Participant Review: AASR Conference, Zambia 2018

Here’s a great review of our 8th African AASR conference (August 2018, Lusaka, Zambia) by first-time participant King’asia Mamati (Kenya). A good reminder of why we need keep encouraging students and early career researchers to participate in conferences, as well as actively working to financially and practically facilitate their participation. Once again, photos of the event can be seen here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/19iZwfPa49a4eQxL1HgpD3ss45WPneAcS

My First International Academic Conference

After finishing my master’s degree in Religious Studies at Moi University, Kenya, I was encouraged by my academic mentors to submit my research work to journals and conferences. Dr. Hassan Ndzovu shared calls for papers by various journals and conferences on social media. One of the posts that was shared was the call for papers for the AASR conference 8th edition, to be hosted in Zambia. The theme of this conference was “Revisiting Religion, Politics, and the State in Africa and the African Diaspora”. I prepared an abstract and submitted it for consideration in January 2018. I was excited when I received an email from the local organizing committee in March 2018 informing me that my abstract had been accepted for the upcoming conference. Preparations for the conference began in earnest. I informed the good news to my academic mentors who were equally excited. I booked my flight to Zambia and arrived a day early, this experience was prodigious as it was my first time travelling outside my native country Kenya. On arrival at the Kenneth Kaunda international airport I was warmly welcomed by somebody who had come to pick us from the airport. I was excited to meet a fellow Kenyan, Dr Dickson Nkonge, with whom I shared the residence and Prof. Tim Jensen, President of the International Association for the History of Religions, at the airport.
On 1st August I was among the first people to present in my panel. I was a little bit nervous, because it was my first experience before an international conference with a large audience. I presented a paper under the title “African Religious Worldview on Natural Environmental Resources.” After the presentation, I was inundated with questions and constructive insights from the audience who showed their keen interest in my work.
I spent the rest of the conference days attending different presentation ranging on diverse topics that were of interest to me, and of help to my area of specialization. During the conference breaks, I had an opportunity to interact with a variety of scholars, from whom I learnt a lot. In the galaxy of scholars I met included the following: Dr. Loreen Maseno of Maseno University, Dr Parsitau from Egerton University, Dr Adriaan Van Klinken from Leeds University, Dr. Corey Williams, Prof. Mika Vahakangas, and Prof. Afe Adogame. Through the assistance of Professor Afe I was able to receive a travel subsidy for an International Interdisciplinary Conference on Global African Indigenous & Derived Religion which is to be held later in the year. This interaction with an array of erudite scholars was a life time inspiration, especially to a young scholar of my calibre. From them I learnt that passion, persistence and relentlessness are the characters of true scholars.
The culmination of the conference was a special session for graduate students and early career scholars. In this session, I learned a lot from the presentation by Prof. Afe Adogame and Dr. Chammah J. Kaunda on how to develop as a good research proposal that meets international standards of modern scholarship. After the conference I had an opportunity to tour and explore Chaminuka Game Park alongside other participants from the conference. The beauty of the natural endowment of Zambia was breath-taking.
The AASR conference actualized my desire to disseminate the findings of my research. It also afforded me an opportunity to network and to receive feedback on my research work. This was a golden opportunity that broadened my academic horizon, I am very grateful to have been part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I am deeply indebted to Prof. Eunice Kamaara and my friends: George Alwang’a, Billy Muchesia and Dickens Wanjala for making this academic experience a reality.