Assistant Research Scientist, Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona
Host Institution: Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Dates of Grant: October 2-17, 2004
Fulbright Specialist Jarita Holbrook is an interdisciplinary scholar dedicated to expanding the field of African cultural astronomy. Cultural astronomy is the study of the use of astronomical knowledge, beliefs and theories to inspire, inform, or influence social forms and ideologies, or any aspect of human behavior. Dr. Johnson Urama, a professor in the Physics & Astronomy department at the University of Nigeria, had envisioned a conference focusing on the cultural astronomy of West Africa for spring 2002. The aftermath of 9/11 and ensuing wars led to a precipitous drop in travel and the postponement of the conference. Dr. Holbrook’s Fulbright Specialist grant to Nigeria in October, 2004 allowed her to get planning started again, as well as to give presentations on university campuses.
|Undergrads, University of Nigeria
Dr. Holbrook began her two week visit in Abuja, the capitol of Nigeria, as part of an international committee that met for five days to discuss the logistics for hosting a conference on African cultural astronomy. The committee decided several issues during these meetings and performed many tasks, such as broadening the focus of the conference from West Africa to all of Africa. Other influential tasks performed by the committee included adding a workshop to train students, teachers and interested scholars, and creating a budget and a list of funding sources. Overall, the committee met its intended goals and produced the conference held in late March, 2006 to straddle the total solar eclipse.
Dr. Holbrook next traveled to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She gave a presentation on African cultural astronomy for the university community at the state-of-the-art Center for Basic Research in the Space Sciences. Students, staff members and professors overflowed from the full auditorium. Students asked how to begin researching in this exciting field. Dr. Holbrook later gave a second presentation to the faculty of the Department of Anthropology & Sociology. A future collaborative project emerged from the discussions after the presentation.
The national oil strike, October 11-14, 2004, prevented Dr. Holbrook from traveling to other universities to give scheduled presentations. However, she spent the extra time in Nsukka interacting with students and faculty from a variety of fields. Dr. Holbrook accomplished a trip to the university campus in Enugu after the end of the strike.
During her first ever trip to Nigeria, Dr. Holbrook learned much about this oil rich, education leading West African country. She accomplished many goals while meeting with the committee; however, international planning did not end there. The committee also discussed two future collaborative research projects that furthered work on the 2006 conference. Dr. Holbrook extends her thanks to those who made it possible for her to travel with her 6-month-old daughter, and to the Fulbright Specialists program, Dr. Urama, and all the officials at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka for making her stay comfortable and productive.