Professor Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi: "Exploring Environmental Ethics through the Concept of Ala in Igbo thought"

Event date: 
Wednesday 6 October
Professor Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi

An IASH Work-in-Progress seminar, delivered by Professor Lawrence Ugwuanyi (Environmental Humanities Fellowship 2021; University of Abuja):

Exploring Environmental Ethics through the Concept of Ala in Igbo thought


The aim of this work is to provide the grounds for developing a new, decolonised ethics of environment that will generate a stronger commitment to environmental protection and respect by exploring the notion of environment inherent in the concept of Ala in the Igbo thought scheme. The Igbo is a major ethnic group in Nigeria. In Igbo thought, Ala is the name for ground, but more importantly the name of an arch-deity known as Ala earth goddess. The work will address the following question: What notion or idea of the good is available in, for, with and through the environment as can be found in Ala earth goddess in Igbo thought and what theoretical potential does it have for environmental ethics? To address this question, I (i) articulate the nature of the belief in Ala through (a) the extant literature on Ala; (b)the Igbo names, proverbs and anxioms on Ala; and (c) six interviews conducted with Ala priests and Igbo sages/elders. Thereafter I (ii) proceed to discuss the Institutional Derivatives from Ala. By institutional derivatives I mean how the belief in Ala leads to institutionalised moral and political ethics. I then (iii) articulate how belief in Ala suggests a form of earth-bond or “earth justice” and how this and the views achieved in (i) and (ii) generate alternative/stronger grounds for environmental respect and attitude.

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