and expansion in the 21st century. Questions of identity, cultural retention, community recreation, nationality, and political posterity were explored among others. Nonetheless, the key component of this panel and conference more generally, was the centrality of Ghana across all research interest; which ultimately was successful in yielding rich dialogue among participants. The conference experience for me became particularly cultivating because of its national specificity. While Africa is commonly researched regionally or as a singular compository, the GSA conference was able to garner participants along with observers and local visitors to build across their common interest- Ghana.
While the conference only extended for a period of four days, being in Kumasi with Ghanaian scholars from near and far created a sense of familiarity among participants. The organization of the conference schedule especially contributed to the nurturing of these relationships. For example, the down time for participants was constructed to foster continued dialogue and socialization amid the group. Often following panel sessions were scheduled meals at a single location that became hot spots for overflow conversations from presentations. In fact, some of my most memorable conversations happened over warm Ghanaian dishes as the evening was settling. The scheduled outings and meals served conference participants in similar capacities as the panels themselves.
I would love to participate in this conference again. In moving forward I would suggest that the conference be held bi-annually. Every two years seems reasonable for effective planning while it is not so long a period that participants lose interest or fail to return. Secondly, as conference participation continues to grow we will need more assistants to serve as point persons for information- particularly since communication is more difficult because most participants are flying internationally. Lastly, having an official photographer would be a great and necessary addition. I am excited about what is to come.