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 9781498510530, 9781498510547

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Copyright © 2019. Lexington Books. All rights reserved.

The Black Speculative Arts Movement

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

Copyright © 2019. Lexington Books. All rights reserved. The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

The Black Speculative Arts Movement Black Futurity, Art+Design

Copyright © 2019. Lexington Books. All rights reserved.

Edited by Reynaldo Anderson and Clinton R. Fluker Foreword by Sheree Renée Thomas

LEXINGTON BOOKS

Lanham • Boulder • New York • London

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

Published by Lexington Books An imprint of Te Rowman & Littlefeld Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 www.rowman.com 6 Tinworth Street, London SE11 5AL, United Kingdom

Copyright © 2019. Lexington Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2019 Te Rowman & Littlefeld Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Available ISBN: 978-1-4985-1053-0 (cloth : alk. paper) ISBN: 978-1-4985-1054-7 (electronic) ∞ ™ Te paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

Contents

Foreword: Twenty-Five Years in a 500-Year-Long Song Sheree Renée Thomas

ix

Introduction: The Year of the Panther and Afrofuturity Reynaldo Anderson and Clinton Fluker

1

Copyright © 2019. Lexington Books. All rights reserved.

Part I: Theory and Extra-Planetary Reason 9 1 At the End of “Dasein”: An Afro-German Voyage into the Future Natasha A. Kelly

11

2 Avant-Gardes, Afrofuturism, and Philosophical Readings of Rhythm Iain Campbell

27

3 Working on the Other Side of Time: An Interview with Rasheedah Phillips Reynaldo Anderson

51

4 We Speak, We Make, We Tinker: Afrofuturism as Applied Digital Humanities Toniesha L. Taylor

55

5 Forms of Future/Past: Black Kirby Afrofuturism and the Visual Technologies of Resistance John Jennings and Clinton R. Fluker

59

v

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

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Contents

Part II: Coding Utopia and Dystopia 6 “Everything is real. It’s just not as you see it”: Imagination, Utopia, and Afrofuturist Feminism in Octavia E. Butler’s “The Book of Martha” Susana M. Morris 7 African Futurist Themes and Fantasy in Modern African Speculative Fiction Dike Okoro

75

77

91

8 B[l]ack to the Future: Futurism and Blackness in Zone One 107 Souleymane Ba 9 Dragons, Vescells, and Writing Afro-Latino Futures: An Interview with Enrique Carrion Stacey Robinson

125

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10 “The Electric Impulse”: The Legba Circuit in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man 131 Sherese Francis Part III: Blackness and Planetary Praxis

151

11 Ashes to Ashes: The Second Life of Kiluanji Kia Henda’s Afrofuturist Critique Dariel Cobb

153

12 Metropolis 2.0: Janelle Monáe’s Recycling of Fritz Lang Erik Steinskog

173

13 Designing Love: Reimagining Technology and Intimacy Ebony A. Utley

189

14 Performing Black Imagination: The Critical Embodiment of Transfuturism Amber Johnson

205

15 Fabulous Camps of the Black Fantastic: Sylvester James, Queer Afrofuturism, and Black Vernacular Becomings tobias c. van Veen and Reynaldo Anderson

217

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

Contents

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Part IV: Images on the Other Side of Time

231

16 Funky Images on the Other Side of Time Wriply Marie Bennet, Tim Fielder, John Jennings, Jessi Jumanji, Amber Johnson, Sheeba Maya, Stacey Robinson, and Quentin VerCetty

233

Index 255 About the Editors and Contributors

Copyright © 2019. Lexington Books. All rights reserved.



The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

261

Copyright © 2019. Lexington Books. All rights reserved. The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

Foreword Twenty-Five Years in a 500-Year-Long Song

Copyright © 2019. Lexington Books. All rights reserved.

Sheree Renée Thomas

We live in a world of ever-evolving new tech—mass communication connects us theoretically to every curve of our world—and yet there is increased voicelessness. Tis supposed silence belies a more sinister, ancient agenda, one that has plagued us through the centuries since the frst ships left with stolen lives. A force pursues us relentlessly, like the sharks that followed the scent of our ancestors’ blood. Tere is blood in the water, so much blood and yet the salt and the years have created an illusion. A more accurate term for its name would be “erasure.” We create—we create—and yet external forces rush to reclaim, rename, reappropriate the culture and the intellectual labor we give birth to. But our art is our sword and our shield. Listen, can’t nobody take what’s yours. Our creations—our visual, digital, performative art, our stories, poems, plays, our musical compositions and sonic contextualizations, our fashion and architectural design, our medical, scientifc breakthroughs, our philosophical, cultural innovations and paradigm shifts, our artistic activism—all of it serves as an undeniable witness to our survival, to black genius, black art, black innovation in a world that would deny its existence, then turn around and claim it as its own. Our art is a vital tool, a mode and form of critical refection and rejuvenation, capable of responding to and addressing the paradox of oppression, and the joys and wonders of living. When valued, protected, and shared across the generations in all of our communities, honoring all of our multiple shared identities, our art has the power to subvert and resist erasure, to resist silencing, to resist being co-opted for other agendas that have little to do with black love, black joy, black liberation and freedom, health and wholeness. When we determine our way forward, rooted in our own creative history and values, those that would distort and exploit us and our creativity become fercely and transparently uncomfortable with the enterprise. Fools rush in—to name and claim it, co-opt and contain it. But this is not one voice, one story, one song. Tis is a movement built by and constantly being ix

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

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Sheree Renée Thomas

constructed and reconstructed, envisioned and reenvisioned by many. Tis Afrofuturism journey spans twenty-fve years in a fve-hundred-year-long song, part of a renewed, reemerging black speculative arts movement. And once you begin to center Africa, Africans, and their descendants throughout the diaspora, suddenly the conversation becomes diferent. New insights and new aesthetics are engaged, and this change in centering, change in focus is not always welcome or comfortable or even visible to the larger culture and its institutions. Nevertheless, we persist. We create. We innovate. We evolve. And as so many of you beyond these pages are doing, we are reexamining, reimaging, redefning, refocusing, and restructuring those truths. Te evolution of our art and scholarship—Afrofuturism and beyond—and the rapid, almost “magical” innovation of it often under perilous circumstances are not only the result of our people’s keen curiosity and engagement with life, but are themselves a form of veiled resistance, of uncompromising faith in our self-determination to create the futures we want to see. To create high art—work that is functional and aesthetically “cool” or pleasing—in the face of those who would deny its very existence, declaim it as “primitive,” or as I once heard a prize-winning Dutch translator dismiss it in passing as “trivial,” is itself an act of resistance that subverts the master narrative that suggests our work is imitative or inconsequential, incapable of rising to the level of “the universal” or incapable of being seen unless they frame it so. Literature, art, para-literature and comics, music, fashion, pageantry, technology, and culture are all exciting parts of Afrofuturism. Tose are the shiny parts, the gilded bits that people, media, and magpies love to see, but that is not all Afrofuturism is. Tere is far more. Afrofuturism is not a moment; it is a movement. Te black speculative arts movement takes us beyond philosophical, Eurocentric abstractions, where sometimes the observers of the dance get to thinking they are more important than those who are doing the dance. An old Bantu proverb reminds us that “Te eye never forgets what the heart has seen.” I believe these past twenty-fve years on this fve-century-long, arduous journey have been about seeing past an external gaze that perhaps does not know our heart or even care to know our heart. Tis reemergence of focus in the larger popular culture is not about trends and easy commercial real estate, where everybody and their mama are now an Afrofuturist and/or a scholar, where people who could barely name Butler or Delany, let alone anyone else since then or in between, are suddenly waxing poetic on their work. For me, it’s not about novelty or about embracing the newfound hipness and coolness of the culture. It is about seeing ourselves through many other lenses, the gaze being very much our own. Te work of futurism, of the black speculative arts movement, and the countless others out in the world, shepherding much of our most exciting creative and sociopolitical work, is about reclaiming our indelible right to claim the future for ourselves. It is about creating work that speaks to the stories we know best, in our own voices, and to the tales and

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

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Foreword

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art that is unknown, that challenges and confounds us—the art, the freedom we are still reaching for, no matter the mainstream trends. And in all of this speculating—or whatever term you feel most comfortable with—there is a kind of poetry that is coming together, a tension and retention that is coming into view. We as artists, as educators, from the academy to Sidewalk University, from the ivy towers and the grassroots, as people of many trades and talents, across identities, across geographies, are fghting on the edge of representation, roughing the surface of spoken and unspoken values that devalue us, our lives, our bodies, our minds, our art. Black artists here and in the African diaspora have been in search of a visual heritage steeped in ritual and myth. Tere is a beauty and a resilience in our art, a seriousness and a joy—church, music, folklore, social customs, visual art, literary production, dance, cuisine, fashion—that go beyond what can be seen or heard, beyond aesthetics, and refect the tenacity of a people sustained and kept whole by its ceremonies, rites, and rituals. Our art is our record. It is a time capsule that we bury inside ourselves for ourselves. It is what we know is in our hearts, and we add to it with each new generation of creators. Hidden in plain view, our cultural production contains coded messages. Whether it is material culture, in our music, songs, and choreography, or even in the scars on our backs, and the braid patterns in our hair, this coded language, hidden even in the mother tongues that we speak, is a body of a work that has been used over time to resist, to protest, to defend, to defeat those who would attempt to control our destinies. In the early days of forced enslavement, the bondspeople acted with intention and focus. Tey resisted on a day-to-day basis that carefully navigated the lines of power and agency. Tey broke tools, feigned illness, orchestrated work slowdowns, committed acts of arson, poisonings, and sabotage, gave vital instructions to each other in the guise of tall tales and legends, all forms of conscious resistance to the infringement of their freedom and liberty as people. Forbidden true comfort, granted rags and scraps, we resisted. Even the act of memory was a form of resistance. Te numerous nations and cultures in Africa contain worlds within worlds. Our ancestors did not arrive on these shores as empty vessels. Despite the colonizers’ best eforts, not all was erased. Despite the colonizers’ best eforts, the creations and imaginative work coming from the continent and coming from its many children around the world will not be erased. According to West African tradition, the griot, or jali, commits communal history to memory. Te griot often uses everyday objects encoded with designs to trigger that memory, the way the Luba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo created memory boards, lukasa. To the untrained eye, the wooden memory boards carved with sculptured male and female fgures are simply art, but others know that the beads, shells, and raised patterns against the sculptural frames contain stories and maps, the shared memory of a people. Even the Nkisi power fgures of the Kongo people are far more than they seem. X-rays reveal that some contain magnetite

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crystals inside their wooden bellies, while metal bows, arrows, nails, and shotgun cartridges are embedded in the heads of others. Hidden inside is a whole world the casual eye does not know, with meaning and value that is unseen. No matter our resources, great or small, we generate light out of darkness, make magic out of mayhem. And this creative work we do is about form, function, art, and memory.

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MEMORY IS POWER. MEMORY IS RESISTANCE. As I see it, a great part of black creative refections and approaches to the future has also been the act of excavation, of translation, returning us as black people back to ourselves, much like Haile Gerima’s flm Sankofa. Te act of imagining a future is itself an abstraction of time travel in both directions, as we are asking each other and ourselves, in some instances, to relive and rethink the past, evaluate the present, and then in some cases pretend as if none of that history existed, so that we can frst imagine best futures and then so we can begin navigating and building a way forward that refects the backlash, systemic oppressive patterns of the past while envisioning a better future. Te transmission of secrets in African American culture is itself a subversive act. Te creation of quilts with coded messages is as much a part of the subversive tradition of black cultural production as the blues or gospel. Remember, the origins of gospel music are rooted in that of the old Negro Spirituals, which reimagined the master’s Bible stories of servitude and slavery and obedience to recast and remix them as vehicles of freedom, swing low sweet chariot, carrying us all home. And blues music, full of black vernacular, humor, and mother wit, was crafted from sharp-edged storytelling with layers of double, sometimes triple, entendres. Tis art carried a song that came in part in response to the brutal, back-breaking labor, the toil that came with rural life under a sharecropping system of plunder. Gospel subverted the master’s temporary claim on black life, while blues subverted the rhythms and cadences of gospel while simultaneously shrugging of the yoke of landowners. In the blues rhythms, the sacred and profane resided side by side. In the gospel and the blues, we shared stories about our inner, spiritual lives. We shared our troubles and our dreams with the larger world, in a language we altered and changed for our own needs. Contemporary black artists have created a visual dictionary that references the coded language of our past, while creating new tongues. Teir work, particularly those often discussed as Afrofuturism, is at once modern and traditional, ancient present future past. See the altar works of Betye Saar, the collages of Krista Franklin and Wanegechi Mutu, the electric portraits by Eddy Ilunga Kamuanga and Lina Iris Viktor, and the digital art of Nettrice Gaskins, Stacey Robinson, and Quentin Vercetty, the griotic graphic art of John Jennings, Alitha Martinez, Loyiso Mkize, and Afua Richardson, the silhouettes, sculptures, and installations of Kara Walker and Renee

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

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Stout, the sacred cosmograms and sanctuary installations of Houston Conwill, the robotic splendor of Derrick Adams, the crocheted cosmic funk of Xenobia Bailey, and many others. As we all struggle together to create a future that represents our best selves, a continued movement of black arts that centers our voices, our values, and ingenuity, I leave you with this exercise, an exercise of memory. I ask, what have we forgotten and what do we need to forget? Which destructive values expressed plainly and which soul-killing values hidden in everyday messages are we and our community subjected to? Which poisons, unhealthy values, do we embrace and refuse to interrogate? What values and principles do we amplify and carry on as stealthily and as efciently as the subversive resistance strategies of our ancestors’ past? How might our art not only fascinate and entertain, inspire and intrigue, but also help our communities simultaneously envision incremental changes, radical transformations? For in the black speculative arts movement, our work is not only rooted in the black community but is also nourished by it, even as we face internal and external oppression. Our ancestors understood something that we in our centuries-long desire to integrate, assimilate into this culture, to create within and survive this culture, sometimes forget—that not everything, not all can and should be in view and visible. Not all is for all eyes to see and know. What systems of knowledge and visual markers do we need to share externally—to remind and reteach others and ourselves? Which knowledge should we encode internally for safe passage, for a new journey elsewhere, one that will help take us to a place where we can do more than to survive but thrive in the future? For me, these are some of the questions that challenge and haunt me, that make Afrofuturism, the current evolution of the black speculative arts movement, more than just a moment, more than just a pop cultural trend, but a global community of thinkers and creators that collectively have the potential to help us all get free.

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The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

Copyright © 2019. Lexington Books. All rights reserved. The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

Introduction The Year of the Panther and Afrofuturity

Copyright © 2019. Lexington Books. All rights reserved.

Reynaldo Anderson and Clinton Fluker

Afrofuturism is the name for contemporary black and African speculative thought (BST) and practice that emerged at the end of the Cold War that focused on the digital divide, African American speculative thought, science fction, and creative expression (Dery 1994). Previously, modern black speculative thought, with its origins in African soil, emerged at the nexus of nineteenth-century antislavery radical praxis, the global slave trade and colonialism, the technologies of the Industrial Revolution, and scientifc racism (Pfeifer 1975). For example, Achille Mbembe and others argue contemporary black historiography has been shaped by three critical points in world history in the last 500 years including the transatlantic and Arab slave trade, whereby enslaved black Africans “were transformed into human commodities and human money,” and the literary record of their experiences demanding status as full human beings that were punctuated by revolution or rebellion, market globalization, environmental collapse, and digital technologies (Mbembe 2017, 2–3; Segal 2002). Tis has led to a state of afairs where early in the twenty-frst century the survival of Africa and its diaspora in a hostile twenty-frst-century social Darwinist environment in the midst of massive climate change and technological acceleration requires a reafrmation of black radical ethics, and pan-African praxis to forecast, guide, and frame a plan for black survival. Moreover, scholar Mark Fisher notes: ‘“white’ culture can no longer escape the temporal disjunctions that have been constitutive of the Afrodiasporic experience since Africans were frst abducted by slavers and projected from their own lifeworld into the abstract space-time of Capital” (Fisher 2013, 42). In this century, contemporary Afrofuturist thought is not focused on the goals and aspirations of neoliberal diversity projects, multiculturalism, or traditionally Western epistemologies. Tis line of thought continues the argument Kodwo Eshun previously promoted for advancing Afrofuturism asserting: “Afrofuturism may be 1

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

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Reynaldo Anderson and Clinton Fluker

characterized as a program for recovering the histories of counter-futures created in a century hostile to Afrodiasporic projection and as a space within which the critical work of manufacturing tools capable of intervention within the current political dispensation may be undertaken” (Eshun 2003, 288). Terefore, Afrofuturism is not anti-diversity or antithetical to positive cooperation; it is the recognition that African people do not require permission or acceptance from other worldviews to pursue their interests. Current Afrofuturist thought in the America’s African diaspora traces its origins to the nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century proto-black speculative works of Race Men and Women like Martin Delany, Pauline Hopkins, W. E. B. Du Bois, or in Afro-Latin origin threads to Afrofuturism by writers and artists like Manuel Zapata Olivella, Gilberto Gil, or in Africa with current creatives like, Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa. Te purpose of the creators of the black speculative literary tradition was to project a Utopian vision of “freedom” as an antidote to white supremacy, while its Eurocentric counterpart, science fction, promoted “progress” (Pfeifer 1975, 35). In the twenty-frst century, “Black speculative art is a creative, aesthetic practice that integrates African diasporic or African metaphysics with science or technology and seeks to interpret, engage, design, or alter reality for the re-imagination of the past, the contested present, and act as a catalyst for the future” (Anderson 2018, 233). Black speculative literary and artistic diasporic origins parallel the origins of modern science fction, and important fgures key to its twentieth-century development were Sun Ra, Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, and others (Peifer). However, the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the apartheid system in South Africa, the beginning of the culture wars of the 1990s, the internet, and globalization ushered in a new era of friction and social exchange in the world system. Subsequently, an initial wave of scholars and creatives like Alondra Nelson, Kodwo Eshun, Paul Miller, Sheree Rene Tomas, and Anna Everett formed the Afrofuturism listserv in the 1990s. Other creatives like the developers of Milestone comics, and members of the Detroit Techno Collective, Underground Resistance, were the vanguard of a generation to advance futuristic notions around culture, the digital divide, urban decay, and the disillusionment surrounding neoliberalism in late twentieth-century culture. However, more recently, the second wave of black and African futurity or Afrofuturism 2.0 emerged from the nexus of events surrounding the emergence of social media platforms, the collapse of the Washington consensus after the economic collapse of 2008, rising fascism and authoritarianism, climate change, global migration fows, and the transition to a multipolar post-American world order. Te current wave includes other scholars and creatives like Kapwani Kiwanga, Quentin VerCetty, Osborne Macharia, Nettrice Gaskins, Niama Sofa Sandy, Ifeoma Okoye, Te Afrofuturist Afair, Tim Fielder, Lonny Avi Brooks, Duane Deterville, and Afrofuturist collectives in Canada and Brazil. Te United Kingdom, France, Ghana, South Africa, Germany, and Kenya have emerged to the point whereby Afrofuturism 2.0 is now an emerging pan-African transnational, trans-contextual, technocultural social philosophy characterized by other dimensions that include metaphysics,

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

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Introduction: The Year of the Panther and Afrofuturity

3

aesthetics, social sciences (such as Afrocentricity and other black intellectual formations), theoretical and applied science, and programmatic space (Anderson and Jones 2015). Issues such as climate change, globalization in a hyper-connected multipolar world, and social change for Africa and its diaspora are now in a moment of intellectual tension in American popular culture. For example, the recent parallel characterization of Black Panther as the “superhero version,” by some, of former president Barack Obama is revisionist, to say the least (Bailey 2018). Te character King T’Challa, the Black Panther, represents African freedom, pride, independence, and scientifc advancement for the country of Wakanda. Former president Obama was the leader of the United States and while this is a signifcant achievement for black Americans, and the world more generally, his position is quite distinct to that of T’Challa, an African Leader. T’Challa’s political interests and requisite responsibilities to his people are necessarily diferent. Moreover, historically in the comics, T’Challa is often suspicious of Western infuence, and the United States in particular. Furthermore, the cinematic version of Panther explores the intersection between gender relations, governance, and the political radicalism of the cousin of the king, Erik Killmonger and the political idealism of T’Challa. In addition, Panther’s cinematic release coincided with the recent racist comments and nativism exhibited by current American president, Donald Trump. His comments about Africa and Haiti have united the continent and African diaspora in global condemnation of his behavior. However, many elements of Afrofuturism are found in contemporary African society in arts and sciences. For example, anticipating the current status of the African country of Zambia, the short story “Te Sale” by Tendai Huchu represents a near dystopian future scenario of how the country of Zimbabwe is controlled politically and corporately by China and the United States (MacDonald 2014). Moreover, new writers like Deji Bryce Olukotun and Tomi Adeyemi are increasingly making the presence of African writers felt in the science fction literary realm. Furthermore, many countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Ethiopia are strongly investing in technology to adapt to climate change, demographic shifts from the countryside to the urban centers, and regional integration. In summation, one of the more exciting developments in the current wave of Afrofuturism 2.0 is the areas of forecasting and scenario building. Other areas of interest such as digital humanities and religion are advancing the emerging discipline of BST. Afrofuturist theorists and practitioners have now taken up the challenge as their work is now beginning to address the current challenges and realities of our time facing all of humanity. Tis volume is flled with scholarly texts that engage and interrogate Afrofuturism from the perspectives of themes as diverse as design, rhythm, literary theory, visual art, and digital humanities, to name a few. Part I, “Teory and Extra-planetary Reason,” starts of with Natasha A. Kelly’s “At the End of ‘Dasein’: An Afro-German Voyage into the Future,” where the author examines how black Germans are reexamining life in their homeland and rewriting the narratives of past generations.

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

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Reynaldo Anderson and Clinton Fluker

Tis chapter studies how a community whose past has deliberately been erased, and whose presence is subsequently absent, can imagine a possible future. In chapter 2, Iain Campbell’s “Avant-Gardes, Afrofuturism, and Philosophical Readings of Rhythm” suggests that rhythm is relation. To develop this concept, Campbell explores the entanglement of and antagonism between two notions of the musical avant-garde and its theorization, the frst derived from the European classical tradition, the second concerning Afrodiasporic musical practices. Drawing from philosophy and Afrocentric, Afromodernist, and, fnally, Afrofuturist theory, this chapter maps a signifcant theoretical move from rhythm understood, in its postclassical guise, as an exclusive and strictly musical category, to rhythm understood as an inclusive and plural category. In chapter 3, “Working on the Other Side of Time: An Interview with Rasheedah Phillips,” Reynaldo Anderson interviews author and public interest attorney Rasheedah Phillips about her work as an attorney, its relationship to Afrofuturism, and her time spent developing the Afrofurutist Afair—a grassroots organization and digital platform for people of color to engage with a community of like-minded Afrofuturists. Anderson also engages Phillips about Black Quantum Futurism, a theory she developed based on Afrofuturist principles that has real-world implications for how we as people interact with time and space. In chapter 4, Toniesha L. Taylor’s, “We Speak, We Make, We Tinker: Afrofuturism as Applied Digital Humanities” argues that Afrofuturism is the manifestation of digital humanities. Tis chapter focuses on the ways in which Afrofuturism and Digital Humanities can merge to bring their inherent creative theories, methods, and applications in an equitable discourse to change the future of the humanities. Taylor argues that these collaborations could lead to new approaches which will engage knowledge productions in the areas of the humanities often relegated to “area studies” and recenter those contributions within their equitable portion of human knowledge. In chapter 5, John Jennings and Clinton Fluker’s “Forms of Future/Past Black Kirby Afrofuturism and the Visual Technologies of Resistance” proposes a theory of Afrofuturism that recontextualizes “blackness” and other identity contexts as “sublime technologies.” Tese sublime technologies can be used adeptly to rewrite history, alter present reality, and ultimately change our collective futures. Te authors use the comic book art of John Jennings and Stacy Robinson, collectively known as BLACK KIRBY, as a case study for the performance of this theory of Afrofuturism. In so doing, they demonstrate how this form of artistic expression revisualizes the past and puts forth new icons that could have and should have existed. In Part II, “Coding Utopia and Dystopia,” Susana M. Morris’s “‘Everything is real. It’s just not as you see it’: Imagination, Utopia, and Afrofuturist Feminism in Octavia E. Butler’s ‘Te Book of Martha’” performs a close reading of several of Octavia Butler’s most lauded works. Morris argues that Butler’s writings compel readers to (re)imagine humanity’s possibilities in striking and provocative ways, often by centering the vital role of imagination and change in shaping humanity’s past, present, and future. Understanding this connection between imagination and

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

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change is particularly helpful in interpreting one of her most overlooked short stories, “Te Book of Martha” (2005). And, in so doing, illuminates the critical connections among Afrofuturism, black feminism, and Africana studies. In chapter 7, “African Futurist Temes and Fantasy in Modern African Speculative Fiction,” Dike Okoro discusses an African tradition of speculative fction and science fction in the novel and short story form. Te central theme throughout this chapter is that many African writers do not use technological or economic progress as the foundation of their speculative texts. Instead, these writers are heavily infuenced by African oral tradition, myth, legend, and cosmology, which are not always clearly distinguished from our lived reality. Te writers discussed in this chapter include Elechi Amadi, Ben Okri, Ngugi wa Tiong’o, Zakes Mda, Kodjo Laing, Buchi Emechetta, Nnedi Okorafor, and Deji Bryce Olotukun. In chapter 8, Souleymane Ba’s “B[l]ack to the Future: Futurism and Blackness in Zone One” examines the implications of representing black identity in the context of a postapocalyptic society in which postracialism emerges as a reality. It analyzes how a zombie invasion of New York, as revealed in Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, causes a postapocalyptic stress disorder (PASD) and forces survivors to renegotiate past notions of humanism. Drawing from classical defnitions of humanism (Plotinus, Descartes, and Aristotle), the chapter interrogates what it means to be human. In chapter 9, “Dragons, Vescells, and Writing Afro-Latino Futures: An Interview with Enrique Carrion” visual artist and scholar Stacey Robinson interviews the fction writer Enrique Carrion. Robinson engages Carrion in conversation about his work on the image comic, Vescell, his short story “Drangons from Enceledus,” and the ways in which the themes of race, technology, and science fction operate in his work. Te interview is particularly interesting as Carrion discusses the Afro-Latino infuences on his work, thereby expanding the notion of Afrofuturism beyond any insular categorizations that limit it to black American or European frameworks. In chapter 10, Sherese Francis’s “‘Te Electric Impulse’”: Te Legba Circuit in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man” takes an in-depth look at Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man through the lens of the mythic archetype, the Afro-diasporic deity, Legba. Tis chapter explores the main aspects of the novel—the incorporation of electricity and percussive music, and the carnivalesque array of characters as members of a circuit— to reveal the larger technomythos undergirding the story. Ellison’s technomythic approach shows the fuid power in a hybrid, trickster identity, and the universal principles embedded in interconnections between felds like science/technology and sociocultural mythologies/spiritualities, which is one focal point of an Afrofuturist practice. Part III, “Blackness and Planetary Praxis,” begins with Dariel Cobb’s “Ashes to Ashes: Te Second Life of Kiluanji Kia Henda’s Afrofuturist Critique” that examines the delirious Afrofuturism of Spaceship Icarus 13, a circa 2006 photographic series by Angolan artist Kiluanji Kia Henda which renames and reappropriates denuded architectural monuments and scenes from everyday life to present a vision of the future based on a reimagined past. Originally presented to the global art world as an imaginative work of science fction, Cobb proposes that Spaceship Icarus 13 should

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be read as the artist’s declaration of mental decolonization, an absurdist encapsulation of Angola’s long civil war, and a challenge to long-held myths of African singularity and timelessness in a technological age. In chapter 12, Erik Steinskog’s “Metropolis 2.0: Janelle Monáe’s Recycling of Fritz Lang” argues that Janelle Monáe’s trope of the metropolis as an urban space of the future in her music establishes some interesting connections between classical Weimar science fction and today’s Afrofuturism. One important similarity between Monáe’s work and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) is the female robot: Maria, in Lang’s movie and Monáe’s alter ego, Cindi Mayweather. Cindi is, Monáe tells us, a mediator between the hand and the mind, the material and the imaginary, the future and the present, the machine and the human. Tis chapter reads Monáe’s project in relation to contemporary Afrofuturist practices and as a challenge to some of the tropes found both within science fction and Afrofuturism. In chapter 13, Ebony Utley’s “Designing Love: Reimagining Technology and Intimacy” investigates how technology has historically afected romantic relationships among African Americans. Trough a survey of technology platforms ranging from “Black Twitter,” BlackPlanet, Soul Swipe, Meld, and Bae, Utley expertly unpacks the complexities of these platforms and their connection to black love. Finally, Utley describes a digital platform of her own design, Love Lines, that was created to analyze this unique relationship between black love and technology. In chapter 14, Amber Johnson’s “Performing Black Imagination: Te Critical Embodiment of Transfuturism” argues that Afrofuturistic art forms speculate what freedom from oppression can look like in the technological future for black people. Rooted in Afrofuturism, Transfuturism—a photography, art, and oral history project—argues that black trans and gender fuid people are doing this, not only as a future state of being, but in our present reality. Tis chapter illuminates the critical embodiment of nonbinary and transgender identity at the intersections of blackness and future. In chapter 15, tobias c. van Veen and Reynaldo Anderson’s, “Fabulous Camps of the Black Fantastic: Sylvester James, Queer Afrofuturism, and Black Vernacular Becomings” examines the cultural impact of the late twentieth-century disco singer Sylvester James, known as the Fabulous Sylvester. James, an openly gay black man throughout his career, created a sound that had a lasting impact on electronic dance during his most active years in the 1970s and 1980s up until present day. Te authors describe how James’s particular brand of Afrofuturism gave rise to a physical and auditory persona of black gay identity that defed stereotype and pushed boundaries during a period of American history subject to so much change that James’s infuence is all too often overlooked. Finally, in Part IV, chapter 16, “Funky Images on the Other Side of Time,” we explore a collection of visual art from several Afrofuturist artists including, Wriply Marie Bennet, Tim Fielder, John Jennings, Jessi Jumani, Amber Johnson, Sheeba Maya, Stacy Robinson, and Quentin VerCetty. Tese artists allow the medium of the visual to operate as a plane where an Afrofuturist aesthetic is interrogated,

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undone, and reconstructed with rigor and expertise. Each piece or set of pieces is accompanied by a brief description of the art by the artist so to aid the reader and viewer as they contextualize each image.

REFERENCES

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Anderson, Reynaldo. 2016. “Afrofuturism 2.0 & Te Black Speculative Arts Movement: Notes on a Manifesto.” Obsidian 42(1–2): 228–36. Anderson, Reynaldo and Charles E. Jones, eds. 2015. Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of Astroblackness. New York: Lexington Books. Bailey, Issac. 2018. “Black Panther is for Film What Barack Obama was for the Presidency.” CNN.com, February 9, 2018. https​://ww​w.cnn​.com/​2018/​02/09​/opin​ions/​black​-pant​ her-b​lack-​ameri​ca-do​nald-​trump​-bail​ey-op​inion​/inde​x.htm​l. Dery, Mark, ed. 1994. “Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose.” In Flame Wars: Te Discourse of Cyberculture, 179–222. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Eshun, Kodwo. 2003. “Further Considerations of Afrofuturism.” CR: Te New Centennial Review 3(2): 287–302. Fisher, Mark. 2009. Capitalist Realism: Is Tere No Alternative? Hants: John Hunt Publishing. MacDonald, I. P. 2014. “Alter-Africas: Science Fiction and the Post-Colonial Black African Novel.” PhD diss., Columbia University. Mbembe, Achille. 2017. Critique of Black Reason. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Pfeifer, John. 1975. “Black American Speculative Literature: A Checklist.” Extrapolation 17(1): 35–43. Segal, Ronald. 2002. Islam’s Black Slaves: Te Other Black Diaspora. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

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I

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THEORY AND EXTRA-PLANETARY REASON

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1 At the End of “Dasein” An Afro-German Voyage into the Future

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Natasha A. Kelly

While it has become common practice for US-American Afrofuturists to use projections of the future as a way to balance the existing power structures, black Germans are still busy reexamining life in their homeland and rewriting the narratives of past generations. Slowly coming to terms with their lost or stolen histories, they courageously challenge the dominant representation and knowledge systems of German society. However, subject to Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel’s (1770– 1831) canonical lesson in the philosophy of history, which set the stage for the belief that the facts narrated were ontologically independent of the narrative itself, black Germans are hesitant to leave the world behind them and envision a postapocalyptic future. Consequently, this chapter will concentrate on the future-past of black Germans in contrast to the Hegelian philosophy of existence (“Dasein”1). As cultural critic Mark Dery proposes, I will examine how a community whose past has deliberately been erased, and whose presence is subsequently absent, can imagine a possible future.2 As much as W. E. B. Du Bois included African history in his critique toward Hegel’s phenomenology, he was—in comparison to Hegel—also always concerned with ideas of future. Du Bois’s short but intense excursion into the genre of fction can be considered as what Immanuel Wallerstein calls “a new way of thinking” (Grosfoguel 2008, 12). Taking a heterarchical approach, Du Bois shifted his focus from complex, historical systems such as enslavement and colonialism that privileged Europeans and rejected African knowledge production processes to concentrate on the liberation of Africa and her descendants. In his frst science fction short story “Te Comet” (1920), for example, Du Bois portrayed his protagonist Jim, a black man, as the last and frst man of humanity onto whom the responsibility to (re-)populate the earth was bestowed. Traditionally associated with Christianity and 11

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whiteness, Du Bois was able to situate Jim, who was relegated to the task of going deep underground to retrieve records from the bank vault, as the vital source of human existence, albeit only for a short moment in time:

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He watched the city. She watched him. He seemed very human,–very near now. “Have you had to work hard?” she asked softly. “Always,” he said. “I have always been idle,” she said. “I was rich.” “I was poor,” he almost echoed. “Te rich and the poor are met together,” she began, and he fnished: “Te Lord is the Maker of them all.” “Yes,” she said slowly; “and how foolish our human distinctions seem—now,” looking down to the great dead city stretched below, swimming in unlightened shadows. “Yes—I was not—human, yesterday,” he said. (Du Bois 1920, 285)

Considering the story from a black German perspective, Du Bois (re-)claimed and (re-)wrote Te Book of Genesis in order to (re-)imagine a future-past and recover the beginning of a narrative that otherwise dismissed and disregarded black realities. In doing so, he (re-)staged the black experience of becoming human and establishing black humanity and understood that he only could be who he was in relation to “the other” who saw him as such. In a society structured upon racial hierarchies, becoming black was bound up with being perceived as black by a white person. Engaging in black speculative fction and helping to develop a genre that would later be characterized as Afrofuturism, Du Bois revised the origin narrative so that blackness was no longer marked by shame and nonbelief but became a source of pride out of which new afro-cultural traditions could arise worldwide. During his years at the former Friedrich-Wilhelm-University in Berlin (today’s Humboldt University) on the eve of German colonialism, Du Bois had distanced himself from a biological and anthropological conceptualization of race and deployed a sociohistorical idea, which was closely linked to the theme of German Romanticism and German Nationalism. Tus, he was no longer the object of knowledge but a “locus of enunciation” (Mignolo 2015, 1–21) that linked knowledge to subject formation: “When the matter of race became a question of comparative culture, I was in revolt. I began to see that the cultural equipment attributed to any people depended largely on who estimated it; and conviction came later in a rush as I realized what in my education had been suppressed concerning Asiatic and African culture” (Du Bois 1940, 99). By focusing on the lives and experiences of African people and their descendants, Du Bois displaced Eurocentric and mono-centric meta-narratives and refuted Hegel’s idea that blacks are not historical beings by introducing African history, historicity, and future visions into the debate and locating the black individual within world history (Rabaka 2003, 2003a, 2006). Tis way a counter-discourse was opened which aimed to break through monologues of modernity. As Sylvia Wynter pointed out, Du Bois’s concept of “double consciousness”3 revealed that race was not in the body but rather was built in the social imaginary which was grounded on colonial diference (Wynter 2003, 257–337).

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THE GERMAN COLOR-LINE Decolonial thinkers such as Walter D. Mignolo argued that the West is stuck in an ideological dilemma, as it ofers no space for thought patterns that are free from white supremacist power structures. Tey designed modernity and coloniality as two sides of the same coin, as coloniality is constitutive and not derivative of modernity.4 Tus, coloniality has survived colonialism and is kept alive in academic, cultural, and political practices and performances. Inter alia, coloniality is restored with every breath of air inhaled, with every thought and every word spoken in Germany today. Tis continuity is refected in what W. E. B. Du Bois calls “the color-line”—a point zero that divides the country in two (black and white) and gives rise to double consciousness. During the period of German colonialism the “the color-line” was materialized and legitimized in the colonies by so-called Mischehengesetze (mixed marriage laws). Marriages between white colonizers and the African inhabitants of the colonized lands were forbidden and children from these partnerships so-called Mischlinge (sic!) were denied German nationality and thus deprived of a social and political subject status. Tey became a threat to the ideological ideas of Rassenhygiene (race purity), as their existence proved a diferentiation of biological races wrong. Although citizenship laws in the German Empire dictated German blood the presupposition to acquire German nationality, the Reichs- und Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz (citizenship laws) of 1912/1913 did not contain any regulation that excluded an acquisition of nationality based on race. Nonetheless, the dogma of Rassenhygiene soon led to the exclusion of Afro-Germans from the German Volk (nation) and at the same time to a fusion of Volk and Rasse (biologically determined race). Henceforth, black and German became contradictory attributes, as “the real German” was presumed to solely have “white blood” and “white skin.”5 It is from this point in time where Germans became white and Africans living in Germany became black with “the color-line” being decisive for their social realities. Detained as Eingeborene (African natives) and not as Germans, “the color-line” became the legal norm from where not only nationality but also humanity was defned. With the loss of its colonies after the First World War, Germany immediately found reason to dispose of its black immigrants, who were denied German citizenship and deported to their new colonial proprietors. Few remained in the country and fell victim to the rising terror of the national socialists. Meanwhile, “the color-line” amalgamated with German national borders. Te country itself became a “no-go-area” for detectable “alien species” which vanished from the surface of the earth, a zone forth on occupied by Nazi-zombies. A great number of blacks were able to hide in so-called Völkerschauen (human zoos) which excluded Africans from wo/mankind and staged the pathological idea of white supremacy in a public arena. Kept in cages out of reach (but not out of sight), black Germans became prey to the white gaze and were “de_perceived”6 as the putative beast

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without human but with an animalistic nature. Others became walk-on dummies in the revision of German colonial flms7 produced out of the demand to recover African land which was no longer in German possession. What W. E. B. Du Bois coined “the veil” became the bars of their metal cages or their costumed blackface in neocolonial flm settings. Te moment the Black subject is inspected from the outside as a fetish object, an object of obsession and desire, is described by Frantz Fanon as a process of “absolute depersonalization” (1967: 63), for one is forced to develop a relationship to the self and give a performance of the self that has been scripted by the colonizer, producing in oneself the internally divided condition of depersonalization. (Kilomba 2008, 68)

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In the process of German liberation colonial ideology continuously ran through the nation. After the First World War the white majority population of postwar Germany had publicly demonized the liberation of the Rhineland by black French troops and declared it a revenge attack on their racial purity. After the Second World War a large number of the so-called Besatzungskinder (children of the liberation), the so-called Brown Babies, for the most part born outside of wedlock by white German women to black US-American soldiers, were put up for adoption in the United States, leaving the remaining black survivors of colonialism, national socialism, and postwar racism singled out and isolated in a white psycho-existential complex.8 Distinguishing the European self from the African Other, Hegel had constructed what Frantz Fanon (1925–1961) later called a “zone of being” which, in Hegel’s understanding, was solely reserved for white Europeans who had allegedly taken full possession of their mind in the course of the enlightenment. Tus, based on the philosophy of Hegel—who was never in Africa but imagined the continent and her people to be inferior to Europeans—modernity was established in the “zone of being,” in which humanity, human rights, and dignity were claimed. Herein a “colonial order”9 was manifested through literacy and intelligence and the foundation of German (and European) culture framed. We went from the sixteenth-century characterization of “people without writing,” to the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century characterization of “people without history,” to the twentieth-century characterization of “people without development” and more recently, to the early twenty-frst-century of “people without democracy.” We went from the sixteenth-century “rights of people” . . . to the eighteenth-century “rights of man”  . . .  and to the late twentieth-century “human rights.” (Grosfoguel 2008, 4)

At the same time the “zone of being” was created and became epistemologically and ontologically verifable, a “zone of nonbeing” was constructed which correlated with the Hegelian subject-object dichotomy. As strangers to themselves or—what Hegel had formerly referred to as “being for others” (Fanon 1952, 109)—black Germans were trapped in what Fanon coined “alienation” (13) with “the color-line” infusing segregation which has yet to be overcome in Germany today.10

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BEING FOR OTHERS Te word “alien” derives from the Latin word alius, which means “other than.” With this understanding the question would be: Other than what? According to Slusser and Rabkin, the alien is always other than the human being.11 Teir potential otherness has always been the fundamental focus of European philosophers, writers, and scientists. Te later measured, used, and abused the alienated black body to transfer white pseudo-theories into practice. Among other body parts, skulls became a central object of scientifc research and collection. Te German physician and pathologist Rudolf Virchow (1821–1902) is considered to be one of the most important scientists of the nineteenth century for developing the cellular pathology, to this day the biological and medical basis in understanding the constitution of the human body. During his entire life he was engaged in the collection of skulls. According to estimations, around three hundred skulls were taken from the Ovaherero, Nama, Damara und San who died during the four-year uprising against their German colonial rulers from 1904 to 1908. Parts of this collection, as well as several objects from other collections, are currently located within the Berlin Museum of Medical History. Originally measured to diferentiate human beings from animals, skulls were soon utilized to diferentiate human races from each other. Later they were employed to fnd out more about the human spirit. Tis failed, however, for lack of suitable methods. Te Swiss anatomist Franz Joseph Gall (1758–1828) allegedly proved that specifc characteristics and abilities of humans were imprinted in the skull which led to the fctive idea that character traits were biologically determined and could be measured.

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White supremacy domination and oppression of all non-white people is essential for global white generic survival. Te prevention of white genetic annihilation is pursued through all means, including chemical and biological warfare. . . . Te core dynamic of white genetic survival eventually leads whites to a major act of genocide (destruction of the genes of non-white people), or toward genocidal imperatives. (Welsing 1991, iv)

At the same time, the individuals behind the scientifc objects were not considered human beings with mind, spirit or soul. Moreover, skulls became meaningless objects, exhibits of instruction and representation with implied contextual meaning. Te history of black bodies being used as technology, largely without the subject’s consent, predates German colonialism, which functioned under the constant assumption that black bodies—especially female bodies—were tireless producing machines. Tis also fell in line with Hegel’s eighteenth-century description of Africans and their descendants as not having any intellect and therefore being non-worthy of human existence. Teir absent rationality was transferred to their perceived otherness that formed what Fanon called an “anti-black world.” However, Hegel’s accepted principles were challenged and criticized by numerous black intellectuals including W. E. B. Du Bois who imagined the same black bodies as fraught and fuid identities in the future.

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As proclaimed in Paul Gilroy’s 1993 Te Black Atlantic the technological visions of Afrofuturism came to be exposed by positing enslavement (the “alien abduction”) as the founding moment of modernity, and the motion of ships (“space ships”) as the trope to invalidate any supposed authenticity of black culture. Kodwo Eshun locates the frst alienation within the context of the Middle Passage. He envisions black bodies to have been the frst aliens by way of the Middle Passage. Teir alien status connotes being in a foreign land with no history but as also being disconnected from the past via the traditions of enslavement where the enslaved peoples were made to renounce their ties to Africa in the service of their owners. Tis location of dystopian futures and present realities places science fction and novels built around dystopian societies directly in the tradition of black realities. Eshun writes that afrofuturistic texts work to (re-)imagine enslavement and alienation by using “extraterrestriality as a hyperbolic trope to explore the historical terms, the everyday implications of forcibly imposed dislocation, and the constitution of Black Atlantic subjectivities” (Eshun 2003, 298–99). In 1682 Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg sent the frst German expedition under the command of Otto Friedrich von der Groeben (1657–1728) to Africa. Tis year marked the beginning of Germany’s involvement in the “transatlantic slave trade.” It is estimated that the Afrikanische Kompanie sold around 17,000 Africans to South America and the Caribbean in the seventeen years of its existence with the overall outcome of the European slave trade being estimated at approx. 50 million Africans. To honor von der Groeben’s colonial achievements the left-hand bank of the river Spree in Berlin was named after him. In spring 2009, however, it was renamed after the Afro-German activist and poetess May Ayim (1960–1996). Te process of renaming the Groeben-Ufer in May-Ayim-Ufer shows how Afrofuturism takes representations of lived black German realities from the past, and (re-)examines their accounts in the present in order to attempt to build new truths in the future (Aikins 2012). In this sense, Afrofutruism participates in the wider debate on “postcolonialism” and partakes in the erosion of the line separating colonizer and colonized, culture and nature, Europe and Africa. How could it have gone unnoticed that all of what had been relegated to the science-fctional imaginary has in fact already happened? From a black German perspective, however, a participation in liberal human discourses had been unattainable, as questions of humanity began at point zero—a point, at which black Germans continued to exist solely for the better of others. General arguments, that all humans are equal reproduced whiteness (including all its privileges) as the moral center of racism. Furthermore, it became part of white German supremacist ideology to suggest that whiteness was a place of neutrality, the undeveloped and undamaged outside of racist violence. Tus, white Germans were raised to a higher ethical ground which led to the shift away from cooperation and solidarity and to the colonized notion of concern which fowed into a supposed selfessness in the “missionary service for others.” At the same time black Germans participated in a policy of resistance and self-preservation. But this journey was forced to end at “the color-line” which incessantly functioned as a “glass ceiling,”

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disconnecting them from their own inner self and separating them from their African German history and identity. Accordingly, black Germans were nonexistent in social, political and cultural dimensions and were failed to be recognized as “knowing beings” in academic institutions or positions: “To be truly liberated, African people must come to know the nature of European thought and behaviour in order to understand the efect that Europe has had on our ability to think victoriously. We must be able to separate our thought from European thought, so as to visualize a future that is not dominated by Europe” (Ani 1994, 2). As early as the ffteenth century, white Europeans had not only already colonized the entire world, but they had also colonized information about the world. Without the slightest doubt they had developed monopoly control over concepts and images which they still hold imprisoned today. Te fact that Hegel never spoke about the future and solely ofered a philosophy that was oriented toward the comprehension of history could have been one of the reasons why the intellectuals of the German Futurist movement strove to establish and claim a “new culture” in the early twentieth century. First futuristic elements were featured in Herwarth Walden’s (aka Georg Lewin’s) magazine Der Sturm in 1910 and in his art exhibition in the SturmGalerie in 1912. Te German-Jewish writer Alfred Döblin used futuristic techniques in his stories which later became known as Berlin Futurism. Breaking with the obsolete and the traditional, these Berlin Futurists intended to refect present-day life in their art and literature in order to create a new and better future. Imitations of the past, whether as a theme or a motif, were avoided, since they neither adequately corresponded to the originality of contemporary society nor met the requirements of modern technological life. White Revisionists of the Weimar Republic, however, got stuck in the colonial past and made continuous ideological and practical-political eforts to restore German colonial rule. Tey tried to infuence the German public through broad propaganda measures, yet failed to gain political success. In addition, anticolonial organizations averted the struggle of the colonial revisionists for the recovery of the German colonies. But these organizations failed to recuperate their deprived black German identity and reclaim a future for themselves and their progeny in the country. Instead, after the defeat and allied occupation in the Second World War, Germans in general and black Germans in particular engaged with African American cultures which were fueled by the wake of technologies like radio, flm, and television. Within the postwar imagination the racial situation of the United States ofered patterns of either mutual exclusivity or complementarity between black and white Germans (Ege and Hurley 2015). However, these were problematic discursive framings and analogies. As Alexander G. Weheliye points out, Toni Morrisons novel Beloved highlights both the presence and absence of the liberal humanist subject in US-American culture. Depicting the dehumanizing efects the enslavement of Africans and its aftermath had on particular black subjects, the novel suggests that there can be no subject position embraced by black people due to the economic, political, scientifc, and cultural forces supporting them (Weheliye 2002, 21–47).

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Natasha A. Kelly Te function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, so you spend twenty years proving that you do. Someone said your head isn’t shaped properly, so you have scientist working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. Tere will always be one more thing. (Morrison 1975)

Black German and/or black European discourses on enslavement and colonialism have not yet been institutionalized in Germany nor in Europe. What is more, in the face of modernity/coloniality Germany makes believe that diferent forms of human beings never existed—the master and the slave, the colonizer and the colonized— although racism is omnipresent. Te decolonization of bodies, minds, and souls— the actual process of becoming human—is only very reluctantly put into gear. Tis has specifc sociological and psychological consequences that afect the identifcation and socialization processes of black Germans which is why they are described as intangible “abjects” whose subjectivity was/is made impossible. Te refusal to understand Afro-Germans as German, much less as equals, is the cornerstone of the German discourse on the white German subject and the African Other. Te African American has been and still is considered an American problem; the Afro-German barely exists in the German imagination. . . . In short, the Afro-German identity is not the antithesis in the dialectic of (white) German subjectivity: it is simply non-existent. (Wright 2004, 191)

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Moreover, black Germans are described as the “other-from-without” (Wright 2004, 8) who continue to be placed outside of analytical history, as their existence is denied. Yet, at the same time their assumed inferiority is the root cause for alleged European superiority. Only through the (re-)production of black knowledge could the black subject be liberated from the European notion that contributes to the imagination of how black life is and not to the understanding of how white Europeans made black life to be.

ARRIVING IN THE ZONE OF BEING On invitation of the white German sociologist, editor, and author Dagmar Schultz, black US-American scholar-activist Audre Lorde arrived at the Free University in Berlin in 1984, where she worked as visiting professor. During her stay she realized relatively quickly that there was neither research on the history of black people nor a black community in Germany. Tis caused Lorde to carry out several writing workshops, that is, Te Poet as Outsider or black American Women Poets, with which she hoped to inspire especially her black students to think and write creatively, so that European poetry and prose could be (re-)conceptualized from a black German perspective. In her courses Lorde demonstrated how the white patriarchy had raised

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the question of rationality to a point where it no longer brought forth a connection between logic and emotions. She believed that only by attaching rationality to feelings would rationality receive meaningful signifcance. Breaking with what she coined as the “mythical norm” (Lorde 2009, 203), Lorde especially encouraged black women to look behind “the veil” at the continuity of Germany’s colonial past and take an active role in the deconstruction of binary oppositions and hierarchies. With her self-description as a “Black feminist, mother, lesbian, warrior, and poet” Lorde illustrated to her students that they need not fear the diferences they have within themselves and/or between each other. As she united diferent categories within herself, Lorde was able to exist to the fullness of her identity and to position herself as a self-determined black subject beyond racialized and sexualized stereotypes. By doing so she proved that hierarchies of oppression are nonexistent. Moreover, Lorde believed that precisely these diferences should be used as a creative source for individual and societal change as well as for transcultural unity. In encompassing all her various identities she supported the assumption that the subject of late modernity is not identical to itself but should be thought of as a polyphonic subject. It was due to Lorde’s identity politics that a second wave of black identity transformation was prompted, moving black Germans forward from their “abject status” into a marginalized space of black subjectivity. From the First World War onward black Germans had been forced to make use of the things that made them diferent from the white majority population. Often sought after as performers though often in roles that reinforced their alienation, many found ways to exploit racist stereotypes to their own personal advantage (Aiken and Rosenhaft 2013, 145–54). It was only within the milieu of performance, however, that their black bodies would ft into the “zone of being” without being doubted or questioned. Only on entering academia in the early 1980s, did the black German community (re-)gain voice and (re-)write African German history, making “the color-line” as well as German coloniality visible. Audre Lorde had inspired her black students, including the aforementioned poetess and political activist May Ayim (formerly known as May Opitz), to address and document their own stories in writing. As a result the frst German-language anthology Farbe bekennen. Afro-deutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte (Oguntoye, Opitz and Schultz 1986) was published by black German women in 1986. On the basis of legible traces of “herstories,” these women of diferent generations (re-)designed and (re-)defned colonialism as the backdrop of modernity and located themselves on the outskirts of the “zone of being.” Tis marginal presence led to the foundation of the ISD12 and ADEFRA,13 two black German organizations that are still active today. Participation in these Germany-wide networks sharpened the political consciousness of the frst generation of black German MCs and directed black German youths to the cultural movement of rap music, break dancing and grafti art. In 1985 Zulu Nation founder, Africa Bambaataa appointed Torch the frst black German Zulu King. As cofounder of Advanced Chemistry,14 Torch contributed to the emergence of German-language rap. From the announcements between songs during concerts, he developed German-speaking freestyles, which fnally resulted in German lyrics. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, it was not cool to rap in German. At the

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time, too little of the native language could express a positive attitude towards black life in Germany. Up to the publication of Farbe bekennen and the introduction of the concept Afrodeutsch there had been no vocabulary to support or describe black positivity and therefore no palpable acknowledgment of positive black life as a German. Moreover, black Germans continued to look to the United States for role models who they found in KRS One, NWA, Public Enemy, or Naughty by Nature. With their breakthrough anthem Fremd im eigenen Land (1992)15 which described the social realities of black Germans and other ethnic minorities as those of “aliens in their own country,” Advanced Chemistry constructed a narrative about their hidden history that stood in line with the authors of Farbe bekennen and became a further landmark in the production of black German identity. By audiovisualizing the concept Afrodeutsch, the group adapted the afrorealistic idea of alienation in their textual representation. Not only were visions of black social realities unveiled but also the racial “politics of de_perception” became evident with which Germany still upholds its white supremacist power structure today. Targeted forms of racist inaction (not speaking, not seeing or not thinking about racism), alongside the act of color-blindness had hitherto distorted African German history and situated black Germans in cultural rootlessness. Accordingly, the social plight of black German youth in the form of a “double movement of marginalization and hypervisibility” (Weheliye 2001, 293) became evident, allowing a majority of supposed non-Germans embracing their subjectivity, which was a novelty in the German music industry. For the frst time, German rap forwent spoof depictions and transported a deep political message to a nonacademic audience.16 Advanced Chemistry had played themselves into the global canon of Afrofuturism by articulating their visions of the past, present, and future. Placing matter over mind, they not only transcended Hegelian tradition but also presented the black subject as a being with value. By bypassing Eurocentric modalities of humanity, black Germans were propelled toward a genre where musical performance and technology collide. Tus, the space age was passed on through hip hop culture and the internet. Te latter was demonstrated in the frst black German culture salon Te Cofee Shop (Düsseldorf/ Berlin 1989–2000) and continued by Afrotak TV cybernomads hereafter. Refecting an awareness of the global marketplace as well as objects and symbols that embody both visual blackness and its corporeal memory, several afrofuturistic interventions continuously aim to create a virtual archive of historical and artistic material, which functions as an alternative to modern German collections today (Küppers-Adebisi and Küppers-Adebisi 2015, 196–98). In this sense, Afrofuturism helps to launch Afro-German culture into the future.

VISIONS OF FUTURE Resulting from enslavement and colonialism and the racial, gender, and sexual violence ensuring from both of these systems, black humanist discourses consistently made claim to humanity in multifarious ways. Indeed, it is precisely because enslavement

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rendered the category of the human suspect, why black knowledge production could not and did not attribute the same meaning to humanity as white discourses. Despite “the racial turn” in the United States and consequently the understanding that “race” is socially constructed and reaches beyond the binary discourse of black/white, the category is still associated with the biological categorization and hierarchization of human beings. Tis misjudgment justifed the enslavement and colonization of black Germans for centuries, and ultimately led to the propagated Rassenkampf (race war) of the national socialists. Due to this (mis-)reading, the political demand is voiced by many black Germans to delete the term “race” from the German constitution without substitution, as scientifc evidences prove biological races wrong. But this would also include the impossibility of socially (re-)conceptualizing “race” which would consequently lead to the denial of colonial racism and its continuity as everyday racism. It is therefore crucial that “race” is not eradicated or replaced, but the signifcance of its social dimension recognized and supported accordingly, as there is no level of society which remains untouched by its efects. Ytasha Womack understands one of Afrofutrism’s central functions in exploring “race as a technology.” According to her analysis, the intrinsic deployment of this technology has actually created racism. In conversation with Alondra Nelson, Womack turns to sociological accounts of technologies invented by people of color to discuss the production of “afrofuturist technologies”—which also include the modern computer: “Today technology enables a greater ability to create and share images across the world. Social media, websites, music downloads, digital cameras, low-cost sound engineering, at-home studios, editing equipment, and on and on” (Womack 2010, 134). In the moment when the inhabitants of Germany’s colonized lands were captured and brought to the Americas as slaves and continued to be oppressed by the white majority society of the German Empire and beyond, they too became technology. Focusing on race and the history of race relations in white-majority societies, Du Bois always understood of the capacity of the social construction of science and technology but never saw technology as being “objective,” but as encoded by race, gender, and sexuality. Tis approach is particularly useful for demonstrating the ways in which Afrofuturism has been implemented to articulate the project of (re-)claiming and (re-)writing black histories in general and black German histories in particular as seen in the theater piece First Black Women in Space by Simone Dede Ayivi and her accomplices. Traveling from Afrofutura (back) to Earth in the year 2016, Ayivi makes use of time travel as a means to inform the future of the past and thus renders possible the restructuring of black German history (McNally 2014). Te Afro-German activist and performer follows the footsteps of her heroines— Lieutenant Uhura from the Enterprise and Mae C. Jemison from the Endeavor—to meet women of color who dream and fght for a better future in a place in space which allows for the common thinking of utopias. Te stage turns into outer space and the theater into a future laboratory of ideas that reach beyond “the color-line.” In a multimedia science fction performance, Ayivi asserts a post-racist future and, with the help of sound and video recordings, dares to look back at questions of a long

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lost past. Te First Black Woman in Space is a feminist, Afrofuturist project devoted to African and African Diaspora histories as well as to the present situation of black Women and Women of Color in Germany who continue to strive for liberation and empowerment. Indeed, W. E. B. Du Bois would have been interested in a critical approach to Afro-German-Futurism, as it allows erasing Eurocentric meanings of “race” and focusing on black knowledge from Germany and beyond. Afroculture as seen through an Afrofuturist lens moves beyond European whiteness as the determinant of what human beings are and who has the full access to human rights. Consequently, a futurist perspective of Afroculture decentralizes “the normalized own” and “the racialized other,” a colonial idea that led to the global predominance of white German philosophy in the frst place.

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NOTES 1. Dasein is often translated into the English word “existence.” It is a fundamental concept in European philosophy which refers to the experience of being human. Te term has been used by several philosophers including Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Martin Heidegger. For more information see: G. W. F. Hegel, Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften I, stw, Frankfurt am Main, 2003, § 89 Anm., S. 194 and H. L. Dreyfus, Being-inthe-World: A Commentary on Heidegger’s Being in Time, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990. 2. In his essay “Black to the Future” Mark Dery interviews three African American thinkers—science fction writer Samuel R. Delany, writer and musician Greg Tate, and cultural critic Tricia Rose—about the diferent critical dimensions of future from a black perspective. In an attempt to defne the black aesthetic, he coins the term Afrofuturism which has become a key-concept in the study of black techno-culture. Dery’s essay is included in his publication Flame Wars: Te Discourse of Cyberculture, Duke University Press, 1993. 3. In his seminal work Te Souls of Black Folk (1903), W. E. B. Du Bois drew from his own experiences as an African American to analyse what it means to be black in a white majority society. He defned ‘double-consciousness’ as the ability to look at one’s (black) self through the eyes of the (white) other and also introduced his famous metaphor of ‘the veil’ which was his visual manifestation of the color-line. 4. Decolonial theorist Walter D. Mignolo argues that coloniality is the darker side of modernity, a complex matrix of power that has been created and controlled by white men and institutions from the Renaissance, when it was driven by Christian theology, through the late twentieth century and the dictates of Neoliberalism. See Walter D. Mignolo 2010 and 2011. 5. Te black German historian Fatima El-Tayeb (2001) uses comprehensive sources to analyze the scientifc and political debate on the exclusion of black Germans from the years 1890 to 1933. On the one hand she designs an intellectual history of the connection between national identity and race. On the other hand she reconstructs the German legacy of biological discrimination which led to the developments after 1933. 6. “Te Politics of De_Perception” is a strategic discrimination practice that occurs on the linguistic, visual, and cognitive level. Tis three-fold matrix of power is always entangled vertically as well as horizontally. Not only do linguistic, visual and cognitive perceptions take place. At the same time these actions are perceived, other actions are misperceived. Within the “blind spot” of every perception, a deperception takes places. Tus, perception and deperception always occur simultaneously. Tis simultaneity is refected in the underscore in the verb

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“to de_percieve” which opens space to refexivity. For an overall introduction to the concept, see my dissertation: Natasha A. Kelly, Afrokultur. Der Raum zwischen gestern und morgen, Unrast Verlag Münster, 2016. 7. In his autobiography Deutsch sein und Schwarz noch dazu. Erinnerungen eines Afrodeutschen. München, 2013 the black German actor and journalist Teodor Michael recounts his life in the Weimar Republic and Te Tird Reich which he could only survive due to the diferent roles he played in so called “Völkerschauen” and colonial flms. 8. In her essay “Germany’s Brown Babies Must be Helped! Will you? US Adoption Plans for Afro-German Children, 1950–1955 the black German author Yara-Colette Lemke Muniz de Faria explores several aspects of the public response to the adoption of so called ‘occupation children’ in Germany and the United States. Her essay can be found in Callaloo 26(2): 342–62. 9. In her compilation Plantation Memories. Episodes of Everyday Racism, 2008 the black psychologist Grada Kilomba shows how racism is discursive, rather than biological, as knowledge is always bound to ideologies and therefore to ways of thinking. Referring to longstanding patterns of power that emerged as a result of colonialism she shows how the black body is considered a human defcit upon which the concept of humanity is negotiated. 10. For an excursion on Hegel’s perception of Africa and her people see Michelle W. Wright, Becoming Black. Creating Identity in the African Diaspora, 2004, 13f. 11. For further information on the concept of alienation, see the introduction of George E. Slusser and Eric S. Rabkin, eds., Aliens: Te Anthropology of Science Fiction, Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. 1987. 12. ISD stands for “Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland” (Engl. Te Initiative of Black People in Germany). It is a political organization that represents the interests of black people in Germany, promotes black consciousness, and publicly opposes racism etc., http:// www.isdonline.de. 13. ADEFRA is the sister organization of the ISD with focus on black German lesbian issues, http://www.adefra.de. 14. Infuenced by US-American socially conscious rap and the Native Tongues Movement, Advanced Chemistry was founded in 1987 and is regarded as one of the main pioneers in German hip hop, as they were one of the frst groups to rap in German (although their name is in English). Teir songs tackled controversial social and political issues, distinguishing them from other early German hip hop groups, which had a more light-hearted, playful, party image. 15. Te track can be found under the following link: https​://ww​w.you​tube.​com/w​atch?​ v=yHe​3xIQQ​pKU. 16. For more information on the early days of Black German rap artists, see the interview with Kof Yakpo, member of Advanced Chemistry under: http:​//www​.bpb.​de/ge​sells​chaft​/migr​ ation​/afri​kanis​che-d​iaspo​ra/59​580/a​fro-d​eutsc​he-ra​pkuen​stler​?p=al​l.

REFERENCES Adams, Anne. 2005. “Te Souls of Black Volk. Contradiction? Oxymoron?” In Not So Plain as Black And White. Afro-German Culture and History, 1890–2000, edited by Patricia Mazón and Reinhild Steingröver, 209–32. New York: Boydell and Brewer Inc. Aikins, Joshua Kwesi. 2008. “Die alltägliche Gegenwart der kolonialen Vergangenheit— Entinnerung, Erinnerung und Verantwortung in der Kolonialmetropole Berlin.” In

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Afrika—Europas verkannter Nachbar, edited by Herta Däubler-Gmelin, Ekkehard Münzig, and Christian Walther, 47–68. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. ———. 2011. “Für eine postkoloniale Erinnerungskultur. Rede zur Einweihung der May-Ayim-Gedenktafel am 29.8.2011.” Accessed January 21, 2014. http:​ //www​ .migr​ ation​srat.​de/do​kumen​te/pr​essem​ittei​lunge​n/MRB​B-NL-​2012-​02-Sp​ecial​%20Le​ben%2​ 0nach​%20Mi​grati​on.pd​f. Aitken, Robert and Eve Rosenhaft. 2013. Black Germany. Te Making and Unmaking of a Diaspora Community, 1884–1960. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ani, Marimba. 1994. Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Tought and Behavior. Washington, DC: Nkonimfo Publications. Asante, Molef Kete. 2009. “Afro-Germans and the Problems of Cultural Location.” Accessed August 10, 2012. http:​//www​.asan​te.ne​t/art​icles​/17/a​fro-g​erman​s-and​-the-​probl​ems-o​f-cul​ tural​-loca​tion.​ Bechhaus-Gerst, Marianne. 2005. “W. E. B. Du Bois in Berlin.” In Macht und Anteil an der Weltherrschaft. Berlin und der deutsche Kolonialismus, edited by Ulrich Heyden und Joachim Zeller, 231–35. Münster: Unrast Verlag. Bergold-Caldwell, Denise, Laura Digoh, Hadija Haruna-Ölker, Christelle NkwendjaNgnoubamdjum, Camilla Ridha, and Eleonore Wiedenroth-Coulibaly. 2015. Spiegelblicke. Perspektiven Schwarzer Bewegungen in Deutschland. Berlin: Orlanda. Berman, Russell A. 2005. “Tomas Mann, W. E. B. Du Bois and Afro-German Studies.” In Not So Plain as Black And White. Afro-German Culture and History, 1890–2000, edited by Patricia Mazón and Reinhild Steingröver. Forward, vii–xvii. New York: Boydell and Brewer Inc. Black, Marc. 2007. “Fanon and DuBoisian Double Consciousness.” Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge 5 (Special Double-Issue, Summer): 393–404. Campt, Tina M. 1993. “Afro-German Cultural Identity and the Politics of Positionality: Contests and Contexts in the Formation of a German Ethnic Identity.” New German Critique 58: 109–26. http://www.jstor.org/stable/488390. ———. 2003. “Reading the Black German Experience. An Introduction.” Callaloo 26(2): 288–94. Campt, Tina M. and Paul Gilroy. 2004. Der Black Atlantic. Berlin: Haus der Kulturen der Welt. ———. 2004. Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Tird Reich. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Dery, Mark, ed. 1993. “Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate and Tricia Rose.” In Flame Wars. Te Discourse of Cyberculture, 179–222. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Dreyfus, H. L. 1990. Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger’s Being in Time. Cambridge: MIT Press. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1903. Te Souls of Black Folk. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics. ———. Dusk of Dawn. An Essay toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept. New York: Oxford University Press. Ege, Moritz and Andrew Wright Hurley. 2015. “Periodizing and Historicizing German Afro-Americanophilia: From Counterculture to Post-Soul (1968–2005).” Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies 12(2). http:​//dx.​doi.o​rg/10​.5130​/port​al.v1​2i2.4​360. El-Tayeb, Fatima. 2001. Schwarze Deutsche. Der Diskurs um “Rasse” und nationale Identität 1890–1933. Frankfurt am Main/New York: Campus Verlag.

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Eshun, Kodwo. 2003. “Further Considerations of Afrofuturism.” CR: Te New Centennial Review 3(2): 287–302. Fanon, Frantz. 1986. Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press. Gilroy, Paul. 1993. Te Black Atlantic. Modernity and Double Consciousness. New York: Verso. Grosfoguel, Rámon. 2008. “Transmodernity, Border Tinking, and Global Coloniality. Decolonizing Political Economy and Political Studies.” Accessed June 13, 2014. http:​// www​.euro​zine.​com/p​df/20​08-07​-04-g​rosfo​guel-​en.pd​f. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. 1970. Phänomenologie des Geistes. Frankfurt am Main/ Berlin/Wien: Ulstein Buch. ———. 2008. Philosophy of Right. Translated by S. W. Dyde. New York: Cosimo. Hopkins, Leroy. 1996. “Inventing Self: Parallels in the African-German and African-American Experience.” In Te African-German Experience: Critical Essays, edited by Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay, 37–54. Westport: Praeger Frederick A. ———. 2004. “Searching for a Father(land): Afro-German Literature’s Dilemma.” In Te Many Faces of Germany. Transformations in the Study of German Culture and History, edited by John A. McCarthy, Walter Grünzweig, and Tomas Koebner, 301–9. New York: Berghahn Books. Kelly, Natasha A. 2016. Afrokultur. Der Raum zwischen gestern und morgen. Münster: Unrast Verlag. Kilomba, Grada. 2008. Plantation Memories. Episodes of Everyday Racism. Münster: Unrast Verlag. Küppers-Adebisis, Adetoun and Michael Küppers-Adebisi. 2015. “Afrotak TV cybernomads. Über De-koloniale Wissensarchive, Soziale Netzwerke und künstlerisch-mediale Wissensmanagementstrategien.” In Spiegelblicke. Perspektiven Schwarzer Bewegungen in Deutschland, edited by Denise Bergold-Caldwell, Laura Digoh, Hadija Haruna-Ölker, Christelle Nkwendja-Ngnoubamdjum, Camilla Ridha, and Eleonore Wiedenroth-Coulibaly, 196–98. Berlin: Orlanda. Lemke Muniz de Faria, Yara-Colette. 2003. “Germany’s ‘Brown Babies’ Must be Helped! Will You? US: Adoption Plans for Afro-German Children, 1950–1955.” Callaloo 26(2): 342–62. Lorde, Audre. 2009. “Diference and Survival. An Address at Hunter College.” In I am Your Sister. Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde, edited by Rudolph P. Byrd, Johnetta Betsch Cole, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall, 201–4. New York: Oxford University Press. McNally, Cayla. 2014. “Fighting for the Freedom of a Future Age: Afrofuturism and the Posthuman Body.” Tesis and Dissertations Paper 1558, Lehigh University. Michael, Teodor. 2013. Deutsch sein und Schwarz noch dazu. Erinnerungen eines Afrodeutschen. München: dtv premium. Mignolo, Walter D. 2010. “Introduction: Coloniality of Power and De-Colonial Tinking.” In Globalization and the Decolonial Option, edited by Walter D. Mignolo and Arturo Escobar, 1–21. London/New York: Routledge. ———. 2011. Te Darker Side of Western Modernity. Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Morrison, Toni. 1975. Black Studies Centre Public Dialogue. Pt. 2. May 30, 1975. www​. godd​essbl​ogs.c​om/20​14/08​/toni​-morr​isons​-1975​-lect​ure-o​n-rac​e.htm​l. ———. 1987. Beloved. London: Vintage.

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Oguntoye, Katharina, May Opitz, and Dagmar Schultz. 1986. Farbe bekennen. Afro-deutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte. Berlin: Orlanda. Oguntoye, Katharina. 1997. Eine afro-deutsche Geschichte. Zur Lebenssituation von Afrikanern und Afro-deutschen in Deutschland von 1884 bis 1950. Berlin: Hoho Verlag. Oppel, Christina. 2008. “W. E. B. Du Bois, Nazi Germany, and the Black Atlantic.” GHI ­Bulletin Supplement 5: http:​//www​.ghi-​dc.or​g/fl​es/pu​blica​tions​/bu_s​upp/s​upp5/​supp5 ​_099.​pdf. Rabaka, Reiland. 2003. “W. E. B. Du Bois’s Evolving Africana Philosophy of Education.” Journal of Black Studies 33(4): 399–449. Accessed January 23, 2013. http://www.jstor.org/ stable/3180873. ———. 2003a. “Deliberately Using the Word Colonial in a Much Broader Sense: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Concept of ‘Semi-Colonialism’ as Critique of and Contribution to Postcolonialism.” Accessed September 26, 2012. http:​//eng​lish.​chass​.ncsu​.edu/​jouve​rt/v7​i2/ra​baka.​ htm. ———. 2006. “Te Souls of Black Radical Folk: W. E. B. Du Bois, Critical Social Teory, and the State of Africana Studies.” Journal of Black Studies 36(5): 732–63. http://www. jstor.org/stable/40026682. Slusser, George E. and Eric S. Rabkin. 1987. Aliens: Te Anthropology of Science Fiction. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Weheliye, Alexander G. 2001. “Keepin’ It (Un) Real. Perusing the Boundaries of Hip Hop Culture.” CR: Te New Centennial Review 1(2): Fall. http://muse.jhu.edu/article/50578. ———. 2002. “‘Feenin’: Posthuman Voices In Contemporary black Popular Music.” Social Text 71 2(2): 21–47. http://muse.jhu.edu/article/31935. Welsing, Frances Cress. 1991. Te Isis Papers. Te Keys to the Colors. Washington, DC: Afrikan World Books. Womack, Ytasha. 2010. Post-Black: How a New Generation is Redefning African American Identity. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. Wright, Michelle M. 2004. Becoming Black. Creating Identity in the African Diaspora. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Wynter, Sylvia. 2003. “Unsetteling the Coloniality of being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, after Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument.” CR: Te New Centennial Review 3(3): 257–337.

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2 Avant-Gardes, Afrofuturism, and Philosophical Readings of Rhythm

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Iain Campbell

In this chapter, I will put forward a claim about rhythm—that rhythm is relation. To develop this I will explore the entanglement of and antagonism between two notions of the musical avant-garde and its theorization. Te frst of these is derived from the European classical tradition, the second concerns Afrodiasporic musical practices. Tis chapter comes in two parts. Te frst will consider some music-theoretical and philosophical ideas about rhythm in the postclassical avant-garde. Here I will explore how these ideas have been used to, on the one hand, stage a critique of Afrodiasporic musics, and specifcally jazz, and, on the other hand, diminish and obscure the relation between the postclassical and Afrodiasporic avant-gardes. In the second part I will develop another lineage of rhythm, orthogonal to that of the postclassical avant-garde. Drawing from philosophy and Afrocentric, Afromodernist, and, fnally, Afrofuturist theory, I will map a theoretical move from rhythm understood, in its postclassical guise, as an exclusive and strictly musical category, to rhythm understood as an inclusive and plural category. Tis likewise charts a passage from an aesthetically autonomous understanding of objects of art to social and collective forms of artistic practice. While I will indicate some ways in which the critical exclusions of the postclassical avant-garde have obscured deeper theoretical and practical resonances between the traditions, and attempt to bring these resonances into focus, the space between the two parts of this chapter will remain partially undetermined. It will maintain a problematic character—that is to say, it will remain open to further exploration and experimentation. Rhythm here stands as both an object of enquiry and as a theoretical framework to open points of productive connection between the two lineages, albeit a framework that recognizes the asymmetrical power relations that have historically held between these positions. Developed through engagement with 27

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Afrodiasporic musical practices, and in particular the radically creative impulse of Afrofuturist theory, rhythm acts here not as a predetermined relation but as an ongoing process of forging relations. I will begin by sketching a historical moment around which I will frame many of my arguments, namely the artistic, critical, political, and theoretical terrain of the avant-garde of jazz of the 1960s. From its earliest forms African American music found itself intimately linked with social and political movements. In the 1960s a particularly vivid constellation emerged in which black nationalism, Afrocentrism, and the emerging avant-garde of jazz developed in reciprocal relation. Te work of key fgures in free jazz and elsewhere in the avant-garde of jazz, such as John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, and Sun Ra, held a central role in the establishment of what became known as the Black Arts Movement. Characterized in Larry Neal’s key 1968 text as “the aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept” (Neal 2000, 236),1 the Black Arts Movement saw the development of African American arts across the 1960s as a concrete expression of the political values of black power. Perhaps the key theorist of the relation between the avant-garde of jazz and the Black Arts Movement was Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones). For Baraka, speaking in 1962, the African American writing of the time had yet to match the achievements in jazz of Ellington, Armstrong or Parker (Baraka 1998, 107), and by the mid-1960s it was free jazz that exemplifed the inseparability of black politics and black music. Baraka argued that the music of Albert Ayler and others working in the avant-garde of jazz gave voice to the memory of the African American people but under new forms “to more precisely refect contemporary experience” (Baraka 1968, 185). Tis was an example of what Baraka called the changing same—by which an essential black musical expression, the “blues impulse,” persists through changing forms of music (Baraka 1968, 180). Te jazz musician at once looks forward and backward.2 While Baraka’s reading of the avant-garde of jazz tends to highlight its look into the past, the Afrofuturist reading highlights the other aspect of its Janus-headed nature. As Nabeel Zuberi notes, Afrofuturism likewise fnds a source in the feeling of alienation that characterizes the legacy of slavery and elements of its expression (such as the spiritual), and reimagines this under a new light (Zuberi 2004, 79). Here, however, this reinvention takes on an altogether more extreme character. In place of the essential foundation of Baraka’s “changing same,” we fnd a more unhinged and ungrounded mutation, a transmolecularization, to use Sun Ra’s term, whereby the past is dissipated and reformed “into a new cosmic and legendary perspective” (Zuberi 2004, 79). One of the most radical theorists of this model of Afrofuturism is Kodwo Eshun. Eshun suggests that black Atlantic intellectual culture has found itself overdetermined by its history, in response to which Afrofuturism posits experimentation as a route out of this impasse (Eshun 2003, 287–88). While these discourses—Black Aesthetic, Afrofuturist, and so on—can in practice appear to be profoundly dissimilar, viewed through the locus of the avant-garde of jazz the relation between them becomes clear. Located on a spectrum from backward-looking to forward-looking, from concern with tradition and history to

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concern with futurity, we can see how each makes an attempt to determine the appropriate expression of and model for engaging with the contemporary condition of blackness, and developing the contemporary stakes of Afrodiasporic art. Running alongside but in some respects distinct from these approaches is that of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Formed in Chicago in 1965, the AACM initially comprised musicians and composers emerging from jazz backgrounds, but the concern of the group was less with a relation to either a jazz tradition or the avant-garde of jazz than it was with its own notion of “original music” (Lewis 2001/2002, 102). On account of a close but contentious relation to the white-coding postclassical avant-garde, the AACM’s relation to black power, the Black Arts Movement, and black cultural nationalism is a complicated one. In addition, the self-theorization which was central to the AACM identity, perhaps exemplifed with Anthony Braxton’s multivolume Tri-Axium Writings, puts the AACM in a clear dialogue with the self-theorization common in the postclassical tradition (Lewis 2008, xxix). With this in mind, its position as spanning and traversing distinct traditions and practices will be key to our navigation across these felds. Tis ofers only the briefest sketch of avant-garde jazz and its reception by and relation to political, social, and theoretical movements. However, it is evidence enough to see that a distinct Afrodiasporic avant-garde developed alongside that which is more commonly considered to be the musical avant-garde, namely the postclassical traditions of Europe and, somewhat more contentiously, the experimental music most associated with North America. While in the early twentieth-century European modernist composers recognized the importance of jazz as a distinctly American music, this recognition was put aside in the development of a predominantly white postclassical understanding of the European avant-garde and American experimental music (Lewis 2008, 371). Tere are a number of discrete instances of meetings between practitioners across postclassical and Afrodiasporic traditions,3 but the art historical, critical and theoretical discourses have generally remained quite separate. For instance, in Pierre Boulez’s Boulez on Music Today and Michael Nyman’s Experimental Music, key texts in surveying and defning the status of the avant-garde on either side of the Atlantic which were both chronologically well-situated to engage with the radicalization of African American music, jazz receives only passing and largely dismissive mention.4 Tis exclusion is paralleled in theoretical realms which could otherwise have seemed particularly attuned to the avant-garde of jazz’s entanglement with social and political radicalism. In the work of post-1968 French philosophers and theorists such as Jean-François Lyotard and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, work which often turns to musical sources, we fnd a distinct focus on composers like Boulez and others of the European classical and postclassical avant-garde traditions. Tis absence may be dismissed as a contingency, and one which is fading in efect as the cultural hierarchies implied continue to lose their credibility. However, in this chapter, I wish to address the manner in which this exclusion may be a constitutive one. Tis will involve looking at how the postclassical avant-gardes have defned themselves in internally determined terms, which preclude association

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with an Afrodiasporic avant-garde, and how this in turn leads to a tendency in the Afrodiasporic avant-garde to dissociate itself from the postclassical. In exploring this divide, however, I hope to also bring into question the theoretical necessity of such an absolute distinction. In the case of theorists like Kodwo Eshun, the European philosophical-theoretical tradition and aspects of the postclassical avant-garde are drawn on for the furtherment of an Afrofuturist theory. While this can arguably be at the expense of a historical understanding of the exploitative and oppressive relation between Eurocentric and Afrodiasporic avant-gardes, I wish to begin to work through the antagonisms of these entangled felds and to consider how resonant points of experimental practice can be mapped across divergent traditions. I will begin by looking at early modernist avant-garde readings of jazz by the composer Olivier Messiaen and the philosopher Teodor Adorno, exploring the “rhythmic obedience” which both locate in jazz.5 I will then advance this discussion by looking at the composer John Cage’s theory of rhythm. While Cage can likewise again be implicated in a critical dismissal of jazz, I will suggest that Cage’s understanding of rhythm is complicated by his reading of the architect Le Corbusier’s theory of rhythmic systems, and that in this the germ of a deeper discussion of rhythm within a modernist paradigm can be found. I will seek to explore and expand this question by turning to readings of rhythm and its relation to collectivity, the body, and technology in the Afrodiasporic musical tradition. Tis exploration will pass from a generalized Afrocentric framework, onto some of the fundamental political questions engagement with Afrodiasporic music raises, and then into the Afrofuturist writings of Kodwo Eshun. Reading Eshun’s theory of Afrofuturist rhythm alongside the philosophical theorization of metric and nonmetric rhythms in Deleuze & Guattari, I will argue that the modes of rhythm that have developed through the Afrodiasporic tradition allow us to develop a richer understanding of the socio-aesthetic organization of musical practices.

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THE EUROPEAN AVANT-GARDE Te French composer Olivier Messiaen is widely regarded as one of the most important contributors to theories of rhythm in the classical tradition of the twentieth century. Indeed, it is his innovations with regards to rhythm that Messiaen deems his “most far-reaching contribution to Western music” (Pople 1995, 32). In his multivolume theoretical text Traité de rythme, de couleur, et d’ornithologie we fnd both analysis of a vast range of historical precedents and explication of his own developments, and throughout this text we fnd the persistent assertion that a musician can only merit that title if he or she is also a “rhythmicist” (Messiaen 1998, 38). In a 1967 interview with Claude Samuel, Messiaen diagnosed what he saw as a neglect of rhythm in the Western classical tradition, fnding, for example, “harmonic colors, and extraordinary contrapuntal craftsmanship” in Bach but naming him among “composers who knew nothing of rhythm” (Messiaen 1994, 68). Tis is because “rhythm,” in Messiaen’s understanding of it, comes to stand for a

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characteristic quite distinct from meter, with which it is often equated. Messiaen begins his explorations of rhythm by distinguishing between rhythm-as-meter or cadence, where it acts only as homogeneous and static measurement, and that which is rhythm properly speaking, defned in terms of alternation, propulsion, variation. With rhythm properly speaking recurrence never occurs as pure and simple repetition but only as an irreversible, unfolding movement in time (Messiaen 1998, 53–54). Te importance of Messiaen’s theoretical work to the postclassical avant-garde is unquestionable, both in terms of the infuence of his compositions and writings and in the vast number of major fgures in twentieth-century music who studied under him.6 His distinction between meter and rhythm, however, has deep resonances and consequences even outside of this tradition. In the same interview with Samuel, Messiaen turns his attention to jazz. In the case of Bach, Messiaen suggests that despite his great achievements elsewhere, we fnd an

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uninterrupted succession of equal durations that puts the listener in a state of beatifc satisfaction; nothing interferes with his pulse, breathing or heartbeat. So he is very calm, receives no shock, and all this seems perfectly “rhythmic” to him. (Messiaen 1994, 68)

Jazz is considered under the same terms—deemed a “very striking example of non-rhythmic music which is thought rhythmic.” It is understood as fundamentally “established against a background of equal-note values” (68), insofar as the seemingly rhythmic quality of the syncopation we fnd in jazz is determined not by its own rhythm but by its relation to the equal-note values that it contradicts, what the theorist Steve Goodman calls a “shadow” of the metric (Goodman 2010, 115). Te result of this, for Messiaen, is to cancel out the rhythmic quality of syncopation through the listener’s inversion of the ofbeat back onto the on-beat, a move in which the listener gives himself “great comfort.” While Messiaen does not discuss the precise form of this mode of listening or detail the kind of listener concerned, such is the impact of his work and his teachings that echoes of his account of rhythm, and the emphasis on it at the expense of rhythm-as-meter, can be heard throughout the avant-garde and in modernist music theory of the twentieth century. Within this we can likewise hear the echoes of a generalized denigration of jazz and in turn its Afrodiasporic musical successors. Perhaps the most famous such critique of jazz is that of the critical theorist Teodor Adorno, also the theoretician most intimately linked with the development of the European new music of the twentieth century. Adorno’s controversial critique of jazz is often characterized as being aligned with his discussion of the culture industry—whereby the earlier notion of “mass culture” is replaced by a distinction between popular culture and “culture industry,” understood as the industrialized production of cultural commodities (Adorno 1991). With this in mind, Michael J. Tompson grounds his defense of Adorno’s assessment of jazz by arguing that those who have treated it with disdain have neglected the extent to which it is built upon an aesthetic argument concerning the formal dimensions of jazz (Tompson 2010, 37).

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Tompson argues that this consideration is, for Adorno, always bound up in the entanglement between popular culture, culture industry, and their opposition to the autonomous work of art.7 Autonomous art here is art which produces its own meaning, independent of the dictates of state, church, market, or otherwise. Tis autonomy, however, as Tompson suggests, is always inextricably linked to deeper aesthetic elements. For Adorno, the autonomous work of art, culture “in the true sense,” “did not simply accommodate itself to human beings; but it always simultaneously raised a protest against the petrifed relations under which they lived” (Adorno 1991, 100). Tis character of the autonomous work of art, by which it stands against the structure of society, is “tendentially eliminated by the culture industry” (99). Within the terms of the culture industry we fnd a production of art which is “wholly assimilated to and integrated in those petrifed relations,” through which “human beings are once more debased” (100). In the specifc case of jazz, Adorno diagnoses an even greater amplifcation of this problem. Tis is insofar as jazz takes on the guise of a radical art form, despite, in his view, being solidly within the culture industry (Witkin 1998, 173). Writing in 1964, Adorno approvingly quotes Winthrop Sergeant’s remark of 1938, with no comment on the vast changes jazz underwent in this period, that jazz is “even in its most complex manifestations a very elementary matter of repeated formulae” (Adorno 1981, 120). To this Adorno adds that jazz’s “unruliness” exists only as it bears upon a strict scheme, that “its rebellious gestures are accompanied by the tendency to blind obeisance.” Much as for Messiaen, the rhythmic complication of jazz syncopation is understood to be founded on a stable metric base. For Adorno, any seemingly radical characteristics we fnd in jazz exist only insofar as it ultimately returns to stability, to an accommodation to the status quo. As Tia DeNora puts it, jazz rhythms are for Adorno merely “pseudo-liberatory,” eliding the beat “while simultaneously observing it” (DeNora 2003, 56). In contrast to his usual technique of engaging with a select few exemplary works in a feld, Adorno’s claims with regard to jazz are brought into question by the lack of serious engagement he appears to make with contemporary jazz beyond broad generalities—hence a rigid critical position maintained over a period of thirty years. Likewise of note is that while the European avant-garde is authentic insofar as it emerges dialectically from its social and musical tradition, jazz, which Adorno accepts has the same characteristics, is nevertheless not an authentic music (Hegarty 2007, 43–44). For Adorno, the authentic expression of music is to “portray within its own structure the social antinomies which are also responsible for its own isolation” (Adorno 2002c, 393). Tis character is found in the work of Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern but not in the “harmlessness” which accompanies the dissonance found in jazz (Adorno 2002b, 306). Ultimately it seems that for Adorno African American music cannot be of musical or social interest because of its status as being produced by the “domesticated body in bondage” (Adorno 2002a, 478), while, for example, Schoenberg’s music is authentic precisely because of its refection of our bondage. Te contrast with Amiri Baraka’s reading of jazz is stark. For Baraka it is precisely jazz that best refects this state of

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bondage and its relation to a history of bondage—for instance, in his approving quotation of Archie Shepp’s assertion that “[t]he Negro musician is a refection of the Negro people as a social and cultural phenomenon. His purpose ought to be to liberate America aesthetically and socially from its inhumanity” (Baraka 1968, 177).

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CAGE AND THE EXPERIMENTAL TRADITION Insofar as Adorno’s dismissal of jazz appears absolute and, indeed, oblivious to the changes jazz undergoes beyond the 1930s, it may appear to be a philosophically unjustifable artifact of a certain form of cultural elitism. Tere is evidence, however, of a wider signifcance to Adorno’s critique. In his infuential 1974 book Experimental Music, the composer Michael Nyman sets up a retrospective distinction between European avant-garde music and largely North American experimental music traditions. Nyman sets out to defne an American tradition stemming from the work of John Cage, which could stand apart from and against the dominant post-serialist European form.8 For Nyman, the European avant-garde, in which he includes “composers such as Boulez, Kagel, Xenakis, Birtwistle, Berio, Stockhausen, Bussotti,” founds itself on “the well-trodden but sanctifed path of the post renaissance tradition” (Nyman 1999, 1). North American experimental music, on the other hand, is less interested in locating itself within a historical tradition. Its concerns, on the contrary, include new compositional and performative techniques such as chance and indeterminacy, techniques which serve to undermine the notion of pre-given structures and forms of organization which it is claimed the serialist tradition, like classical music broadly speaking, adheres to. Adorno, while notably critical of the mathematization of music he found serialism developing toward, appears to locate himself frmly within the tradition of the avant-garde in opposition to that of the experimental. As Paul Hegarty argues, the basis by which Adorno addresses the musical artwork seems inseparable from the terms of modernist orchestral music (Hegarty 2007, 35). It is less a fundamental bias against jazz from which Adorno’s criticism stems than it is the assertion that the only authentic music is that which has emerged through the dialectic of Western classical music. We fnd here a curious irony. Adorno, one of the earliest thinkers to develop a thorough critique of the Enlightenment project, seems unable, or unwilling, to develop an articulation of music that does not follow a passage deeply steeped in the values of the Enlightenment and its corresponding musical forms (Gilbert and Pearson 1999, 42)—values such as intellectual rather than sensuous appreciation, composition rather than improvisation,9 and the structure of the orchestral form. If Adorno’s critique of jazz is founded on a perspective internal to the avant-garde tradition which rendered him blind to any potential avant-garde element in jazz, it would seem to follow that American experimental music, seeking to free itself of the strictures of the art music tradition, would be more amenable to jazz as a radical music. I am going to suggest here that John Cage’s position does

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indeed point us in a diferent direction, and allow us a more direct engagement with the avant-garde jazz context with which we started, but perhaps not in the manner we would expect. Having distinguished between the avant-garde and the experimental, it is somewhat surprising to see some of the criticisms of jazz we fnd in Adorno and Messiaen echoed in Cage’s thought. In a 1968 interview with the philosopher and musicologist Daniel Charles, Cage is asked whether the form of free jazz and its style of improvisation could meet his idea of musical indeterminacy. Indeterminacy here is understood as an approach to performance which does not predetermine what will be performed either at the level of the score or in the prefgured conscious or unconscious decisions of the performing individual. Cage responds: In most jazz compositions I hear an improvisation that resembles a conversation. One musician answers another. So, rather than each one doing what he wants, he listens with all his might to what the other one is doing, just to answer him better. (1981, 171)

We fnd, therefore, another diagnosis of jazz performance as a mode of expression which poses as freedom but which fnds itself within a form of bondage, within a pre-given social relation. For Cage, improvisation, and its emphasis on the spontaneous, results not in discovery but a recourse to memory, to a kind of musical egoism which his own procedures of chance and indeterminacy seek to eliminate (Kostelanetz 1987, 222). Furthermore, Cage follows:

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What is called free jazz probably tries to free itself from time and rhythmic periodicity. Te bass doesn’t play like a metronome any more. But even then, you still get the feeling of a beat. (1981, 171)

While Messiaen and Adorno are critical of jazz per se on account of its regulatory rhythms, free jazz and other avant-garde jazz practices were often the subject of critique from jazz writers on account of their divergence from the standards of jazz rhythm, for their “refus[al] to swing” (Lewis 2008, 446). It is notable, and somewhat puzzling, then, that Cage still hears a regularity to the rhythmic form of free jazz—a claim which would surprise many of the genre’s listeners. Cage, it is true, does not appear to hold the fundamental animosity toward jazz that we fnd in Adorno—we see an earlier interest in the jazz idiom, albeit a tense and ambivalent one, in pieces such as Jazz Study (1942) and Imaginary Landscape No. 5 (1952). However he does, nevertheless, appear to share Adorno’s fundamental objection to jazz precisely—that jazz is a musical form which purports itself to be free but which in actuality always falls back on stability and restriction. Immediately after these comments regarding free jazz, Cage discusses a meeting with an unnamed Chicago free jazz band with whom he had agreed to collaborate. While Cage found the rehearsals of the unnamed jazz band to be successfully “free,” he adds that when performing with the band in front of an audience, the band

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resorted to habitual forms of performance and to “conversation.” As such, free jazz, while in some respects ideologically resonant with Cage’s project, could not provide an adequately robust musical form to achieve its goals. Te unnamed jazz band, as George E. Lewis has documented, was in fact a quartet led by AACM founding member Joseph Jarman. Jarman’s account, and those of others in attendance, adds much nuance to Cage’s retelling—not least in terms of the somewhat paternalistic tone Cage takes on to describe an event which was presented as a collaboration between equals (Lewis 2008, 130). Rather than being heard as a “conversation,” one reviewer in attendance criticized Jarman’s group for their failure to respond to the sounds Cage was producing. While the reviewer intended this comment negatively, such a performance, of the group “sending into the air its own unrelated signals at the same time as [Cage’s] electronic ones were being generated” (Lewis 2008, 130), would appear to ft something of the form of a Cagean indeterminacy in which no fxed relation is to hold between performers. Furthermore, Jarman’s account was largely positive, and the performance played a part in his invitation to the ONCE Festival, a key gathering of composers within the post-Cagean experimental music. Tese contrasts in mind, we develop a sense that Cage may not have been willing or able to countenance the possibility of jazz taking the form of an experimental music. Indeed Cage, in his infuential text “History of Experimental Music in the United States,” claims that jazz “derives from serious music. And when serious music derives from it, the situation becomes rather silly” (Cage 1961, 72).10 Cage’s attitude is refective of what George E. Lewis has called the “Eurological” approach to improvisation. Lewis argues that the white avant-garde obscures what it has borrowed from “Afrological” jazz improvisation by adopting it into its own approach. For Lewis a racial space has been delineated through qualifers to the word “music”—“experimental,” “new,” “art,” “concert,” “serious,” “avant-garde,” “contemporary”—from which traditionally black practices have been excluded. Likewise, techniques such as indeterminacy cover over their relation to improvisation, constituting an othering of jazz composers and performers which reveals “whiteness as power” (Lewis 1996, 99–100).11 We can expand this also to the postclassical understanding of rhythm to which the rhythms of jazz have been deemed inimical—it could be argued that jazz’s rhythmic complexities have been appropriated into postclassical music under new guises. Lewis suggests that a more nuanced view of improvised music than that of the white avant-garde “might identify as more salient diferentiating characteristics its welcoming of agency, social necessity, personality, and diference, as well as its strong relationship to popular and folk cultures” (110). I would like to partially afrm this claim, and afrm the importance of those characteristics Lewis locates in improvised music. But I would also like to explore at a deeper level the relations and resonances between the two, which has been obscured by the exclusivity and prejudice that Lewis has diagnosed through his Afrological / Eurological distinction. Our frst step toward this will be looking more closely at Cage’s work.

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RETHINKING RHYTHM Cage’s position on some of these questions may be clarifed by looking at how his thought and work is taken up in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, an engagement which will also guide us toward Afrofuturist theory. In A Tousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari highlight a persisting connection between the experimental and the avant-garde, in a manner that appears detrimental to jazz. Tis takes place through their reading of both Cage and Pierre Boulez12— drawing together perhaps the most important composers and theorists of American experimental music and the European avant-garde, respectively. For Deleuze and Guattari, Cage is the composer who “frst and most perfectly” (1987, 267) develops a musical practice that accommodates the entire feld of sound, in all of its complexity and unpredictability. Tey draw from Cage’s idea of sound-space for their own articulation of the concept of smooth space, indicating a concern shared between their projects—of bringing into question the limits of structure, and emphasizing instead a plane on which stable organization is secondary to becoming, disarticulation, and mutation.13 Tis notion of the smooth space, however, is derived from the theoretical writings of Boulez, and his distinction between the smooth and the striated. Tis conceptual dyad returns us to the question of rhythm. For Deleuze and Guattari striated space and time is equated with cadence, that is, rhythm as mechanical regularity, and as such is thought in terms of form, as a limitation of an uncontrolled movement (363). However, Deleuze and Guattari, like Messiaen, wish to characterize rhythm in a manner which is not reducible to cadence. Tis is a rhythm without measure, without external ordering, instead concerning how “a fuid occupies a smooth space” (364)—how matter behaves without the imposition of external limitations. Despite vast diferences elsewhere, we see little distinction on this matter between the European avant-garde and the American experimental tradition, nor between the theoretical strands represented by Adorno and Deleuze and Guattari. Tere likewise appears little room for other discourses, such as one representing jazz, to enter into the discussion. In Cage’s more detailed discussions of rhythm, however, we can begin to locate a deeper problem to which Cage is responding, and through which this critique of rhythm can be thought of diferently. Perhaps Cage’s strongest engagement with this question is found in “Rhythm Etc,” an extended reading of Le Corbusier’s modernist architectural theory. In this essay, Cage develops a critique of Le Corbusier’s formulation of harmony, specifcally through a discussion of the latter’s proportional measuring device intended to see architecture best ft human form, known as the Modulor. While the Modulor was suited to a number of proportional schemes, for Cage this form of thinking always amounted to a form of domination—what he calls a rhythmic police force (1967, 124). Having no reason to believe in a necessary proportionality of the world, Cage argues that it would be absurd to subject ourselves to the proportions of the Modulor. In this, the political kernel of Cage’s thought becomes evident, and indeed

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it remains one that still resonates with Adorno—whereby we fnd oppression in that which accommodates itself to pre-given structures, and a kind of freedom in that which pushes against this status quo. Cage is concerned with the kind of spaces that we fnd ourselves in when we are in artistic and social situations, and his assessment of the Modulor is that it operates within a pre-given space, defned in terms of similitude and identity. Cage’s interest, on the contrary, is in the production of space without assumption or predetermined principle. Intriguingly, it is precisely in this moment of Cage’s engagement with social concerns that he comes to the conclusion that his problems are no longer strictly musical—and as such no longer possibly bound to the strictures of the autonomous artwork. Here he feels required, in seeming contrast to his assessments of jazz,14 to reevaluate the place of performative freedom in opposition to chance— “I must fnd a way to let people be free without their becoming foolish. So that their freedom will make them noble” (137). For Cage, then, the question of “rhythm” becomes a question quite distinct from an opposition between metric and nonmetric temporalities. It turns to a much wider matter of the space of performance and reception, and the relations that come into place within it.

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AFRODIASPORIC OPENINGS A turning point. Here we can begin to bring together this trajectory of the American experimental tradition with the Afrodiasporic tradition to which it has heretofore been opposed. Tere is a shortcut we could take. Te ethnomusicologist John Miller Chernof, in African Rhythm and African Sensibility, his study of the relation between aesthetics and society in Ghanaian music, suggests that approaching jazz through a European understanding of rhythm fails to appreciate that metrical cadences, in the form of syncopation or polyrhythm, serve to emphasize a sense of in-betweenness (1981, 49–51). Furthermore, Chernof weighs this rhythmic approach toward the listener, rather than the performer or composer. Te specifc articulation of a rhythm cannot be adequately understood if it is not analyzed in terms of its social uptake, in terms of the kind of social space it represents (30). Tere is much of this understanding of rhythm I wish to afrm here. But there is also much in Chernof’s account that is troubling. Some of this is already evident in the disjunction between the text’s title and its subject—can a study of Ghanaian music really be taken to represent “African Rhythm and African Sensibility”? Tis carries into a wider understanding of Africa—we fnd the text’s detailed analysis of specifc practices interrupted by broad claims regarding “African music” and its relation to “African culture generally” (4). At the theoretical root of this, I would like to suggest, is that Chernof fnds something essential, even biological, in rhythm. Rhythm for Chernof is linked to physical motor skills, including the movement of the feet, and implies a confation of rhythm and body which posits rhythm as a kind of “universal language” (Windmüller 2010, 35). By extrapolating from this essence of rhythmic movement to link rhythm so intimately with sociality, Chernof defuses

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that which is generative, confictual, and disruptive—“African rhythm” perhaps presents an ideal rhythm for an ideal social model.15 Tis pacifying, essentializing notion of rhythm is something I think it is important to avoid here. I want to look more into the emergence of models of rhythm, to resist efacing their constitutive tensions, their heterogeneity—to take a historico-theoretical approach which shows rhythm as indeed intimately linked to social structures, but practically and contingently so. A starting point for a more subtle articulation of this question is Molef Kete Asante’s work on the Afrocentric worldview, or African cosmology. Asante argues that in contrast to the individualist and ahistorical assumptions of Western thought, Afrocentrism posits, among other characteristics, an ontology grounded on interconnectedness, collectivity, and temporality (Jackson 2003, 120)—an understanding of Afrocentrism, it is important to note, which was commonly endorsed in the AACM.16 While I will argue that the question of rhythm, in this widened Afrodiasporic and Afrocentric sense, becomes a question not of a pure musical opposition but of the use of diverse strategies to produce diferent social spaces, we must frst contend with the complex political questions that our assessment of Chernof implies for understanding Afrodiasporic music. Tis comes down to carefully articulating difference without resorting to notions of essence. A key starting point here is through W. E. B. Du Bois, who in Te Souls of Black Folk suggests that it is through sorrow songs, or spirituals, that we can “listen to the souls of black folk” (1989, 12). Each chapter of Te Souls of Black Folk begins with a printed musical bar taken from Sorrow Songs. In these, Du Bois says, lies “some echo of haunting melody from the only American music which welled up from black souls in the dark past” (2). Indeed, Amiri Baraka’s theorization of jazz and the “changing same” stands as a reinvention of Du Bois for the context of the 1960s—in the screams of free jazz, Baraka hears echoes of the church (1968, 244), in Albert Ayler’s music, a relation to black-American religious forms (193). As Alexander Weheliye observes, however, Du Bois’s insertion of only fragments of the spirituals into his text in fact diminishes the readers’ chances of recognizing the songs being represented. Te fusion between the spiritual and Western notation is presented as an uneasy one, suggesting an ultimate failure of notation to represent the spiritual (2005, 95). Tis disjunction is one commonly agreed upon by contemporary critics, with Eric Sundquist among others arguing that the spiritual is a cultural language which does not correspond to the mapping of sound that occurs in Western notation (93). Tis is not a recent insight, nor an unproblematic one. As Weheliye notes, research has suggested that romantic, abolitionist and other white discourses of the nineteenth century posited the spiritual as a kind of primitive, antirational form which stood against, but also helped to constitute, the fgure of the white rational thinker (94). A certain primitivist romanticism remains much later in Chernof’s work—in for instance the claim that “African music does not require a theoretical representation or an explicitly interpretive understanding” (1981, 1). Tis opposition serves to reinforce an essential nature to the distinction between African and European culture and to,

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in turn, reinforce one of the oldest theoretical structures of social exclusion—that which recognizes a wild and free being which is valuable insofar as it is required to help constitute the dominant culture but nevertheless cannot be reconciled with this culture.17 While assessing Afrodiasporic music as “unrepresentable,” as a kind of pure and unspoiled expression, is therefore an inadequate mode of dealing with this disjunction, the question of accounting for the incommensurability evoked by Du Bois’s notation remains. To move toward an Afrofuturist discourse, I wish to address this through two primary fgures—namely the body and technology. Du Bois’s insertion of mute and indecipherable bars of spiritual into Te Souls of Black Folk presents us with a kind of ghostliness, the “echo of haunting melody,” in which we seem distanced from the sound to which we are directed. As this ghostliness emerges from the failure of notation to represent the spiritual, however, it reveals to us also its opposite—embodiedness. As Weheliye argues, black subjectivity represents an antithesis of the European Enlightenment subject—not merely by having a body but by being a body (2005, 28). Te division between the rational subject and its corporeal existence is erased, as is that between musical expression and its representation. Te Western classical tradition and its philosophical readings, in all their diversity, from Rousseau up to Adorno, is strongly characterized by a denigration of music’s physicality, maintaining a distance between the sensory-corporeal and the intellectual (Gilbert and Pearson 1999, 59). Tis stands alongside the veneration of the rational subject and the failure to see beyond the individual producer, a failure which renders understanding the Afrocentric extended notion of the specifc social dynamic of material intersubjectivity that takes place in musical performance impossible. In the latter case, engagement with music is not merely a rational act but part of an extensive and collective afective act in which performance is inseparable from reception, from immediate dancing to sociopolitical implications. Tis extends to the question of technology, and the Afrodiasporic tradition is characterized from an early stage by a serious engagement with technologies of reproduction and distribution. Consider, for example, Adorno’s notion that “there has never been any gramophone-specifc music” (2002d, 277),18 as opposed to Ralph Ellison’s repeated engagement with the specifc subjective experience of the phonograph throughout his fction and nonfction (Weheliye 2005, passim). Indeed, this question, decades later, becomes internal to the European avant-garde, as suggested by Georgina Born in her anthropological exploration of IRCAM, the French institute of contemporary music and sound research founded by Boulez in 1977. One of the great fssures in the European avant-garde came to be between those invested in the notated form—including Boulez—and those who felt that the score could not do justice to the sound worlds created by new technologies (Born 1995, 139, 224). While Born notes the erasure of a jazz infuence (1995, 82) and the constitutive exclusion of jazz-derived practices in IRCAM (87), the confict regarding the adequacy of notation in this case takes place internal to the European avant-garde.

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However, we fnd again the AACM crossing this territory in a manner which brings the relations at work into focus. Te AACM use of graphic scoring is in some respects an aspect of an orientation toward approaches which can encompass both compositional and improvisational elements (Lewis 2008, 322), as it was with Cage’s indeterminate scores. It was also, however, as in the world of IRCAM and elsewhere, concerned with rethinking the status of sound. One regular feature across the diverse practices of the AACM was and is an emphasis on multi-instrumentalism, a confrontation with traditional instrumental taxonomies of jazz’s star system toward having players be profcient on numerous instruments (362). Tis was directly associated with an interest in likewise multiplying the timbral qualities produced by the performing group beyond those prescribed in the jazz tradition—with individual players playing multiple instruments in an individual performance. Te use of “little instruments,” an array of small percussion instruments, whistles, bells, and so on, which founding member Malachi Favors posited as an African infuence (160), was the technique most closely associated with the AACM (142). But it is crucial to note that the AACM expansion of the traditional jazz sound palette also involved electronics. Te use of electronics, beginning at an early stage of the AACM, was immediately controversial in the jazz world. Critic Ron Welburn would speak of “technological intrusions” into the acoustic world of jazz, and associated the use of emerging technologies with a white musical lineage (148–49). Dismissive critical engagement with the AACM’s use of electronics, graphical scoring, and other techniques which drifted from a jazz tradition toward a postclassical one continued in various forms into the 1970s and 1980s (354). But neither side of this critique—of a failure to represent their own tradition or of a failure in imitation of another tradition—need be the fnal analysis. Te question of unrepresentability provides both a look backward and a passage forward. Where the “unrepresentability” of Afrodiasporic musics had previously been posited as a primitivist feature, in the case of the AACM it stood for technological and theoretical advancement. Tis can fnally take us toward the question of Afrofuturism. As Lewis notes, a key feature of Afrofuturism is its rejection of blackness as something understood to be essentially anti-technological (551n106). Returning to the status of musical rhythm and engaging from this point of departure can help us bring together and clarify many of the problems posed so far.

AFROFUTURIST RHYTHMS A leap forward. As technological engagement intensifes, the question of the function of rhythm becomes ever more refned. Referring to the strict electronic 4/4 beat of house music, Drew Hemment notes that metrical rhythm serves as a form of capture (2004, 86). Te paradigm of house music brings into further question the shape that any distinction between metric and nonmetric time can take. Te displacement caused by techniques of rhythmic variation, such as syncopation and polyrhythm,

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can be thought under the terms of either moving toward a nonmetric rhythm or, as Adorno and Messiaen would have it, merely masking a simpler stability beneath. But the 4/4 house beat, brutally and unfinchingly regular, forms what Hemment calls a “mechanistic grid of digital clock time” (85) in its incessant metronomic repetition. In this, however, it comes to emphasize textural—rather than rhythmic or melodic—qualities, bringing forth a particular molecularity and singularity of the sonic matter that lies between the beats. Te subtle qualities of this singularity are made sonorous due to this isolation within a fxed framework. As Hemment argues, “nuance and infection are heard because of a reduction of indeterminacy on another level” (86). It is not, then, that a musical piece becomes more afective the more its rhythmic qualities detach from the metric and move toward the nonmetric. On the contrary, diferent rhythmic formations serve to maintain a body’s consistency in different ways, with the common purpose of allowing it to express its intensive qualities, to be made sonorous as an afective force. Afrofuturist musical thought has taken the reformulation of rhythm that we fnd in the passage of Afrodiasporic music across the twentieth century as a starting point for reconsidering how the social and the aesthetic intertwine, as distinct from the notions of artistic autonomy and social freedom that we fnd in the modernist tradition. Steve Goodman, for example, draws from Deleuze and Guattari but develops his own thought through a crucial inversion. Goodman reverses a hierarchy he posits Deleuze and Guattari to be asserting, headed by nonmetric rhythm and its conceptual equivalents, and rather emphasizes how afective capacities can be mobilized through metric organization. Goodman’s musical perspective takes the “rhythmic reservoir” (2010, 107) of noise, or sonic chaos, as only a site of potential for actualization. Tis is to think of noise not as a weapon in itself (as in the case of the Italian Futurists) but rather through a notion of rhythmic consistency in which “vibrational force would be captured, monopolized and redeployed” in a movement of afective mobilization and contagion, the movement of a body toward transforming that with which it comes into contact in its own image. In reconstituting the sonic war machine in terms of the afective capacities of specifc bodies, Goodman moves to initiate a more robust and productive take on metrical rhythm than he believes Deleuze and Guattari allow themselves. In this rhythmic theory, Goodman makes use of Kodwo Eshun’s dense and dazzling exploration of Afrodiasporic music in the twentieth century, More Brilliant than the Sun, and in particular Eshun’s concept of the Rhythmachine. Eshun argues that late twentieth-century “Black Atlantian” African diasporic music—jazz, funk, techno, hip-hop—constitutes a new sensory paradigm in terms of music’s radically mobilizing and transformative capacities, the paradigm of texturhythm: Te Rhythmachine captures your perception as it switches from hearing individual beats to grasping the pattern of beats. Your body is a distributed brain which fips from the sound of each intensity, to the overlapping relations between intensities. Learning pattern recognition, this fipfop between rhythmelody and texturhythm drastically collapses and reorganizes the sensorial hierarchy. (1998, 21–22)

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Texturhythm here is opposed to the previous paradigm of rhythmelody—the essentially Western classical valuing of unilinear progression within a piece. Texturhythm, on the contrary, is found in a layering of heterogeneous materials, with, as Hemment later argued within the Deleuzian context, metric rhythm ofering consistency to that which falls between the beat. Te two paradigms of rhythmelody and texturhythm are, however, not simply opposed but are rather folded onto one another. Linear rhythmic patterns are recognized by the perceiving body, but this recognition is also interrupted by the manner in which heterogeneous intensities congeal between rhythmic points. Te movement combining the texturhythm and the rhythmelody is simultaneously a music of narrative forward movement (of melody and its conjunction with the rhythmic) and of the intensive individuality of sensuous sonic matter. Furthermore, this movement is also an entanglement of the two paradigms under the formational power of the Rhythmachine. What this entanglement under the Rhythmachine entails is that the sonic singularity is at once internally diferentiating and holistic between the beat, yet also part of a larger body of relations across the beat. Individual grains of sound are drawn together under the shaping force of wider rhythmic qualities and narratives. Te individuality of the sound block held between the beat—the internally diferentiating and autonomous sound block being key in Boulez’s work and Deleuze and Guattari’s reading of it—is called into question by the fgure of the rhythmic-as-Rhythmachine, drawing together intensive qualities into bodies moving with and against each other. It is not, then, that metrical rhythm acts as a blockage, and is necessarily a formal model of oppression which stifes movement. It rather shapes this movement into sonorous form. Following rhythm’s new guise as a Rhythmachine involved in the constitution of afective bodies from diverse intensive materials, in Eshun’s synthesized paradigm-assemblage of texturhythmelody the virtual material and its actual formation become indistinguishable (1998, 90). Te beat is, at once, the framework for intensive relations and an afective body in itself. In this we hear echoes of Chernof’s descriptions of polyrhythm and the active listener but with the murmurs of a foundational essence which permeate Chernof’s work replaced by the mobility and transformative capacities of the Rhythmachine in action. In so doing Eshun can, like Chernof, describe the processes by which rhythm draws bodies together, but without resorting to a rhythmic essentialism, and, like Messiaen, describe the processes by which heterogeneous rhythms combine, but without capitulating to the exclusive terms of the postclassical avant-garde. Beyond the closures and impasses of those approaches, rhythm acts to transform perceptual bodies. Te receptive body of the listener, or dancer, acts as an extended mind, a move which in turn reverses back into the neural pathways enacting mental change as an aspect of a body succumbing to other rhythmic bodies (82, 144). In hip-hop and techno’s beat displacement, the oscillation between the habituation of a bodily rhythm and its subsequent fracturing serves to form an ever more constricted but ever more intense and potentially explosive rhythmic

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unit (Eshun 1998, 89). Te body is afected and transformed as a consequence of entering into connections with disruptive rhythms and the particular formations of intensity that they harness. Many of these aspects of Eshun’s Afrofuturist rhythmic formations are refected in Dhanveer Singh Brar’s remarkable analysis of Chicago’s Footwork scene. A recent development in Chicago’s long line of black electronic dance music innovations, Footwork is characterized by its complex, of-kilter rhythmic arrangements and the equally intense speed of the gestures deployed in its dance battles (2016, 21). Brar emphasizes that despite this complexity Footwork does not operate on a logic of individual virtuosity at the level of either producer or dancer, but is rather constituted by “an ongoing ensemble of sonic, gestural, social, racial, economic, and geographic relations” (24). Agency here is located in a kind of collective experimentation. Te sociality of dancing, dance understood as a practical mode of thought, is inseparable from a DJing and production style which in part models itself on the hectic but rigorously organized character of the battle circle (39). In turn, the DJ shapes the battle circle, driving and molding an enclosed circulation of intensity from its heterogeneous bodies. Tese two aspects are drawn together through, but likewise inform, what Brar, following Fred Moten, terms the “phonic materiality” of the music (Brar 2016, 21; Moten 2003, 1). For Brar, in this context rhythm takes on an irruptive function. A collective rhythmic improvisation refuses any attribution of essence to black diasporic life, and rather conducts a form of experimentation which marks blackness as a form of sociality produced and reproduced (Brar 2016, 38). Tis rhythmic characteristic marks perhaps the most striking aspect of Brar’s analysis. Despite its geographically and sociologically specifc nature, as the “ghetto” music of Chicago’s south and west sides, Footwork nevertheless operates with a relative autonomy. Tis is far from the autonomy of the artwork described by Adorno. It rather consists in a complex socio-aesthetic consistency, the inhabitation of the environment, a blackness produced within the antiblackness of the sociological and sociopolitical demarcation of the ghetto (43). In staking out this position, Brar resists the common positioning of black music in the sole context of a constitutive antiblackness. An intriguing source is used to bolster this claim. Brar draws a distinction between the external restraint of the sociopolitically demarcated ghetto and the internal relations of social life within the ghetto from Cayton and Drake’s early analysis of Chicago’s “Black Belt.” Tis analysis, published in 1946, captures Chicago during the formative moments of many key AACM members, a background depicted in detail by George E. Lewis (2008, 3). Likewise these concerns with a self-constituting sociality run through Lewis’s assessment of the AACM, throughout its history. Te AACM itself, perhaps, constitutes a complex socio-aesthetic ecology, with rhythmic modulations providing a passage between its musical forms, its social bonds, its audiences, and its educational programs.

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CONCLUDING REMARKS A step back. Returning retrospectively to the starting point of a critique of jazz which seems to be shared between Messiaen and Adorno, the terms by which we set of seem to have transformed signifcantly. While Messiaen and Adorno’s comments on jazz bear a superfcial resemblance to each other, they appear to derive from quite diferent points of departure. Adorno’s position is carefully critical of the Western classical tradition but, nevertheless, distinctly internal to it. Messiaen appears to diagnose a fundamental lack in that tradition. Messiaen may well be right to diagnose a neglect of rhythm in the Western classical tradition, but there is much more to be said about his transposition of this argument onto the rhythmic character of jazz. A more fundamental limit in the European avant-garde tradition, and the Western classical tradition more widely read, is an insistence on the isolated autonomy of the artwork. As refected in Afrodiasporic musical forms, this notion neglects music as a collective and social practice. “Rhythm,” when it accommodates these factors, is no longer a question internal to an autonomous work of art, and therefore a question dogged by an impossible quest for self-sufcient freedom. It becomes a relation, whereby diverse modes of musical rhythm are drawn together with rhythms collective, social, and political, engendering new forms of social and aesthetic space. Tat Cage came to realize this on his own terms ofers us a meeting point between two disparate forms, two spaces brought together in rhythmic resonance, albeit two spaces whose asymmetrical political dynamics cannot be ignored. But in all of this, musical rhythm, in its plural forms, metric and nonmetric, becomes one element within a broader rhythmic ecology. It was through this understanding of the entanglement between the sociopolitical and the aesthetic that the Black Arts Movement came to articulate a powerful theory of the mode of expression of the avant-garde of jazz in the 1960s. It is likewise this engendering of space through the invention of new forms of rhythmic relation that has concerned Afrodiasporic musical practices from the jazz group through to the Footwork battle circle. Afrofuturism here stands for this notion taken to light speed, where late twentieth-century black music has proven the exemplary form of extending this question beyond its limits, beyond any pre-given social forms, beyond even the human. Trough a kind of sonic science fction it has explored just how bodies and technologies can emerge, relate and create in the twenty-frst century. By centering on the question of rhythm, these seemingly distinct models of theorizing the black avant-garde connect and collide with a new resonance. Neither reading can assert a universal authority or infallibility. As noted, the musicians on whom the Black Arts Movement drew were often at odds with some of its central tenets, and many have commented on a questionable essentialism and masculinity at the heart of the Black Aesthetic (Robinson 2005). On the other hand, the radical Afrofuturism of Eshun has been criticized for its thorough jettisoning of historical and even contemporary concerns, with Zuberi suggesting that Eshun’s

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argument “risks evacuating a consideration of the social, political and economic contexts in which it is produced” (Zuberi 2004, 94). But what the relational, collective character of these pluralistic Afrodiasporic rhythms tells us, however, is that these approaches and others, including the postclassical avant-garde traditions and the philosophical traditions with which theorists such as Eshun are already engaging, can coexist with and enrich each other, spawning new approaches along the way. Te AACM can perhaps be positioned at the obscure junction of these tendencies. Its ambiguous position results in Baraka’s assessment of the work ongoing within it ultimately taking on an ambivalent, often negative character. Tis can be seen in his reference to the “tail Europe” nature of their postclassical engagements which in his view rendered jazz a “secondary appendage” of concert music (Baraka and Baraka 1987, 260), or his rebuke of its anti-populist practices on account of their failure to represent black life (Lewis 2008, 336). Key to the AACM approach, however, was at once an agreement that black music expressed black life, but beyond this an assertion that there is no such thing as an essential and unitary “black life”—in Muhal Richard Abrams’s terms, the diversity of the AACM represents the diversity of black life (Lewis 2008, 214). Te AACM has consistently resisted cultural nationalist essentialism and oriented itself toward the future, but without discarding tradition and a direct sociopolitical concern with the condition of black people in the United States and worldwide. It also pushes at the boundaries of some of the analysis developed here—for instance, its eventual international cosmopolitanism stands in contrast to the enclosed social ecology of the Chicago from which it emerged, and through which Brar richly presents the relative autonomy of Footwork. In this respect, further study of its practices may help us to articulate the gaps and continuities between the approaches outlined here. In so doing we should hope to do justice to the depths contained in the famed AACM slogan, understood by Lester Bowie and others as refecting the internationalist, Afrodiasporic, and historical mode of the AACM approach to experimentation—“Great Black Music,” “Ancient to the Future” (Lewis 2008, 444). Tis resistance toward essential black identity which nevertheless concerns itself with the status of blackness and black life points the way toward the fuidity and connectivity of Afrofuturism. Taking on the AACM and Afrofuturism here reveals something more of what was already the case the avant-garde of 1960s jazz. As Jason Robinson notes, “the religious tropes in Coltrane’s later music; Sun Ra’s sci-f mysticism; Albert Ayler’s “religious music”; [Archie] Shepp’s transgressive protest music; Cecil Taylor’s convention-transcending approach” (Robinson 2005, 31) all simultaneously ofered irreducibly heterogeneous models for the aesthetic expression of the African American sociopolitical condition. Rhythm as relation, extended beyond classical and postclassical traditions through Afrodiasporic musical practices, does not travel in one direction. Its individuations are difuse and diverse but always collective and connective, always reevaluating the past, refecting on and remolding the present, and pointing toward new futures. Rhythm ofers a model for that which is without model, that which cannot be

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predetermined by the existing sociopolitical order—the constitution of new relational practices through which voice can be given to collectives historical, contemporary, and impending.

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NOTES 1. See also Robinson (2005) and Smedthurst (2005). 2. As Jason Robinson points out, the musicians in question, while generally sympathetic, often had misgivings about aspects of the Black Aesthetic movement—often its nationalism and antagonistic nature and, in some cases, such as that of Sun Ra, its resistance to more speculative realms (Robinson 2005). 3. Perhaps most notable being Edgard Varèse’s 1957 sessions with numerous major fgures in the New York jazz scene. See Mattis (2006). 4. It is perhaps to reinforce this distance that Baraka took to using the term “new black music” rather than “avant-garde jazz.” Fred Moten (2003, 32) elaborates on the seemingly oxymoronic existence of the “black avant-garde,” these two terms apparently to each be predicated on the exclusion of the other. Tis terminological distinction, as well as the fuzziness of the line between avant-garde and experimental, are of note, but cannot be addressed at length here. 5. While the free jazz to which I have referred can often, no doubt, be characterized as being as free of metric rhythm as any other avant-garde music, I feel it is important here to step aside from this musical concern and emphasize the conditions of genesis for its rhythmic qualities and its juxtapositions of temporalities. In this sense it can no longer be heard in terms of a metric / non-metric opposition, but rather, ultimately, as the formulation of new rhythmic relations between diverse rhythmic characters. An example is John Coltrane’s speaking of drummer Rashied Ali’s “multi-directional rhythms” in the liner notes to Coltrane’s exemplary free jazz album Live at Te Village Vanguard Again! 6. Among those who studied under Messiaen were Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Pierre Schaefer. See Boivin (1998). 7. Tis is complicated further still in contemporary art by what Peter Osborne describes as “the increasing integration of autonomous art into the culture industry” (Osborne 2013, 21). While analyses such as Osborne’s provide what could be the basis for a more nuanced Adornian reading of jazz and other musical forms outside of the art music tradition, this is outside of the scope of this current piece. 8. As such Nyman’s distinction is a strongly tactical one and necessarily overlooks many of the connections between the traditions, particularly the manner in which Cage spans the two. 9. For Adorno, the structure of the improvising jazz group “merely outlines a parody of a future collective process of composition” (2002a, 482). 10. Cage however immediately follows this by praising the jazz-infected work of William Russell. 11. Lewis’ formulation is rich, detailed, and convincing, and while there are possible responses to some of his critical comments directed towards Cage—such as through Cage’s engagement with forms of musical spontaneity before the emergence of bebop, or the deference Cage shows to Indian and other eastern philosophies in favor of the European tradition—there is nevertheless much more to be said about the political weaknesses of Cage’s

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project. See for example Joseph (2008). For more on Cage’s work in relation to whiteness, see Tompson (2017). 12. Messiaen is also an important fgure in A Tousand Plateaus. 13. I elaborate on the relation between Cage and Deleuze in the context of contemporary work in sound studies in Campbell (2017). See also Panzner (2015). 14. Cage’s later relation to jazz is notable if obscure. Tere is little further reference to it in his written works or lectures, which become increasingly abstract and performative, but he is known to have taken an interest in the work of Sun Ra, seeing the Sun Ra Arkestra play in 1979 and even performing with the Arkestra in 1984. Unfortunately his thoughts on this relationship and the content of his discussions with Sun Ra went unrecorded (Szwed 2000, 352–56). 15. Kof Agawu (1995) articulates many of these problems with Chernof’s position, and other positions which attempt to articulate the essential qualities of “African rhythm.” 16. As with Joseph Jarman’s belief that the intermedia approaches of the AACM were reestablishing African traditions (Lewis 2008, 153), or Anthony Braxton’s afrmation of the Afrocentrism of jazz (504). 17. See, for instance, Plato’s representation of the chora as the femininely characterized space from which all emerges, and the feminist readings of this from Luce Irigaray (1985) and others. 18. Adorno was writing in 1934. Denning (2015) provides an interesting contrast to this in his account of the cultural form of early phonograph recordings.

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REFERENCES Adorno, Teodor. 1981. “Perennial Fashion—Jazz.” In Prisms, translated by Shierry Weber Nicholsen and Samuel Weber, 119–32. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ———. 1991. “Culture Industry Reconsidered.” In Te Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, edited by J. M. Bernstein, 98–106. London: Routledge. ———. 2002a. “On Jazz.” In Essays on Music, edited by Richard Leppert, 470–95. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 2002b. “On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening.” In Essays on Music, edited by Richard Leppert, 288–317. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 2002c. “On the Social Situation of Music.” In Essays on Music, edited by Richard Leppert, 391–436. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 2002d. “Te Form of the Phonograph Record.” In Essays on Music, edited by Richard Leppert, 277–82. Berkeley: University of California Press. Agawu, Kof. 1995. “Te Invention of ‘African Rhythm’.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 45(3): 380–95. Baraka, Amiri. 1968. Black Music. New York: Apollo. Baraka, Amiri (LeRoi Jones). 1998. Home: Social Essays. Hopewell, NJ: Te Ecco Press. Baraka, Amiri and Amina Baraka. 1987. Te Music: Refections on Jazz and Blues. New York: William Morrow. Boivin, Jean. 2012. “Messiaen’s Teaching at the Paris Conservatoire: A Humanist’s Legacy.” In Messiaen’s Language of Mystical Love, edited by Siglind Bruhn, 5–32. New York: Routledge.

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Born, Georgina. 1995. Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde. Berkeley; Los Angeles and London: University of California Press. Brar, Dhanveer Singh. 2016. “Architekture and Teklife in the Hyperghetto: Te Sonic Ecology of Footwork.” Social Text 126 34(1): 21–48. Cage, John. 1961. “History of Experimental Music in the United States.” In Silence: Lectures and Writings, 67–75. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. ———. 1967. “Rhythm Etc.” In A Year From Monday, 120–32. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. ———. 1981. For the Birds: In Conversation with Daniel Charles. London: Marion Boyars. Campbell, Iain. 2017. “John Cage, Gilles Deleuze, and the Idea of Sound.” Parallax 23(3): 361–78. Chernof, John Miller. 1981. African Rhythm, African Sensibility: Aesthetics and Social Action in African Musical Idioms. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Tousand Plateaus. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Denning, Michael. 2015. Noise Uprising: Te Audiopolitics of a World Musical Revolution. London and New York: Verso. DeNora, Tia. 2003. After Adorno: Rethinking Music Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1989. Te Souls of Black Folk. New York: Penguin. Eshun, Kodwo. 1998. More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction. London: Quartet Books. ———. 2003. “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism.” CR: Te New Centennial Review 3(2): 287–302. Gilbert, Jeremy and Ewan Pearson. 1999. Discographies: Dance Music, Culture, and the Politics of Sound. London and New York: Routledge. Goodman, Steve. 2010. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Afect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge, MA: Te MIT Press. Hegarty, Paul. 2007. Noise/Music: A History. New York; London: Continuum. Irigaray, Luce. 1985. Speculum of the Other Woman. Translated by Gillian C. Gill. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Jackson, Ronald L. 2003. “Afrocentricity as Metatheory: A Dialogic Exploration of Its Principles.” In Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations, edited by Ronald L. Jackson and Elaine B. Richardson, 115–32. New York: Routledge. Joseph, Branden W. 2008. Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts after Cage. New York: Zone Books. Kostelanetz, Richard. 1987. Conversing with Cage. New York: Limelight Editions. Lewis, George E. 1996. “Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives.” Black Music Research Journal 16(1): 91–122. ———. 2001–2002. “Experimental Music in Black and White: Te AACM in New York, 1970–1985.” Current Musicology 71–73: 100–57. ———. 2008. A Power Stronger Tan Itself: Te AACM and American Experimental Music. Chicago and London: Te University of Chicago Press. Mattis, Olivia. 2006. “From Bebop to Poo-wip: Jazz Infuences in Varèse’s Poème Électronique.” In Edgard Varèse Composer, Sound Sculptor, Visionary, edited by Felix Meyer and Heidy Zimmerman, 309–17. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell.

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Messiaen, Olivier. 1994. Music and Color: Conversations with Claude Samuel. Translated by E. Tomas Glaslow. Portland, OR: Amadeus Press. ———. 1998. Traité de Rythme, de Couleur, et d’Ornithologie. Translated by Melody Ann Baggech. Oklahoma: Norman. Moten, Fred. 2003. In the Break: Te Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Neal, Larry. 2000. “Te Black Arts Movement.” In A Turbulent Voyage: Readings in African American Studies, edited by Floyd W. Hayes, 236–45. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefeld Publishers, Inc. Nyman, Michael. 1999. Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Osborne, Peter. 2013. Anywhere Or Not At All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art. London and New York: Verso. Panzner, Joe. 2015. Te Process Tat Is the World: Cage/Deleuze/Events/Performances. New York: Bloomsbury. Pople, Anthony. 1995. “Messiaen’s Musical Language: An Introduction.” In Te Messiaen Companion, edited by Peter Hill, 15–50. Portland, OR: Amadeus Press. Robinson, Jason. 2005. “Te Challenge of the Changing Same: Te Jazz Avant-Garde of the 1960s, the Black Aesthetic, and the Black Arts Movement.” Critical Studies in Improvisation 1(2): 20–36. Smedthurst, James. 2005. Te Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Szwed, John. 2000. Space is the Place: Te Lives and Times of Sun Ra. Edinburgh: Mojo. Tompson, Marie. 2017. “Whiteness and the Ontological Turn in Sound Studies.” Parallax 23(3): 266–82. Tompson, Michael J. 2010. “T. W. Adorno Defended against His Critics, and Admirers: A Defense of the Critique of Jazz.” International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music 41(1): 37–49. Weheliye, Alexander. 2005. Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-Modernity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Windmüller, Sonja. 2010. “Rhythm – A World Language? Refections on Movement-Oriented Cultural Analysis.” Ethnologia Europaea 40(1): 30–41. Witkin, Robert W. 1998. Adorno on Music. London; New York: Routledge. Zuberi, Nabeel. 2004. “Te Transmolecularization of [Black] Folk: Space is the Place, Sun Ra and Afrofuturism.” In Of the Planet: Music, Sound and Science Fiction Cinema, edited by Philip Hayward, 77–95. Bloomington, IN: John Libbey.

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3 Working on the Other Side of Time An Interview with Rasheedah Phillips

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Reynaldo Anderson

Rasheedah Phillips is a practicing public interest attorney, author, artist, mother, and Afrofuturist living and working in Philadelphia. She is a recipient of the National Housing Law Project 2017 Housing Justice Award, 2017 City and State Pennsylvania 40 under 40 Rising Star Award, the 2019 Barristers Association Outstanding Young Lawyer Award, 2017 Pew Fellowship corecipient, and is a 2018 Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity. Rasheedah’s writing has appeared in Keywords for Radicals: Te Contested Vocabulary of Late Capitalist Struggle, Temple University Political and Civil Rights Journal, Villanova Law Review, Organize Your Own Catalogue, and many other publications. Rasheedah is the founder of Te Afrofuturist Afair, cocreator of Black Quantum Futurism Collective with Camae Ayewa (Moor Mother), one of the founding members of Metropolarity Queer Scif Collective, and a self-published speculative fction author of multiple books. She is also the cocreator of the award-winning Community Futures Lab project, a socially engaged art project utilizing themes of communal temporalities, futurism, and preservation of memory and history in an area undergoing redevelopment, gentrifcation, and mass displacement.

What Is the Afrofuturist Affair? In 2011, I created Te AfroFuturist Afair, a grassroots organization, to provide a space in Philadelphia for black people and people of color with similar experiences and interests in Afrofuturism and speculative fction to collaborate on a project that promotes and encourages their art and philosophies as connected with these themes. AFA started out as a singular event in Philadelphia—a charity and costume ball—with proceeds benefting local nonproft Need in Deed, and evolved into a digital community, collaborative, creative events, around the country and world, free workshops, critical, creative writing, and a publishing platform which produces and supports Afrofuturistic 51

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culture, practice, and events around the diaspora to a large audience. AFA has provided me with the opportunity to create multiple platforms and mediums for Afrofuturistic creators and marginalized black communities to access and engage with the empowering, world-building concepts of Afrofuturism. I have curated hundreds of events and workshops—locally, nationally, and internationally. I seek to create social change by using Afrofuturism and its creative possibilities as a change agent that members of disenfranchised communities can interrogate their collective histories and present social circumstances, and to fnd agency in shaping their futures. Before establishing our space Community Futures Lab, we used proceeds from events to fund the Futurist Fund Community Grant, which served underserved members of the community in need of emergency assistance funds.

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What were the matrix of ideas that influenced the development of Black Quantum Futurism (BQF)? As a lifelong science fction writer and fan, I have always been obsessed with the genre of time travel and have always had a philosophical interest in time itself. It wasn’t until I read Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred while I was in law school, however, that I began to take more seriously the notion that time travel was possible in traditions and perspectives outside of the traditional Western scientifc constructs of time and space. Butler’s work led me on a journey to fnd more black speculative fction and eventually the Afrofuturist community. In the work of Afrofuturists, the notion of time being nonlinear, layered, and dynamic was taken as granted and as a basic starting point. My growing understanding of Afrofuturism coupled with my growing research on quantum physics for my own time travel stories helped resolve many of the paradoxes of time and time travel put forward by Western science. I became fxated on that core idea in Afrofuturism—the Afro-prefx modifes both the placement and means of access to the future, and modifes Western linear notions of time by its very nature. BQF is the intersection of quantum physics, Afrodiasporan cultural and scientifc practices, rituals, and observances of space and time, and black futurism/futurity. Trough BQF we explore and develop modes and practices of alternative, black liberatory temporalities that we believe are more benefcial to marginalized black peoples’ survival in a “high-tech” world currently dominated by oppressive linear time constructs. We reappropriate time as a weapon and tool to fght back against temporal oppression.

You are a practicing attorney. How do the concepts of event building and BQF mapping relate to your work? Black Quantum Futurism uses clocks and maps to deconstruct hegemonic Western Spacetimes and dismantle the master’s clocks. We create maps that embrace the

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inherent tensions between space and time and that provide opportunities for reconfguration of the same. Our practice includes quantum event maps, housing journey maps, sonic mapping, and communal memory mapping. Te quantum event map mimics African and Asian diasporic cultural practices and perspectives on time and space, bringing together the micro (or quantum) events that like to “happen in time together” to construct future moments/events or reexamine past moments/events as individuals or as groups and communities. Trough this method of mapping, event memory (both future and past memory) is not attached to a specifc calendar date or clock time, and memories are not formed in regard to a specifc date or time. Rather, time and date are made a part of the memory, so it is embedded or weaved in and controllable in future memory.

How is BQF similar and different from previous ideas related to Afrofuturism?

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When I came across the term Afrofuturism in 2011 it was largely being used in academia, internet subcultures, and artistic circles. I became interested in how it manifests in liberation practices and in cultural activities. I was also interested in how Afrofuturism could become more accessible marginalized and low-income black people interested. I wanted to develop techniques and practices for utilizing how Afrofuturism in my work as a housing attorney working on behalf of low-income tenants who are facing eviction and advocating for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Afrofuturism also prompted me to think about black temporalities, how time imprints itself on communities, and how time plays out in the lives of marginalized and oppressed black people who have uneven access to both their histories and their futures. Trough my Afrofuturistic artistic and cultural work, I develop alternative temporalities as practical tools for allowing access to pasts or futures in a way that linear temporality and obedience to mechanical and digital clock time cannot. Alternative temporalities can inform legal perspective, legal rights, and the impact of future law-making on poor and historically marginalized communities.

The philosopher Henri Bergson shows up in your work, what drew you to his perspective? I have been interested in philosophy since I was a teenager, an interest that was primarily sparked by the underlying philosophical inquiries I would fnd in my favorite sci-f/speculative movies such as Te Matrix, and my favorite sci-f stories about time travel. Later, in researching and writing my own time travel stories and in trying to fgure out ways to unravel the construct of time, I came across the work of Henri Bergson. I found his theories on space, time, and memory to be accessible and consistent with many of my own understandings, theories, and personal experiences about those phenomena and how science alone could not make sense of what

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they were. Bergson’s theories also seem to anticipate a quantum physics philosophy or psychology of time and space. Around this time I had been studying quantum theory as a basis for time travel in my fction and in my own life practices, and his work made so much sense in juxtaposition to a quantum physics perspective on reality and temporality. Not too long ago I found out that on April 6, 1922, Henri Bergson and Albert Einstein had a famous, heated debate on their opposing views on space and time. April 6 is my birthday and I have a lot of skepticism on how Einstein’s theories treat time. In some ways, I feel like the debate was encoded into my astrological DNA.

Are there any prominent Africana scholars that have influenced your work? Yes, to name a few: John Mbiti, Dr. Kimbwandende K. B. Fu-Kiau, Kodwo Eshun, Michele M. Wright, Molef Asante, Wayne B. Chandler, Zora Neale Hurston.

What are some future directions you would like to see in Black Futurity studies?

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I would like to see more applied knowledge in Black Futurity studies, and more of a focus on how futurity concepts can be applied in and beneft low-income, vulnerable, and marginalized black communities. I would also like to see Black Futurity not be isolated to its own feld of study or so focused on art, entertainment, and literature but increasingly applied to other areas of study, such as law, architecture, psychology, social work, and public policy. Trough my legal work, I continue to uncover the ways in which time plays a role in the justice system for marginalized black communities and the role of time as an economic commodity in Western society, and continue to make Afrofuturism and Black Quantum Futurism a more explicit part of my advocacy as an attorney and through civic engagement activities as a community member and advocate.

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4 We Speak, We Make, We Tinker Afrofuturism as Applied Digital Humanities

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Toniesha L. Taylor

For those of us coming of age in the 1990s in the Silicon Valley, whose childhoods included discourse of the digital divide, we did not share the pessimistic outlook of black bodies left behind. Nor did we share the boundless optimism of a tech-rich future. We were perhaps the most realistic group of future technocrats one could have met. We were children of black middle-class parents who were college educated and had access to computers both at home and at school. We went to summer camps for math, science, coding, art, dance, and debate. Our parents talked to us about the annual Ebony Magazine feature of Historically Black Colleges and Universities black scientist and engineers (a conversation that, in my house at least, included the reminder that you do not have to “go south” for an education in computer science. My parents went to San Jose State University). Tere was something diferent in our homes, and we knew it. We were a small but active group of youth that sought to change the world. We understood that racism was real and that people make technology. What we knew was that if people make the technology, and we could be in the room when technology was made, we could change things. Racism did not have to be baked in the cake. We went to camps, then classes then career then some of us said, I’ll make my cake. What does this have to do with Afrofuturism or Digital Humanities (DH)? I will tell you that it is in this spirit and environment that breeds the collaborative Afrofuturism and DH come to imagine, inform, and make each other. My claim here is that Afrofuturism and DH as formal disciplines and practical means to create human knowledges live in concentric knowledge circles. Informing each other, bleeding into each other, and bring life to one another. Afrofuturism includes everything that DH purports it does with the assumption that black people are human and as humans are creative, intellectual, technological 55

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world makers. In his introduction to Afrofuturism 2.0, Reynaldo Anderson outlines the tenets of Afrofuturism which include metaphysics, aesthetics, theoretical and applied science, social science, and programmatic space. Metaphysics includes and engages in ontology, cosmogony, and cosmology (think specifcally of the origin stories of artists like Sun Ra and his integration of Saturn as central to his origin). Aesthetics “includes anthropomorphic art, music, literature and performance” (Anderson and Jones 2016, x). Anderson and Jones indicate that theoretical and applied sciences focus on math, biology, archeology, and the like from an Afrofuturist and Afrocentric perspective. He continues to indicate a particular focus in Afrofuturism to theorize, question, and explore humanities from the idea of ethno-astronomy or ethno-mathematics. Social sciences such as sociology, psychology, political science, and communication all ask questions and explore the social structures of race, class, gender, sexuality in such ways as to hold central black humanities and their implications in the future past and past present. Afrofuturism allows for a temporal and structural shift wherein humanities are centrally located within the sciences rather than tangentially entangled as a side piece (2016). Central to its understanding of itself and its own origin story seems to be a sense of critique and activism. In part, this may have to do with the term “Afrofuturism,” coined by Mark Dery, a white cultural critic, that seems to invite its criticism. Die-hard Afrocentralists may seek to reject the term due to its white roots. However, I’m less inclined to throw out babies and bath water. Dery may have coined the term and meant it as a signpost to richer goods, a posted sign over a store. Te art, science, and humanities that make up Afrofuturism were old enough to go to college, be legal, and contemplate marriage when Dery came around. Existing under other banners is not unique to Afrofuturism—humanities computing tried it too. Coming out of an equally long and perhaps just a fraught origin narrative, the details of which I won’t get into here, DH comes to us through a number of names, parentages, and components. Diferent than Afrofuturism, which seems to have clear familial ties (perhaps a construct of its makers), my coauthor Amy Earhart and I (Earhart and Taylor 2016) observe that the DH aren’t always as clear in its defnition of itself or its need for cultural location and critique. In that essay, we embrace the notion that DH can have both a clear origin and be applicable in the undergraduate classroom as theory, method, and application. Tankfully we are not alone in this assessment, though it may occasionally feel that way. As I am fond of saying, DH is better with friends, why? Because DH, like families of choice, design, or happenstance, requires connectivity to humanity to work. Have you ever tried to fx a network error without at least knowing which operating system was being used? Of course, you haven’t, you are not nuts. You know that computer code is a context-based language system. You have to know who, what, why, how of the context to fx the error. DH remain, in some parts, embattled on the role of theory, method, creative making, and technological imagining due to an over-reliance on old code that has no contextual relevance; Afrofuturism has it all worked out. Dance, art, music, science, technology, and literature all come together to imagine a future past of black, Latinx, Asian, Middle Eastern, and yes, even white life. Rather than

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repeat the supremacy models of the past, Afrofuturism seeks to create a world where a socially just inclusion of humanity is the norm. Afrofuturism 2.0 is the application of DH. Tere are activists, scholars, artists, and musicians combining computer technology with wearables, art, literature, speech, and music to not only create ontologies of the world but to create new worlds. Maker projects like those created and discussed by Nettrice Gaskins on her blog “Musings of a Renegade Futurist” (https://netarthud.wordpress.com/) fall under the heading of Afrofuturism and DH. She asks critical questions about the languages, locations, and the possibility of makerspaces while answering those issues in areas where the power to create policy around the answers matters (Gaskins 2016). Afrofuturism is the manifestation of DH. Te goals of the thinkers, makers, creatives, tinkerers involved in both clubs are so much the same—yet—impossibly diferent. Afrofuturists focus on future past where black peoples are human—more than human—superhuman. Tey have powers and abilities, so ancient they are an unreadable script on the 3D makerspaces of digital humanist CD-ROMs. We are the hidden code. Don’t look for the gatekeepers to lock us out; our imaginations know no gates. We do not wait for the dust to settle on old debates. We have already made new ideas and new dust. DH is about making a past future where all of the human knowledge and creation is understood to beneft human future past. Te intrigue of Afrofuturism and DH is the ability to collapse time into space where the technology of the present leads to discoveries of the past and where the past comes to meet the future with new insights. To achieve this goal, DH, as an organized study or creation matrix, cannot duplicate the failure of humanities by excluding human women, black humans, gay humans, transgender humans, Asian humans, queer humans, and diferently able humans. DH must frst recognize humanness before it can code type and create visualizations of a past future or future past. Afrofuturism can help. In her essay “All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave,” Moya Z. Bailey (2016) argues for diversity in the pipeline of digital humanists and by extension, professionalized digital creatives. While recognizing the work of groups like Black Girls Code, Bailey seems to understand that the professionalization of technological careers is a diferent track than the tinker spaces many women of color, and specifcally Afrofuturist independent digital content creatives take on. Bailey’s call is specifcally for those individuals in the tinker/makerspaces to enter the pipeline as professional creatives and knowledge creators as their obvious skill and passions are or could be made to reach levels needed to compete for careers in technology and DH. It is precisely the turn toward professionalization that is the bridge between DH and Afrofuturism. As individual felds, both contain an academic and alt-ac (alternative academic) community that frequently blend, bleed, and traverse one another. Perhaps this is more easily and frequently done in Afrofuturist spaces where conferences and shared spaces like Planet Deep South, Black Speculative Arts Movement, and various Afrofuture cons draw audiences and participants from all walks to imagine music, art, literature, technology, and scholarship with the future of the black body boundless in its spaces and places of infuence and reach.

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As a theoretical, methodological, and practical frame, Afrofuturism brings an inventor techno-future to DH, one where the centrality of digital engagement and black humanities is linked to the survival and future of humankind.

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REFERENCES Anderson, Reynaldo and Charles E. Jones. 2016. Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of Astro-Blackness. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Bailey, Julius, ed. 2015. Te Cultural Impact of Kanye West. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Bailey, Moya Z. “All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave.” Journal of Digital Humanities. Accessed October 19, 2016. http:​//jou​rnalo​ fdigi​talhu​manit​ies.o​rg/1-​1/all​-the-​digit​al-hu​manis​ts-ar​e-whi​te-al​l-the​-nerd​s-are​-men-​but-s​ ome-o​f-us-​are-b​rave-​by-mo​ya-z-​baile​y/. Earhart, Amy E. and Toniesha L. Taylor. 2016. “Pedagogies of Race: Digital Humanities in the Age of Ferguson.” In Debates in Digital Humanities, 2016, ed. by Lauren Klein and Matthew Gold, 251–64. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. http:​//dhd​ebate​s.gc.​ cuny.​edu/d​ebate​s/tex​t/72.​ Eshun, Kodwo. 2016. “Project MUSE – Further Considerations of Afrofuturism.” CR: Te New Centennial Review 3(2): 287–302. Accessed September 17, 2016. https​://mu​se-jh​ u-edu​.pvam​u.idm​.oclc​.org/​artic​le/48​294/p​df. Gaskins, Nettrice. 2016. “Named a 2016 White House Maker Ambassador.” https​://ne​tarth​ ud.wo​rdpre​ss.co​m/201​6/06/​21/sa​muel-​r-del​any-w​akand​a-the​-make​r-mov​ement​/. ———. 2016. “Renegade Futurism.” December 2008. Accessed October 19, 2016. https:// netarthud.wordpress.com/. Gates, Henry Louis. 2008. Te Signifying Monkey: A Teory of African-American Literary Criticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Morris, Susana M. 2012. “Black Girls Are from the Future: Afrofuturist Feminism in Octavia E. Butler’s ‘Fledgling.’” Women’s Studies Quarterly 40: 146–66. Accessed September 16, 2016. doi:10.2307/23333483. Nelson, Alondra. 2016. “Introduction: Future Texts.” Social Text 20(2): 1–15. Accessed September 17, 2016. ProjectMUSE. Rollefson, Grifth J. 2008. “Te ‘Robot Voodoo Power’ Tesis: Afrofuturism and Anti-AntiEssentialism from Sun Ra to Kool Keith.” Black Music Research Journal 28: 83–109. Accessed October 19, 2016. https​://ww​w.jst​or.or​g/sta​ble/2​54337​95?se​q=1#p​age_s​can_t​ ab_co​ntent​s. “Voyant Tools.” Accessed September 16, 2016. https​://vo​yant-​tools​.org/​?corp​us=87​cae33​ 31f25​a448b​8d18a​f0b18​60b80​.

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

5 Forms of Future/Past Black Kirby Afrofuturism and the Visual Technologies of Resistance John Jennings and Clinton R. Fluker

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AFROFUTURISM AND OTHER QUERIES In our current system of capitalism, the products themselves often hide the processes that led to their creation. As a result, we are forced to investigate these processes and create methodologies to translate meaning and knowledge from the arcane. One such process is Afrofuturism. Afrofuturism is a relatively new area of inquiry and cultural creation that encompasses almost every facet of human expression. Tis includes philosophy, music, literature, dance, and art. However, a great deal of the population doesn’t know exactly what Afrofuturism is or how to negotiate its seemingly ambiguous defnition. Others seem to just codify the expression as kitsch images of funk musicians wearing star-shaped shades and diapers. Te truth is that expressions made popular by Parliament-Funkadelic and their predecessors like Sun Ra are part of the Afrofuturist culture. Tey exist in the Future/ Past as we all do. It is a syncretic nexus that has an extremely rich communicative potential regarding creativity. Moreover, it actively defes temporal boundaries and seeks to unify through radical cultural productions that recontextualize the perceptions of black people in order to restore their subjectivity. In his now-classic essay “Black to the Future,” theorist Mark Dery describes Afrofuturism by stating: Speculative fction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth-century technoculture-and, more generally, African-American signifcation that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future-might, for want of a better term, be called “Afrofuturism.” (1994, 180) 59

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Tis mode of creation and liberation has been around for many generations. Historically, people from the African diaspora have always been sampling, remixing, recodifying, exploring technology, and creating new ones. Tis process occurs from necessity. Tese processes are about escaping systems of aggressive oppression. Dery goes on to ponder, “can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures?” (Dery 1994, 180). Judging from the overwhelming amount of work, research, and performances based on these futuristic notions around race and transcendence, the answer to Dery’s query is a resounding “yes!” Indeed, it is a radical notion for a historically oppressed and disenfranchised people to see themselves as active participants in the future of the world. It’s that spirit of perseverance and the political nature of creation and agency that prompted us to wonder exactly what an Afrofuturist expression actually looks like. What makes it so? In an efort to answer this question, this chapter seeks to propose a theory of Afrofuturism that recontextualizes the notion of “blackness” and other identity contexts as “sublime technologies” that produce experiences used to combat reality constructs often used to limit human progress and possibility. Tis chapter will also present the comic book art of John Jennings and Stacy Robinson, collectively known as BLACK KIRBY, as a case study for the performance of this theory of Afrofuturism. In the process, we will demonstrate how this form of artistic expression revisualizes the past and puts forth new icons that could have and should have existed.

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Undefining Afrofuturism: Greg Tate and Alondra Nelson Before presenting a theory of Afrofuturism, it is important to engage with some of the major debates in contemporary scholarship regarding its defnition. Two of the most important voices in Afrofuturism, Greg Tate and Alondra Nelson, have very diferent views on how to best describe Afrofuturism as a form of culture expression. Despite their diferences, both scholars present Ishmael Reed’s famous novel, Mumbo Jumbo, as an example of an Afrofuturist aesthetic. It is this commonality that helps bridge the gap between their methodologies and also sufces as an excellent starting point for a conversation about Afrofuturism as a whole. After reviewing their particular approaches toward defning this phenomenon, our own theory of Afrofuturism will be more adequately contextualized. In 2012, Greg Tate gave a presentation at the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center where he read from his manifesto entitled Kalahari Hopscotch, Or Notes Toward a 20 Volume History of Black Science Fiction and Afrofuturism (Tate 2012). As Tate read his text aloud, a slideshow of images streamed to his left. Te images consisted of several black cultural icons such as Nichelle Nichols, Martin Delany, Nat Turner, Samuel Delany, Rammellzee, Michel Basquiat, and Public Enemy. Just as Tate began reading, an image of Ishmael Reed appeared on the screen. A few seconds later, Reed’s face faded away and was replaced by the cover of Mumbo Jumbo. Tough this is the only time that either the author or his novel are referenced

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during the entire presentation, it is signifcant that their images were placed at the beginning of the lecture. A close reading of Tate’s presentation will demonstrate a resonance between “Kalahari” and Mumbo Jumbo that is integral to understanding Tate’s theory of Afrofuturism. Te fact that Tate’s reading begins with images of Ishmael Reed and Mumbo Jumbo is calculated because Tate’s talk parallels a scene at the very end of the novel. In the Epilogue, decades after the main plot of the novel has taken place, Papa Labas, the novel’s main character, gives a talk at a university about Jes Grew.1 During his presentation, much like during the rest of the novel, no clear defnition of what Jes Grew is can be gleaned from his speech. Most of this presentation is a conversation about past Black Aesthetic movements, fgures, times, and places: “Jes Grew [is] the something or other that led Charlie Parker to scale the Everests of the Chord. Rif fy skid dip soar and gave his Alto Godspeed. Jes Grew that touched John Coltrane’s Tenor; tinged the voice of Otis Redding” (Reed 1972, 211). Greg Tate occupies a similar role to Papa Labas. Considered one of the key fgures in Afrofuturism, two decades after its discovery, Tate fnds himself jumping from venue to venue talking about this cultural phenomenon. In fact, at Brown University, Tate even taught a course called Afrofuturism. However, like Papa Labas, Tate has yet to provide a comprehensive defnition of what Afrofuturism actually is. In fact, the very structure of his talk is designed to make a single defnition of Afrofuturism impossible. How does he do this? Before Tate begins reading his manifesto, he provides a background for the title of his piece. Tate states that the title “Hopscotch” is a reference to Julio Cortazar’s novel by the same name. Hopscotch, known globally for its experimental structure, is divided into 155 short chapters. Cortazar provides the reader with alternative guidelines on how to read the novel if they so choose. In a section called the “Table of Instructions,” Cortazar suggests that Hopscotch is actually two books: “Te First can be read in a normal fashion and it ends with chapter 56 at the close of which there are three garish little stars which stand for the words Te End” (1966, 1). Te second book can be read by, “beginning with chapter 73 and then following the sequence indicated at the end of each chapter” (1). Following this sentence, Cortazar provides a grand list of the chapters out of order. Hence, the reader can read the text from start to fnish, or play hopscotch with the chapters. Tus, there is no defnitive way to read the text. Tere are multiple modes of interpretation at work. Likewise, Tate presents his manifesto in similar fashion. He reads his chapters out of order in such a way that it often becomes difcult to follow his line of thought. More than halfway through his talk he fnally gets to chapter one and asks the obvious question: “What is black futurism?” (2012).2 He answers his own question by stating: “Te question should never be what is black futurism? Te question should be, well what is not?” (2012). Immediately following this second question, Tate does not answer it but instead likens black futurism to, “a temporally troubled matrix that thrives on opposites and opposition, fowing lines and nonlinearity, confict resolution and asymmetrical warfare” (2012).

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Like the defnitions provided by Papa Labas in Mumbo Jumbo regarding the Jes Grew, Tate’s entire presentation hovers around what Henry Louis Gates calls the indeterminacy3 and the absence4 of Afrofuturism. In Reed’s novel, the Book of Toth is described as the litany to Jes Grew’s liturgy. Tat is to say, without the Book of Toth, Jes Grew can never be whole—it will dance on through history and no one will ever know why it existed. However, as the novel unfolds, the Book of Toth is never physically present. Instead, its aura haunts the novel page by page. Te same is true of Tate’s treatment of Afrofuturism. In fact, in chapter seven, Tate suggests that Afrofuturism is not only elusive, but invisible, “the defning trope of African American literature is invisibility. Not just the invisibility produced by the white social gaze during and after slavery, but as well the invisibility and the voids and the silences and the apprehensions produced by gazing too deep into the African American self for too damn long” (Tate 2012). In contrast, soon after this quote, in chapter 16, Tate states that Afrofuturism is everywhere around us. Tus, according to Tate, Afrofuturism is everywhere but it is also nowhere at the same time. It is present, yet elusive. Tis is the epitome Gates’s description of Esu and the notion of indeterminacy. Finally, as if channeling Papa Labas himself, Tate ceases undefning Afrofuturism, and simply lists titles of diferent historical texts where it can be experienced through reading—many of these texts are part of the scrolling slideshow directly behind him as he talks: Blake, or the Huts of America, Mules of Men, Native Son, If He Hollers Let Him Go, Te Fire Next Time, Blues People, Revolutionary Suicide, Te Quality of Mercy, Shadow and Act, Te Bluest Eye, Te Color Purple, Mumbo Jumbo . . . the list goes on.

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Alondra Nelson: Future Texts While Greg Tate’s work refects Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo structurally and thematically, Nelson’s “Future Texts” uses the novel as a theoretical framework to defne Afrofuturism itself. In 2002, Nelson edited a special issue of Social Text. In her introduction to the issue, Nelson talks at length about how black people in the US have been historically marginalized and strategically left out of conversations about science fction, technology, and the future. She goes on to discuss how these issues are the subject of conversation at Afrofuturism.net and she even provides a defnition of Afrofuturism: Afrofuturism can be broadly defned as “African American voices” with “other stories to tell about culture, technology and things to come.” Te term was chosen as the best umbrella for the concerns of “the list”—as it has come to be known by its members—sci-f imagery, futurist themes, and technological innovation in the African diaspora. (9)

Te most signifcant aspect of this essay occurs when she cites Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo as a potential theoretical framework for how to discuss Afrofuturism. In essence, she

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argues that Afrofuturism is the latest iteration of Jes Grew—that Afrofuturism is not just a new fad but a dynamic aesthetic that participates in a black diasporic tradition dating back to ancient Africa. Just as Jes Grew and Papa Labas were searching for the Book of Toth in Mumbo Jumbo, Afrofuturism is in search of a text. At the end of the novel, after the Book of Toth has been destroyed, Papa Labas states: “Jes Grew has no end and no beginning . . . Tey will try to depress Jes Grew but it will only spring back and prosper. We will make our own future text” (Reed 1972, 203). Nelson cites this quote and ofers her special issue of Social Text as the future text prophesized by Papa Labas. Te essays in the volume critique a wide range of Black Aesthetic expression. Some of the topics that are covered include the concept of identity in the digital age, post-humanism in black popular music, the use of technology in hip-hop, the formation of community in cyberspace, and black visions of utopia in diferent forms of speculative fction. Unlike Greg Tate’s presentation, Nelson’s volume focuses primarily on more contemporary forms of Black Aesthetics. Nevertheless, using Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo as a theoretical framework, she comments on how the distinction between the old and the new is antithetical to Afrofuturistic discourse. Nelson cites Reed: “Necromancers used to lie in the guts of the dead or in the tombs to receive visions of the future. Tat is prophecy. Te black writer lies in the guts of old America, making readings about the future” (Nelson qtd. in Reed 2002, 7). With this quote, Nelson connects the work of Afrofuturism to black history through the concept of necromancy. She argues that the future texts that immerge from Afrofuturism.net comprise the latest version of Jes Grew, and are, therefore, historically rooted. It is only because of their connection to the work of its predecessors, such as Reed, that future texts can be written in the frst place.

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Implications Te main diference between the two theories of Afrofuturism ofered by Tate and Nelson is that while Nelson attempts to provide a platform that may lead to a defnition of Afrofuturism, Tate does not. Tate’s “Kalahari Hopscotch” performs Afrofuturism as an aesthetic. Te guiding principles of this aesthetic are never explained in detail, but this is precisely the point of Tate’s presentation at the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center: he seeks to immerse the audience in an experience of Afrofuturism that is open to interpretation. Tate, aware of the power of freedom, provides a theory of Afrofuturism that refuses defnition. To remain undefned, is to remain free of certain sociopolitical constraints that hinder creativity and individuality. Tis is a very important stance for Afrofuturism to consider. Tough Tate’s presentation is certainly in tune with the spirit of Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo, “Kalahari Hopscotch” does not come without troubling implications. In Mumbo Jumbo, Reed says of the Jes Grew: “If it could not fnd its Text then it would be mistaken for entertainment” (1972, 205). Tis quote is quite accurate as it relates to conversations about Afrofuturism both inside and outside of the academic arena.

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Tere is great confusion around the globe regarding what Afrofuturism is. A 2013 article in Ebony magazine titled, “Black [Alt]: What is Afrofuturism?” addressed this issue by commenting on how difcult it is to understand Afrofuturism because there are so many diferent defnitions. In the end, all that the article can defnitively say about the popular Black Aesthetic is that it is a “catch phrase for the world of tomorrow today” (Gonzales 2013). As a defnition, this is far too general and Afrofuturism risks being interpreted as little more than a popular form of entertainment that focuses on black people and all things speculative. In addition, the amount of information a spectator needs prior to witnessing “Kalahari Hopscotch” in order to grasp the amount of intellectual and artistic energy that goes into it is immense. It is not the responsibility of any author to spell out the inner workings of their text to a reader. However, Tate’s experimental reading could easily be interpreted by a casual observer as complete nonsense. Tough this is clearly the objective of Tate’s piece—it is also probable he could care less what the audience thinks—another unintended consequence of Afrofuturism’s elusive nature may be that people ignore its powerful message. As a result of confusion, people may become discouraged from investigating the countless historical artists that Tate mentions. In contrast, Nelson’s “Future Text” provides an alternative that potentially proves quite useful. Nelson’s work is more accessible to the academy and much easier to understand. Her text uses many historical references to Black Arts movements and fgures, but she also explains how they are related to Afrofuturism. For example, while Tate only shows a picture of Ishmael Reed and his text Mumbo Jumbo, Nelson explains how she intends to use his novel as a framework. In so doing, she captures a foundational element of social capital, representation. Traditionally, in order for intellectual movements to spread throughout the country, they must frst be represented within institutions of power. Tis is signifcant because without representation, no one would ever hear about Afrofuturism at all. Without this act of representation by Nelson, Afrofuturism would not have the support of institutions of higher education, museums, and publications that it enjoys today. Nevertheless, while Nelson engages in the action of representation on behalf of Afrofuturism, she also forces Afrofuturism into a theoretical framework ofered by Ishmael Reed. Which begs the question: Who is right? Does Afrofuturism lose its power to liberate once it becomes a topic taught in Ivy League schools? Or does Afrofuturism become a misrepresented fad without the frm lines ofered by rigorous scholarship? Afrofuturism: A Pantechnological Theory We ofer no clairvoyant answers to the question raised here. However, we do seek to engage Afrofuturism in a way that helps shed light on the contribution it has made to the worlds of art and philosophy, while also allowing for it to remain a cultural movement aimed toward freedom and liberty. In this light, we begin our investigation into a theory of Afrofuturism by citing the expert and scholar on technolculture, Beth Coleman who writes about how race can be used as a technology in her essay “Race as Technology.”5 Before engaging with her main thesis, she begins by defning her use of

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the term technology. Using defnitions attributed to academic disciplines, she proposes that, “In the felds of anthropology and philosophy, technology is often defned as an intrinsically human extension of the self” (Coleman 2009, 177). Coleman then elaborates by arguing that human beings are tool-making creatures by nature. Next, she digs deeper into the felds of philosophy and etymology by exploring the meaning of the term techne in the ancient Greek: “techne (from the ancient Greek), or more commonly ‘technique,’ as we know from everyday usage, is a reproducible skill. A talented skateboarder or a woodworker can both be said to possess ‘good technique’” (178). Extending the skateboarder analogy she suggests that the skateboarder’s display of skill corresponds to how well that skateboarder uses the tools (in this case, the skateboard) at hand. Tus, techne or technique is a testament to the person who uses the tools, not the tools themselves. By likening race to a tool, a form of technology to be used, Coleman argues that race itself must be redefned: “For race to be considered a technology, it must frst be denatured—that is, estranged from its history as a biological ‘fact’ (a fact that has no scientifc value perhaps, but constitutes, nonetheless, a received fact)” (178). For example, one historical ‘fact’ regarding race might be the long legacy of stereotypes associated with black people because of institutional racism. Coleman argues that by reconsidering race as a technology these unsavory facts about race can be undone: “this proposition moves race away from the biological and genetic systems that have historically dominated its defnition toward questions of technological agency” (177). In similar fashion ofered by Coleman, Afrofuturism can be likened to a lens that renders reality via a pantechnological perspective. It views everything as a type of technology. Moreover, like Coleman, if race can be viewed as technology, the most signifcant question is, who wields it? Historically, in the United States, race has been used to divide communities and subjugate individuals by institutional systems of racism. Despite this legacy of race, Afrofuturism seeks to embrace the artifce and fully exploit the fact that, often, the things that we think defne us are merely constructions that function as prosthetics that produce various efects relating to their user’s needs. Afrofuturism posits that throughout history, many black people have noticed the afordances of diferent types of technology while under countless forms of control. Te most important afordances of these liberation technologies have always been freedom, equity, and agency. Whether it has been literacy, civil rights, social justice, or simply access to an internet connection, black people see the systems that they have been denied access to and have used calculated means to circumvent the obstacles that prevent that access. Te use of a pantechnological perspective enables individuals to see potential weaknesses hidden within systems of oppression. Tough access to technology can render society’s playing feld level, it also has the power to destroy and subjugate as history has demonstrated. To combat against technology’s more negative aspects, a perspective informed by Afrofuturism recognizes that if everything is technologically framed, then everything can be hacked into and rewritten. In this way, Afrofuturism actively customizes the products it encounters and makes them ft the needs of its

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users. Tis ideology is one that establishes Afrofuturism as such a radical mode of cultural production and criticism.

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Hacking the System: The Last Angel of History Tis theory of Afrofuturism is highly inspired by John Akomfrah’s 1995 documentary, Te Last Angel of History.6 In the introduction to the flm, Akomfrah narrates the story of a legendary bluesman, Robert Johnson, and his Faustian deal with the Devil at a Mississippi crossroads. In return for his soul, Johnson is given what Akomfrah deems a “Black technology,” more commonly known as the Blues. Tis technology then spawns all other technologies relating to musical production by black people in the United States (i.e., jazz, Rock & Roll, etc.). Akomfrah goes on to tell the heroic narrative of the Data Tief, an intergalactic time-traveling hacker, who excavates the crossroads to fnd pieces of black history and assemble what he designates as the code. Akomfrah states that if he cracks that code, the Data Tief will obtain a key to the future. To begin this journey, the Data Tief is provided one clue, or more accurately, a phrase: “Te Mothership Connection.”7 After this opening sequence, the flm follows the Data Tief as he hacks into the lost history of black people in the western world. Te Data Tief learns of the musical traditions of jazz, funk, hip-hop, and techno in the United States, and jungle music in the United Kingdom. He even learns of black American science fction authors, actors, and astronauts. Eventually, this search leads the Data Tief to various cultural productions on the continent of Africa. Once the Data Tief reaches Africa, the documentary comes to a close, as presumably the Data Tief has fnally found what he was searching for. Te viewer is left to discover on their own, that by returning to Africa, the Data Tief has not only found the Mothership Connection but also the key to the future. From a perspective informed by Afrofuturisim, this mothership connection is an obvious one. We, as people, exist in the present. However, the present is always linked to both the past and to the future. Traditionally, black people have long been disconnected from their own histories due to racist practices inherent to the institution of slavery, Jim Crow, and shameful public and private school education. In other words, black history has been hacked into and rewritten to serve the purposes of a white patriarchal system of oppression. As a result, this link between the past, present, and the future is often taken for granted, if not simply forgotten. Nevertheless, as demonstrated in Akomfrah’s flm, this particular social disruption inadvertently creates an opportunity. Afrofuturism is a trick. It uses wordplay in a very clever fashion to hide its true intent. It isn’t focused on looking forward exclusively. Rather, Afrofuturism looks backward toward the future, much like the West African god of the crossroads, Eshu, looks at the future and past as one. Eshu, like the Greek Prometheus, steals knowledge and enlightenment from the Gods. However, Eshu doesn’t steal fre as Prometheus does. Tis trickster, as well as the Data Tief, steals the very act of divination: the ability to see the future and how all of life relates to it. Afrofuturists are concerned with excavating the past, reclaiming it,

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and then rewriting it. If the Data Tief is a time-traveler then he or she understands that by hacking into the vaults of history and rewriting it via a fresh techne, you can alter the future. In this way, the Data Tief steals back the past taken from his or her people by fnding the necessary artifacts to restore the connection to a collective construct of a shared history originating in Africa.

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BLACK KIRBY: A Case Study in Afrofuturism BLACK KIRBY is a collaborative entity comprised of the visual artists John Jennings and Stacey Robinson. Both artists decided to work together after reading about the continued legal battle between Jack Kirby’s family and Marvel Comics regarding the rights to several extremely successful Marvel Comics characters.8 At the time, Jennings had recently cocurated, with Dr. Adilifu Nama,9 an exhibition featuring work by independent black comics creators called Fantastic Blackness: Politics of the Black Superhero. On view at California State University at Northridge, Jennings illustrated and designed a series of posters promoting the event featuring a logo inspired by the Fantastic Four masthead. Te characters used on the posters were ‘remixed’ versions of classic Kirby creations. Te images portrayed the traditionally white heroes as Black. For example, Captain America became Major Sankofa, Big Barda became Big Sistah, and Darkseid became Black Hand Side and so forth. Tese posters stimulated a conversation between Robinson and Jennings that resulted in the creation of an exhibition focused on overlapping stories of discrimination and resistance shared by black and Jewish Americans. Tis collaboration would eventually become the new artist collective/avatar of BLACK KIRBY. To contextualize, Jack Kirby was one of the most prolifc and creative comics pioneers to work in the American comics industry. Kirby cocreated the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Te Silver Surfer, Captain America, Te Hulk, Te Mighty Tor, and Te Avengers. Kirby was also instrumental in creating the genre of the romance comic and had a hand in the creation of the horror anthology genre.10 His efect on the comics industry is still being studied by comics scholars around the globe. Despite this contribution to the world of comics, Jack Kirby and his surviving family have yet to receive full remuneration for his creations, even as Marvel is now a huge cinematic franchise.11 Robinson and Jennings, along with many other comics scholars and artists, did not agree with Kirby’s contributions being devalued in this way. It’s important to note that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby both inspired generations of black comic books creators by cocreating Te Black Panther, the frst mainstream black superhero.12 Motivated by GNARLS BARKLEY, the musical duo comprised of CeeLo Green and DJ Dangermouse, Robinson and Jennings molded all of their collective experiences and artistic interests into “one dark body” known as BLACK KIRBY. Tis idea is parodied in their slogan “We not JUST conscious. We DOUBLE conscious!”13 Both artists hailing from southern states, this phrase plays on words and elevates the BLACK KIRBY persona while placing it in decidedly Southern-oriented geographical rhetorical framing.14 Te manifestation of this avatar is an exhibition and catalog

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of primarily works-on-paper that celebrate the groundbreaking work of legendary comics creator Jack Kirby and his contributions to the pop culture landscape. BLACK KIRBY also functions as a highly syncretic mythopoetic framework by appropriating Jack Kirby’s bold forms and revolutionary ideas combined with themes centered around Afrofuturism, social justice, black history, media criticism, science fction, magical realism, and the utilization of hip-hop culture as a methodology for creating visual expression. Te work focuses on the digital medium and how its inherent afordances ofer much more fexibility in the expression of visual communication. In a sense, BLACK KIRBY uses the gallery as a conceptual “crossroads” to examine identity as a socialized concept and to show the commonalities between black and Jewish comics creators and how they both utilize the medium of comics as space of resistance.

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BLACK KIRBY: Shape-shifting and Transformation Te comics medium uses stereotypes to tell stories. It is centered on physical abstraction and the use of overly famboyant body languages. It also deals with, as any visual medium does to varying degrees, the notion of fxity. Black identity has long dealt with stereotypical, monolithic notions, which have historically limited African Americans and their agency regarding how they are seen in the public sphere. Afrofuturism, through a pantechnological perspective, begins to undermine ideas of pure and fxed identity. It uses the metaphors of cyborg, alien, and space travel through a black lens and freely remixes these narratives of self. Te black body has traditionally been seen, via the white gaze, as alien, as other, and as inhuman. By using the nature of technology to disembody the various modes of identity, Afrofuturism can recode identity from fxed visual index to a multimodal referent that disconnects itself from the body. BLACK KIRBY interrogates this phenomenon by inverting the stereotype upon itself. An example of this is the lampooning of “Te Incredible Hulk” into the “Unkillable Buck.” Te image that introduces the Buck character is a remix of the classic Jack Kirby cover of the Te Incredible Hulk. However, instead of a black man turning into the enraged and monstrous Buck, you see a blonde-haired white man transforming into the monster. Te rationale behind this image is simple and powerful. Stereotyping is a way of seeing that actually projects the internal thoughts of the spectator onto the subject in question. Te Black Buck stereotype was not created by a black man, yet the black man is trapped inside the cage of the white gaze. Te notion of the character being “unkillable” speaks to the mythology of the afordances of black bodies being superhuman and able to withstand rigorous punishment but also reveals the fact that stereotypes and the systems that support them are institutional and based in fxity. BLACK KIRBY as an entity was created to examine these ideas about monolithic blackness. Robinson and Jennings wanted to interrogate the ideas that black people wouldn’t perform their identity a certain way, that black men would perform masculinity a certain way, and that black artistic expression was limited to only one mode of execution or display. In April 2014, a remarkable symposium called

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“Liquid Blackness: Blackness, Aesthetics, Liquidity” was put on at Georgia State University. Te symposium featured theorists speaking on the nature of blackness and its seemingly amorphous nature. Alessandra Raengo, the event’s organizer, states in her essay “Aesthetic liquidity refers to forms that refuse to localize or abide by the fxation of blackness, but foreground instead its plasticity, mobility, malleability” (2014, 17). One of the pioneers of black speculative fction, Octavia Butler, often used malleable forms and shape-shifting as tropes in her novels regarding the black body. A prime example is the novel Wild Seed that chronicles the lives of two ancient African immortals who exchange and shift their bodies over centuries. Butler’s use of shape-shifting undermines traditional notions of a fxed identity and its phenotypical expressions via race. Gregory Jerome Hampton states in his book on this aspect of Butler’s work, Slaves, Aliens, and Vampires: Changing Bodies in the Fiction of Octavia Butler:

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By assigning arbitrary symbols to ambiguous referents, society attempts to give order to the bodies that populate its existence. If understood simply as singular pronouns, race, sex and gender are mystical processes of categorizing, but as a composite or somewhat unitary structure they help form the building blocks of the body’s identity in society. (2014, xi)

Hampton goes on to discuss the political ramifcations of Butler’s work and how it destabilizes identity in order to truly resist fxity and control by creating a multivalent form: “Te body as it is discussed in this meditation, is unbounded by time and space. It is a paradox that is talked about and imagined, but never clearly defned” (xii). Te imaging and establishment of a liminal body that transforms itself in some way is a large part of what makes Afrofuturism such a radical mode of cultural production. Te Afrofuturistic artifact is a resistance to the fxity of blackness. It is like a shadow. It is dense, black, and present yet, malleable and adaptive. Tis metaphor of the fexible black body is in direct opposition to the very notion of how blackness has been portrayed historically; the simple antithesis of whiteness. BLACK KIRBY reifes these concepts in a number of its associated works. In the piece called “Cosmik Watermelon,” a gaunt angelic fgure is mirrored in a bilateral fashion. Te symbols of technology juxtapose the spiritual signifers of angel wings. However, the wings are not wings. Tey are leaf-less trees that grow from the backs of these motionless, yet vibrant fgures seeking answers from each other. Te piece depicts the moment just before the next transformation. It is the silence before the storm. Te notion of the watermelon represents the brilliance of enslaved Africans who planted watermelon seeds in the cotton rows where they toiled; using the melons to sate their thirst. Tis piece represents the self-refexive technology of the oppressed and how various modes of technology can be turned to your advantage. Indeed the “Te Mater’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,”15 but if the master’s tools are hacked into and altered, they no longer belong to him.

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Te image called “Kosmikk Mother” is also an appropriate example of how BLACK KIRBY utilizes the notion of transformation over fxity. In this piece, we see a merging of photographic imagery of a nude black woman’s bust with the delicate lines of pen and ink. Her eyes undulate with cosmic energies that stretch beyond the canvas. In the background, the ever-present “Kiby-tech” gives way to the royal purple skies of the universe. BLACK KIRBY both celebrates black womanhood by situating her as “goddess” but also interrogates the objectifcation of women via the dehumanization of the true struggles of black women. Te subject transforms from universal mother to sex object right in front of us. Te multi-stability of identity is a central theme to BLACK KIRBY’S visual rhetoric but also to Afrofuturism in general. Within the works created as part of the exhibition, BLACK KIRBY Presents: In Search of. . . . Te Mother Boxx Connection, Robinson and Jennings attempt to use black identity to reframe the historically negative representation of black images in popular media by using the fexible black body to rewrite that history and tamper with future depictions of black cultural productions. For BLACK KIRBY, identity is another piece to be torn up and collaged into a huge mash-up of cultural signifers, therefore totally reassigning meaning. Everything is connected through the process of production and equalized via that process. BLACK KRIBY sees those connections and creatively exploits them as foating signifers in a world where spectacle is currency and identity can shift with the creation of a new e-mail account.

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BLACK KIRBY: A Machine to Save the World Kirby’s mind lived at the bleeding edge of imagination. His drawings of technology were labyrinths of tubes, wires, spokes and lights that held arcane power. He drew them as if he only intended to draw them once. Each insanely detailed piece of his “Kirby tech” was more intricate than the last. In his Eisner-award-winning book Hand of Fire: Te Comics Art of Jack Kirby, Charles Hatfeld states: “When given free rein, Kirby’s science fction was high fantastical. Despite his firtations with hard SF, he was drawn to wildly speculative visions that were, in essence, magical” (2012, 154). It is this notion of the “technological sublime” posited by Hatfeld that fuels a great deal of BLACK KIRBY’s imagery. Trough this merging of the fantastically formulated indexes of the technological artifce, we also are reminded of the inherent power of these constructs. We can feel the sense of wonder and awe emanating from them. We sense the interplay between the science-fueled technology and the more abstract, yet palpable, spiritual aspects. Tis merging of the spiritual and the technological can be called TechGnosis. Te term was coined by Erick Davis in his 1998 book TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Technology. In this text, Davis imagines the intersections, conversations, and tensions between technology, well-known religious beliefs, and the esoteric rituals of various spiritual practices. For Jennings and Robinson, it seems almost natural for these ideas to join together. Likewise, BLACK KIRBY takes these concepts and pushes them into gallery space together.

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Some of the artworks are printed on clear acetate and masquerade as undecipherable “blue prints” for machines that could change the world for the better, if we could only understand their plan. Other images are simple abstract “mash ups” of black ness as old tech and the sublime machines as “upgrade.” However, the overarching aspect of the pieces that makes this type of experimentation in media possible is the fact the entire BLACK KIRBY exhibition is digital. Te simplicity of the digital technology is based on opposing signals: “1” for “positive” and “0” for “negative.” Te system, despite this simplicity, can generate millions of possible images. Tese blueprints from the show sample formal expressions from the blueprint medium to reference machines that don’t exist but should. Rifng of of Akomfrah flm title, instead of a single angel of history, BLACK KIRBY ofers a collection. Tese schematics for saving the world are machines like “Te Discord Neutralizer” which ends all wars, “Te Cornocopatron” which increases everyone’s wealth, and “Te Sankofatizer” which ensures we always learn from past mistakes. Te schematics are hopeful yet soberly aware that these problems are not easily fxed by the quick tap of a button. Te military-industrial complex, poverty, and other socially oriented issues are all part of a system. Tese systemic issues are interconnected and have taken generations to grow into place. Tey are living systems that give meaning to our lives but also disrupt us as on every level. No angels will save us. We must work together to save ourselves. Tat is the lesson here that these unreadable and fantastic devices impart to us. One of the most powerful art pieces of the BLACK KIRBY show/entity is itself. Digital technology aided by graphics programs like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop enable Jennings and Robinson to join together and create an illustration of “call and response.” By using the stylus and a WACOM tablet—which digitally mimics analog art media—as a prosthetic, the two can merge their ideas into a single voice and expression. Te brainstorming sessions happened long distance via phone or social media and then pass back and forth via the internet. Te duo uses methods from art’s history fused with a work philosophy informed by hip-hop culture to embody their collective vision. Te internet is used as a living archive of information that enables them to research, sample, and remix ideas, images, and text into a single body of work. Te studio/body/show is a swirling maelstrom of popular culture, history, cultural activism, and craft. BLACK KIRBY is what Afrofuturism looks like and it is so totally on purpose. As a result of its digital nature, BLACK KIRBY can exist online, as posters, postcards, stickers on a skateboard, or a print on a T-shirt. It’s the modular nature that allowed for the entire eighty-fve-piece exhibition to be carried to the installation site at Jackson State University in a suitcase and mailing tube. In addition, the pieces use no frames. BLACK KIRBY uses the comic’s size as a common spatial reference by placing them inside of collectors’ style comic book bags to be used as hanging systems. Comics are commodity artifacts that have a very strong collector’s market. Te books are usually kept in plastic sleeves to protect them from harm. BLACK KIRBY subverts the ideas around what deserves to be collected and then disrupts the museum system by openly displaying these “low objects” as “high art.”

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Some posters are cropped to ft inside of these bags; mimicking the ways that black bodies have been split into spare parts for consumption. Te bags are indexes for the inherent fungibility of all things and people within a capitalist system. BLACK KIRBY signifes on the system by forcing the viewer to deal with the overt hyper-consumption that they are enjoying while looking at the work. Other bags hold abstract comics (Molotiu) that depict surreal form-based narratives that sample and remixe Kirby’s images with quotes from DJ Spooky’s book Rhythm Science. A great deal of the images are afxed to the wall by nails under the unframed piece and held fast by rare earth magnets.

CONCLUSION: A DIGITAL YESTERDAY

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It’s the digital that allows for freedom of expression now. It allows individuals to hack into their physical selves and create virtual alternatives that can, in some ways, describe us better than any socially constructed mode could ever hope to parse. While the analog is about physicality and embodiment, the digital is concerned with allowing the self to reimagine itself in various spaces. Te old tech of blackness now sees itself through the new digital tech of subjectivity via artistic expression in the visual rhetoric we call Afrofuturism. We believe that the methods and practices put forth in this chapter provide useful material that can be used toward the mapping of the Afrofuturist aesthetic and link its visual language to references throughout the cultural production of black artists throughout the diaspora. BLACK KIRBY, a collaboration of two master comic book artists, demonstrates one possible way that Afrofutruism can be performed aesthetically by engaging with cultural artifacts and rewriting their histories in order to change the future timeline. BLACK KIRBY is but one example of how Afrofuturism might be performed in this fashion. Tere are countless ancient artifacts yet to be uncovered in sound, image, and rhyme. Tere are questions that need answering; both here and then. It seems the answers are right there in front of us if have the courage and focus to reach back through time and pull them into existence.

NOTES 1. Set in the 1920s during the height of the Harlem Renaissance and the United States’ military occupation of Haiti (1915–1935), the novel’s plot follows the emergence of a disease called Jes Grew: “Tis is a psychic epidemic, not a lesser germ like typhoid yellow fever or syphilis. We can handle those. Tis belongs under some ancient Demonic Teory of Disease” (Reed 1972, 3). Jes Grew is a disease that appears to only afect black people and its symptoms include an insatiable need to dance, holler, scream, have sex, sing, and basically lose one’s mind. Te Jes Grew epidemic started in New Orleans and as the story develops, makes its way all the way to New York City where the majority of the plot takes place. 2. Tate, Hopscoth. Troughout the presentation Tate refers to Afrofuturism as “black futurism.” Tere is no explanation as to why he uses the terms interchangeably.

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3. Henry Louis Gates argues in Te Signifying Monkey: A Teory of African American Literary Criticism that the Papa Labas character in Mumbo Jumbo is, in part, based on the Yoruba god Esu, a trickster and master of what he terms indeterminacy:

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[Esu] is the god of interpretation because he embodies the ambiguity of fgurative language . . . Esu is our metaphor for the uncertainties of explication, for the open-endedness of every literary text . . . Esu rules the process of disclosure, a process that is never-ending, that is dominated by multiplicity. (1988, 21)

4. Ibid., Gates argues, “the irony of the mystery structure evident in Mumbo Jumbo is that this text, Jes Grew’s object of desire, is defned only by its absence; it is never seen or found” (Gates 1988, 233). Because the reader never encounters the Book of Toth, the reader is left to imagine what the text actually says and the efect it would have on Jes Grew if it were to be found. In this way, the defnition of Jes Grew itself becomes subjective—it has multiple meanings because it lacks a clear, singular, objective defnition. 5. For a more in-depth discussion of Beth Coleman’s article and its relationship to Afrofuturism, see: Clinton Fluker, “Some Formal Remarks Toward a Teory of Afrofuturism: Designing Liberation Technologies in Black Speculative Fiction,” PhD diss., Emory University, 2017. 6. For a more in-depth discussion of this flm and the theory espoused in this essay, see Clinton Fluker, “Akomfrah’s Angel of History,” Liquid Blackness: Fluid Radicalisms 1(4) (November 2014): 45–57. 7. John Akomfrah, dir., Te Last Angel of History. Black Audio Film Collective. 1995. May 9, 2014. http://vimeo.com/72909756. “Mothership Connection” refers to Parliament’s 1974 album by the same name. 8. In Hand of Fire: Te Comics of Jack Kirby, author Charles Hatfeld discusses these ongoing lawsuits at length, stating: “what the nature of his contribution was to Marvel . . . may become better understood—and certainly will be more often debated—as a result of pending litigation, for suits and countersuits over copyright are now in progress between Kirby’s heirs and Marvel” (2012, 9). 9. Nama is a professor of African American Studies at Loyola Marymount University and the author of, Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes. 10. In Hands of Fire, Hatfeld elaborates on the diferent genre contributions of Kirby. Hatfeld states: “Kirby’s oeuvre extends from Captain America Comics to Young Romance, from Black Magic to Police Trap, from Western Love to Foxhole to the Strange World of Your Dreams” (2012, 7). 11. See Hatfeld, Hand of Fire, 78. 12. Te Black Panther frst made his debut in the groundbreaking comic book series called Te Fantastic Four (no. 52) in 1966, four months before the creation of the Black Panther Party. Tis comic depicts the prince called T’Challa singlehandedly thrashing the super-powered quartet. Te Black Panther is the monarch of an ancient and technologically advanced country in Africa called Wakanda. T’Challa is one of a long line of royal protectors of his people and the very rare mineral called Vibranium. Te country had never been conquered by any other regime. 13. Tis is in reference to W. E. B. Du Bois’s notion of “Double Consciousness” as described in his famous 1903 text Te Souls of Black Folk. 14. Robinson lives in North Carolina and Jennings is originally from the state of Mississippi. 15. Audre Lorde, “Te Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press, 2007), 110–14.

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REFERENCES

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Akomfrah, John, dir. 1995. Te Last Angel of History. Black Audio Film Collective. Coleman, Beth. 2009. “Race as Technology.” Camera Obscura 1(70): 177–207. Cortazar, Julio. 1966. Hopscotch. New York: Random House. Dery, Mark, ed. 1994. Flame Wars: Te Discourse of Cyberculture. Durham: Duke University Press. Gates, Henry Louis. 1988. Te Signifying Monkey: A Teory of African American Literary Criticism. New York: Oxford University Press. Gonzales, Michael A. 2013. “[Black Alt] What is Afrofuturism.” Ebony Magazine, October 1, 2013. http:​//www​.ebon​y.com​/ente​rtain​ment-​cultu​re/bl​ack-a​lt-en​ter-a​frofu​turis​m-999​ #axzz​2ys5I​gN1J. Hampton, Gregory Jerome. 2014. Slaves, Aliens, and Vampires: Changing Bodies in the Fiction of Octavia Butler. Lanham: Lexington Books. Hatfeld, Charles. 2012. Hand of Fire: Te Comics of Jack Kirby. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press. Lorde, Audre. 2007. “Te Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” In Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, 110–14. Berkeley: Crossing Press. Nelson, Alondra. 2002. “Introduction: Future Texts.” AfroFuturism: A Special Issue of Social Text 20(2): 1–15. Raengo, Alessandra. 2014. “Blackness, Aesthetics, and Liquidity.” Liquid Blackness 2 (April): 4–18. http://www.liquidblackness.com/LB2.pdf. Reed, Ishmael. 1972. Mumbo Jumbo. New York: Scribner. Tate, Greg. 2012. “Kalahari Hopscotch, Or Notes Toward a 20 Volume History of Black Science Fiction and Afrofuturism.” Contemporary Talk Series, Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center, September 12. Video. http:​//bli​p.tv/​art-r​elish​/cont​empor​ary-t​alks-​greg-​tate-​at-ac​ac63​59922​.

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CODING UTOPIA AND DYSTOPIA

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6 “Everything is real. It’s just not as you see it” Imagination, Utopia, and Afrofuturist Feminism in Octavia E. Butler’s “The Book of Martha”

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Susana M. Morris

Some of the most compelling works of black speculative fction, whether they are science fction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, or other forms, not only ask you to suspend your disbelief but also invite you to participate in the projects of Afrofuturism, feminism, and Africana studies, in turn imagining new possibilities for the world in expansive and transgressive ways. Tis is certainly true for the works of Octavia E. Butler. Many of Butler’s works, from the Parable duology to the Xenogenesis/ Lilith’s Brood series to the Patternist saga and beyond, are texts that compel readers to (re)imagine humanity’s possibilities in striking and provocative ways, often by centering the vital role of imagination and change in shaping humanity’s past, present, and future. Understanding the connection between imagination and change is not only crucial to understanding much of Butler’s canon, but is particularly helpful in understanding one of her most overlooked short stories, “Te Book of Martha” (2005). And, in so doing, illuminates the critical connections among Afrofuturism, black feminism, and Africana studies—three intellectual projects that emphasize the centrality of blackness and the African diaspora in not only determining the past and present but the future as well. Butler is perhaps best known as a pioneering African American speculative fction novelist. Her novels, such as Kindred and Parable of the Sower, have garnered signifcant critical praise and attention during her lifetime and in the wake of her untimely death. Interestingly, her handful of short stories have largely been ignored, save for her frequently anthologized work, “Bloodchild.” Part of this inattention may largely be attributed to the relatively small number of short stories Butler has published. In the preface to the second edition of Bloodchild and Other Stories, Butler notes, 77

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“I am essentially a novelist. Te ideas that most interest me tend to be big. Exploring them takes more time and space than a short story can contain” (Butler 2005a, viii). Despite these circumstances, Butler’s short stories are an important part of her oeuvre and deserve closer examination—as they also contain the innovative artistry and big ideas that characterizes her longer works, in addition to illuminating crucial aspects of Africana studies, Afrofuturism, and black feminism. “Te Book of Martha,” one of Octavia Butler’s least studied short stories, is one of these neglected, yet important, texts. Te story is an apocalyptic tale that reengineers the future of humankind in startling ways that refect the importance of Africana studies and Afrofuturist feminism in her work. Africana studies, or Africology, is an interdisciplinary feld, comprised of the fne arts, humanities, and social sciences that is connected to and inspired by the work of thinkers and scholars such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, Molef Asante, just to cite a few. Te birth of the frst Black (now Africana) Studies department at San Francisco State University in the 1960s, which led to the creation of Black, African American, and Africana studies programs across the United States, refects the particular politicization of the academy that took place during the Black Arts Movement, in which black scholar-activists claimed a space for the explicit study of black and African diasporic art, history, literature, politics, and thought. Africana Studies has both a hermeneutics of suspicion toward white supremacy and Eurocentric ideals and an explicit dedication to engaging with a range of black experience.1 Afrofuturist feminism is a way of knowing and moving through the world that is a strategy for naming and navigating complicated and often vexed histories and visions of the future, one that places people of color at the center and is fundamentally interested in transgressing conventional systems of power and dominance, especially as it relates to the intersection of race and gender. Afrofuturist feminism engages the issues around race, power, and heritage at the center of Africana studies but with an attention to gender often missing from Africana studies more generally.2 Afrofuturist feminism’s central tenets include creating a parallel feminist universe, remixing dominant futurist discourse, and illustrating black women as agents, not as martyrs or victims. Butler’s writing refects an Afrofuturist feminist ethic, consistently advocating for transgressing repressive social norms, while centering or (re)creating a variety of experiences from across the African diaspora. Nonetheless, while Butler’s Afrofuturist feminism underscores a commitment to an equitable vision of society, it does not resort to simply ofering up utopias. Butler’s visions of the future are often ambivalent ones that reveal an ongoing negotiation and struggle for peace and justice that requires human ingenuity and imagination. In “Teorizing Fear: Octavia Butler and the Realist Utopia,” Claire P. Curtis identifes Butler’s work as the overall creation of the “(political) realist utopia,” asserting that: Butler is a gender egalitarian, modern-day Hobbes revisionist. [Butler] uses the narrative devices of science fction .  .  . to create scenarios analogous to Hobbes’ state of nature. She notes that these scenarios [“aliens, other planets, plague, visits from

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God”], properly produce fear; yet instead of recommending an authoritarian sovereign, she recognizes that individual responsibility and open communication about the conditions under which we live provide the most fruitful ground for moving forward. (2008, 411)

Given the “solution” at the end of the story “Te Book of Martha” would seem to fall in line with Curtis’s perspective; after all, humankind is “saved” by allowing individuals to experience their deepest desires without harming themselves or others. However, I want to complicate Curtis’s contention about the notion of individual responsibility and show that, in fact, Butler’s text incites an Afrofuturist feminist conversation that reveals a much more ambivalent stance on the juxtaposition of personal and collective sovereignty. I contend that “Te Book of Martha” is an Afrofuturist feminist text that interrogates human possibilities in the face of the destruction of life as we know it, a type of apocalypse itself, despite its billing as a story about a futuristic utopia. I argue the text is a treatise on the nature of imagination, grace, individualism, and free will, and weighs the cost of personal freedom against communal survival. Tese are concerns at the heart of Africana studies, Afrofuturism, and feminism. My analysis uncovers the signifcance of the story’s meditation on the roles of imagination and grace in the future of humanity and concludes that “Te Book of Martha” should be recognized as a critical intervention into utopian and apocalyptic fction, Afrofuturism, and black feminist and Africana studies more generally. Reynaldo Anderson notes that “Afrofuturism is the name for a body of systematic Black speculative thought originating in the 1990s as a response to postmodernity” (2017, 230). Afrofuturism is also an aesthetic, an epistemology, and a “tool kit” that refects an interrogative engagement with race, space, time, technology, and the arts; it is a way of knowing, understanding, and creating in the world that transgresses the bounds of Western notions of progress, identity, and futurity.3 Indeed, as I have previously argued, “Afrofuturism insists that blacks fundamentally are the future and that Afrodiasporic cultural practices are vital to imagining the continuance of human society” (Morris 2012, 153). Afrofuturism also refers to the ways in which black cultural producers participate in shaping the future through the melding of art and technology; it is a vibrant and rapidly expanding feld of cultural production and critique. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sun Ra, and Octavia Butler are just some of the most recognizable fgures of Afrofuturism—as their art, music, literature have expanded the boundaries of how we understand black art and culture, particularly in reference to futuristic themes and discourse. My use of the term “Afrofuturism” is informed by Afrofuturist scholars Mark Dery, Kodwo Eshun, Alondra Nelson, Ytasha Womack, Lisa Yaszek, among others.4 Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” in the early 1990s to “describe African-American culture’s appropriation of technology and SF imagery” (Dery 2008, 6). In the early 2000s, Eshun further concluded that, “Afrofuturism may be characterized as a program for recovering the histories of counter-futures created in a century hostile to Afrodiasporic projection and as a space within which the current

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political dispensation may be undertaken” (Eshun 2001, 301). More recently, Womack has defned Afrofuturism as “both an artistic aesthetic and a framework for critical theory” that is an “intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation” (2013, 9). Furthermore, she contends that, “in some cases, [Afrofuturism is] a total reenvisioning of the past and speculation about the future rife with cultural critiques” (9). Afrofuturist evangelist Reynaldo Anderson argues for a more nuanced understanding of Afrofuturism’s current iteration, which he identifes as Afrofuturism 2.0: Afrofuturism 2.0 is the beginning of both a move away and an answer to the Eurocentric perspective of the 20th century’s early formulation of Afrofuturism that wondered if the history of African peoples, especially in North America, had been deliberately erased. Or to put it more plainly, future-looking Black scholars, artists, and activists are not only reclaiming their right to tell their own stories, but also to critique the European/ American digerati class of their narratives about cultural others, past, present and future and, challenging their presumed authority to be the sole interpreters of Black lives and Black futures. (2017, 230)

Clearly, Afrofuturism is a dynamic movement that spans several genres and ofers up potentially transgressive possibilities for art, technology, and society. To that end, I see many points of convergence between Afrofuturism and black feminism, another way of knowing that is similarly interested in creating liberatory futures for black people:

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Just as Afrofuturism underscores the centrality of blacks to futurist knowledge and cultural production and resistance to tyranny, so does black feminist thought contend that black people’s experience, knowledge, and culture are vitally important. . . . Moreover, just as Afrofuturism seeks to liberate the possibilities that open up when blackness is linked to futurity, so does black feminist thought seek to uncouple dominance from power as blacks assert their agency. (Morris 2013, 154)

Moreover, De Witt Douglas Kilgore notes in his chapter in the seminal Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction’s Newest New-Wave Trajectory, there is a “feminist tradition in African-American literature that imaginatively engages mythic and historical pasts in order to describe livable futures” (2008, 120). Writers in this tradition “venture beyond merely moving black female characters into previously white and male precincts to create ‘diverse’ versions of familiar tales. Instead, they directly engage genre conventions to change what and how we read” (120). And, certainly, futurist interventions connected to feminism can be seen in genres ranging from literature, flm, art, and fashion and more—just take a look at works by Jewelle Gomez and Tananarive Due, the music and fashion of LaBelle and Janelle Monaé, the art of Nettrice Gaskins and Wangechi Mutu, and much more. In light of such a tradition, I see Afrofuturism and black feminism as symbiotic modes of thought and practice in several ways.5 Coupling Afrofuturism with feminism expands the former’s capacity to transgress normative boundaries of not only race but of gender, sexuality, ability, and other subject positions; this

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coupling also catalyzes the latter’s capacity for reimagining the past, present, and future. Tus, Afrofuturist feminism is not an anachronistic melding of disparate elements but a sophisticated understanding of race gender, sexuality, and power that refects the nuance within speculative thought. As Tonja Lawrence contends, “Speculative fction as a hybrid genre has been used to challenge and redefne womanhood, motherhood, fatherhood, and mythological and historical pasts of patriarchy and slavery, as well as gender and racial inequity across cultures” (2010, 23). Tus, Afrofuturist feminism is an epistemology that insists that considering gender and sexuality alongside race and class as analytics is a generative, not parochial or reductive, project. Particular defning, reoccurring features of Afrofuturist feminism are important to note, including the creation of parallel feminist universes, the remixing of dominant futurist discourse, and futurist scenarios in which black women are centered as agents.6 In other words, I see black women cultural producers such as Butler creating transgressive futurist projects that disrupt, push back, upend, and reassemble dominant futurist discourse, thereby expanding the possibilities for black women’s understandings of themselves and their places in the world. I am also particularly interested in what is illuminated about imagination when we synthesize Afrofuturism and black feminism. By “imagination” I mean both “Te mind’s creativity and resourcefulness in using and inventing images, analogies, etc.; poetic or artistic genius or talent” and “Te mental consideration of future or potential actions or events” (Oxford English Dictionary). Tus, because both Afrofuturism and black feminism compel us to radically reimagine life as we know it or even hope to know it, when combined their frameworks give us the language and the tools to reconceptualize black futurity in signifcant ways. To that end, Afrofuturist feminism expands the reach of Africana studies. Africana Studies has traditionally sufered from a myopically masculinist approach that has at times favored essentialist notions of black masculinity and heteropatriarchy, as opposed to engaging the nuanced understandings of gender and sexuality that already exist across the diaspora. Afrofuturist feminism challenges this skewed stance without dismissing the utility of Africana studies out of hand. By centering an intersectional framework that looks at the way multiple intersecting oppressions, such as racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia, afect the lives of black people, the combination of Afrofuturism and black feminism advances the central tenets of Africana studies but also pushes the discipline to engage in more progressive examinations of categories in addition to race and masculinity. Butler’s oeuvre epitomizes Afrofuturist feminism in several ways. Her works routinely centers people of African descent, while illustrating complex histories and futures for black people. She creates feminist parallel feminist universes that reimagine the future of black life. Troughout her canon, Butler’s texts remix futurist discourse, inviting critiques of normative notions of power and agency and ofering up transgressive futurist visions in their place, without simply resorting to heavy-handed moralizing or simplistic utopias. Furthermore, Butler’s works frequently underscore the power of imagination and ingenuity in shaping the present and the future by

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centering black women as agents central to the continuation of human life. All of these aspects of Afrofuturist feminism are particularly evident in “Te Book of Martha.” In the story, a shape-shifting God tasks the titular Martha, a black woman writer, with saving humanity from impending, self-imposed apocalypse—to “help humankind to survive its greedy, murderous, wasteful adolescence. Help it to fnd less destructive, more peaceful, sustainable ways to live” because “Tey’re well on the way to destroying billions of themselves by greatly changing the ability of the earth to sustain them” (Butler 2005, 193). After helping humankind, Martha is to live “among the lowliest,” an ironic fact since Martha herself acknowledges that she was already born “poor, black, and female” to an illiterate, teenaged mother in a racist, misogynistic society (193). Perhaps it is a ftting task for Martha, whose Biblical counterpart witnessed the resurrection of her brother Lazarus; Butler’s Martha is to witness a resurrection of humanity, albeit in a strikingly unconventional way, as well. Much of “Te Book of Martha” is devoted to Martha’s existential queries and features multiple, complex conversations with God on how to go about saving humanity. Martha’s solution, what she identifes as the “only possible utopia,” is a series of divinely inspired dreams that every person experiences nightly. Tese dreams curb the inhumane (or perhaps entirely too human) desires for materialism and violence, while allowing the dreamer to also experience her most desired fantasies but without losing sight of familial responsibilities. Nevertheless, these dreams dull human sensibilities toward a degree of external expression and will inevitably lead to an artistic dystopia: the disintegration of much of human culture and the arts as we know it, perhaps even Martha’s own chosen vocation. In order to express the seriousness of her task, God advises Martha to “be guided by” the stories of Jonah, Job, and Noah, three Biblical fgures whose lives were shaped (essentially, destroyed and then rebuilt) by the will and whims of God (191). Te mentioning of Jonah, Job, and Noah not only couches Martha’s quest in an Old Testament context but also reinforces the already palpable tension between individual freedom and collective good redolent in the story. Both Jonah and Noah were tasked by God to perform certain duties; while Noah faithfully built the ark that protected his family from watery destruction, Jonah’s fear and futile stubbornness unleashed divine wrath that was not satiated until he followed through on God’s will. (While Job’s story is a bit diferent, he too was little more than what Martha calls a “tormented pawn,” whose faith and submission earned him a new life after everything was stripped away) (192). None of these Biblical stories provide a recipe for individual freedom. Tus, Martha being likened to this Biblical trio, all of whom were under the thumb of divine mandate at one point, compels us to consider that individual desire is often futile in the face of vast, indiferent, and often violent forces.

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Butler’s use of “Martha” as the name of the story’s protagonist refects this tension. In an interview Butler reveals the origin of Martha’s name, noting:

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Well, I was thinking of the story of Mary and Martha in Luke [11: 40–42] when Martha is bustling around working, and Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus being taught. Martha is really upset with Mary because Mary is not doing anything, not helping her. And Christ tells Martha, “Oh, it’s all right.” I thought, well, this character can be Martha, one of the workers who served the Lord. Tat’s where the name came from and happily, that’s where the title came from. (Govan 2006, 29–30)

In a tale that echoes some of the tensions in Jesus’s Parable of the prodigal son, Martha can be understood as a faithful servant who bristles at not so much at her duties but at the lack of recognition of her duties. And, like her aforementioned Biblical brethren, Martha has grave reservations about deciding the fate of humankind, and yet like her predecessors, Martha is a servant of God who must disregard her individual desire (which is simply to be left alone in her comfortable life) for the collective good. Although she is deeply frightened by the nonchalant God that summons her, Martha is not only swayed by the specter of divine retribution but also by the horror of megalomaniacs “who would be happy to wipe out whole segments of the population whom they hated and feared, or people who would set up vast tyrannies that forced everyone into a single mold, no matter how much sufering that created” (Butler 2005, 200–201). Despite Butler’s depiction of an unpredictable and exacting God, “Te Book of Martha” suggests that it is human beings and not this alien divinity that are perhaps more fearsome, for humans have been trapped in a millennia-long adolescence, complete with rebelliousness and apathy, that has caused them to engage in seemingly ceaseless cycles of war and violence. Nevertheless, despite this emphasis on the numerous follies of humankind, “Te Book of Martha” is as much meditation on the nature of God, whom Martha calls a “seductive, child-like, very dangerous being” (213). Despite its rootedness in Judeo-Christian tropes, God in “Te Book of Martha” is not omniscient (they apparently “outgrew that trick” long before because it was “boring”), and it is not entirely clear that they is benevolent (190). At the very least, God is interested in and frustrated by their human charges, and exists as a sort of lackadaisical caretaker of rambunctious adolescents. While Butler does not map out an entire ideology as she does with the Earthseed rhetoric of the Parable series, for example, their chilling rendition of a quasi-concerned, ennui-stricken God also calls into question faith in a benign divinity out to save its creation. Indeed, at one point, Martha wonders, “Was an eternity of absolute ease just another name for hell?” (196). Butler’s ambivalent depiction of God further remixes futurist discourse by supporting a stark apocalyptic vision; the only way humankind will be “saved” is through its own fragile devices. Tus, “Te Book of Martha” challenges normative notions of

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the divine, participating in an Afrofuturist feminist project to trouble concepts of traditional power. “Te Book of Martha” denaturalizes the notion of God in other signifcant ways, drawing particular attention to the arbitrariness of physical descriptions of the divine. Certainly, God’s appearance is hotly contested in our world. In terms of Christianity, Jesus, for example, is frequently depicted as an Anglo-Saxon man in popular iconography, despite the fact that the historical Jesus was Middle Eastern and not European. Butler’s text presents a shape-shifting God that defes fxity and that pointedly undermines notions that God is bearded white man, Morgan Freeman, or even a man at all. At frst God appears in forms that Martha, who was raised in a Judeo-Christian tradition, would recognize. First “he” appears as a “twice-life-sized, bearded, white man . . . a living version of Michelangelo’s Moses” (Butler 2005, 190). Later he morphs into an average-sized man (white, then black), and eventually God transforms to be Martha’s doppelganger, once Martha can allow her own self-image to also be divine. Te story repeatedly underscores that God’s image is based on individual perception and is, therefore, unfxed and always changing. Interestingly, despite the fact Martha has openly eschewed many normative Judeo-Christian values, her notions of the divine are still shaped by the years of “Sunday School .  .  . Bible class and .  .  . vacation Bible school” she endured as a child (192). When Martha asks God why he initially looks like Michelangelo’s Moses, God replies, “You see what your life has prepared you to see” (191). Tus, it is perhaps no surprise that Martha, who has admittedly grown up black, female, and poor in a society that is ruled by wealthy white men, would frst imagine God as a larger-than-life white male. Life has not given her the tools to accept the notion that God could be, for example, a black woman, at least not frst. In this moment, the text compels us to consider that normative notions of God are perhaps little more than mirrors that refect our ongoing understanding of power and agency. Tis depiction of God not only invites readers to reconsider the nature of the divine but also the vital role of imagination. Martha is in complete control, save for the fact that she cannot deny God’s request to save humanity. She could see God in any number of forms, in whatever venue she chooses. Nevertheless, Martha sees what she is prepared to see. Tis circumstance is not a limitation of the God she encounters but rather a limitation of her own imagination and of the religious dogma that shapes it. Tus, “Te Book of Martha” is an Afrofuturist feminist text that not only illuminates the constructedness of race and gender but also the ways in which internalized notions of racism and sexism are difcult to exorcise. Martha, chagrined by her own narrow notions of God, admits, “I just thought I had already broken out of the mental cage I was born and raised in—a human God, a white God, a male God” (209). Nevertheless, God remarks that Martha is not so much in a cage but that she has held on to habits that “tend to outlive their usefulness” (209). Terefore, because Martha is able to create God in her own image and create her own feminist universe, the text also invites us to consider how internalized master narratives might also be

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upended. Te power of imagination to recover from the trauma of white supremacy and uncover alternate futures is drawn into sharp relief. Imagination continues to be of crucial importance for Martha as she fgures out how to save humanity by remixing normative notions of humanity’s future. God has specifcally chosen Martha because she is a novelist, because she makes her living imagining diferent possibilities and diferent futures for her characters. And Martha saves the world by approaching humanity’s problems the way she might tackle an unwieldy plot in a story: “She . . . thought about the novels she had written. What if she were going to write a novel in which human beings had to be changed in only one positive way?” (197). Martha may not be a typical heroine by conventional apocalyptic fare, but she does epitomize an Afrofuturist feminist heroine typical of Butler’s canon. Martha is an agent of her destiny, like Laura Olamina from the Parable series, Dana from Kindred, and Shori from Fledgling, who must survive and save others using her intelligence, imagination, and ingenuity, rather than relying on deception, brute force, or intimidation. Te fact that she is a writer and not a politician, swashbuckler, or even an engineer is also signifcant. “Te Book of Martha” emphasizes the critical role of intellectuals in shaping the future and avoiding the pitfalls of the past. Te signifcance of imagination is also refected in the story’s format. “Te Book of Martha” is not a plot-driven tale that is heavy on action; indeed, much of the story is a meditation on existential issues. Te story features no time travel, shape-shifting into animals, alien invasions, or daywalking vampires. Martha contemplates what it means to human and what human society needs to look like to save humans from themselves, with occasional input from a highly pensive God. Although God does hand out a mandate to Martha, it is important to note that God gives her a task without telling her how to do it. Much of the story’s action, as it were, centers on the conversations and negotiations between God and Martha. Martha is, in fact, free to do whatever she pleases with humanity. She can allow them to implode, she can curtail their desires, she can even eliminate whole groups of people. As God tells her, she is “truly free” (189). To be clear, Martha may be truly free, but she is not completely free. She must follow God’s orders or else face his wrath as other servants of God (see Jonah) had before her. What Martha is free to do is to imagine the future of humanity in any way she would like and then enact her imagination’s very wish. Tis issue of imagination reifes the importance of God’s shape-shifting appearance throughout the story. If Martha cannot imagine that God could look like her until the very end of the story, what might that suggest about the future she imagines? One could argue that Martha’s ideas about the futurity might very well limited to the possibilities envisioned by our society. Nevertheless, Butler’s text includes an interesting dynamic between God and Martha that disrupts the latter’s own limited purview. God continually prompts Martha to use her imagination in ways that push her to think, and eventually act, transgressively. For instance, when God alerts Martha to the fact that sustainability is a major issue for human beings, Martha almost immediately thinks to launch a program that will inhibit people’s ability to reproduce without limits. Martha

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believes there are “too many people” and that her system of a sort of benign eugenics would solve earth’s problems (Butler 2005, 197). God rebufs her notions, arguing humans will not accept that they cannot have more than two or four children: “Te efort they put into building pyramids, cathedrals, and moon rockets will be nothing to the efort they’ll put into trying to end what will seem to them a plague of barrenness” (198). God and Martha continue to debate the terms of population control, with Martha eventually conceding the folly of her plan. Te conversation between God and Martha is a debate between equals, for although God appears to omnipotent she has willingly given over some of her power to Martha. Tus, the two discuss the fate of humanity as would two parents discuss the fate of their wayward ofspring. Tese lengthy debates between God and Martha also underscore the importance of imagination in shaping the evolution of humanity. Martha repeatedly seeks out seemingly easy answers (such as draconian reproductive limits) for endlessly complex issues (such as sustainability). To that end, the story casts God as repeatedly pushing Martha to think expansively and transgressively as to how to ameliorate humanity’s plight. God reveals, “Free will coupled with morality has been an interesting experiment. Free will is, among other things, the freedom to make mistakes. One group of mistakes will sometimes cancel another. . . . Free will isn’t a guarantee of anything, but it’s a potentially useful too—too useful to erase casually” (199). Here, free will is the ofspring of imagination and agency. Although God has the power to make humans bend to her will, she values what human beings come up with when they are allowed to think and act for themselves. Indeed, “Te Book of Martha” compares humanity’s connection to free will to the relationship between a dwarf star and a giant star that together make a nova. Te dwarf will draw its energy from the giant until it explodes, repeating this violent exchange over and over again. However, as God suggests to Martha, “If you change it—move the two stars farther apart or equalize their density, then it’s no longer a nova” (200). Time and again, “Te Book of Martha” invites us to consider that creative potential of human beings’ imaginations is crucial part of our humanity that is both our savior and the very cause of our destruction. Tat Martha’s solution to the impending apocalypse harnesses imagination in very strict ways reveals that humans may perhaps only be saved by disrupting the cycle of dwarf star and giant, by ironically becoming perhaps less human. After several false starts, she decides that unavoidable, but pleasant dreams are the “only possible utopia” (204). She suggests: Each person will have a private perfect utopia every night—or an imperfect one. If they crave confict and struggle, they get that. If they want peace and love, they get that. Whatever they want or need comes to them. I think if people go to a . . . well, a private heaven every night, it might take the edge of their willingness to spend their waking hours trying to dominate or destroy one another. (204)

At frst glance, Martha’s solution sounds like a triumph of individual wills. Each person will be able to relish a “private heaven,” as pleasant or as unpleasant as they desire. Upon closer inspection however, Martha’s solution gives only the illusion

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of personal freedom, while in reality, these dreams are controlling mechanisms, shaping behavior for the common good, appeasing individuals but also regulating human behavior in extreme ways. Martha ultimately decides that the only way to save humankind is to, paradoxically, make them somewhat less human by undermining (though not eliminating) their free will so that human beings can grow out of their rowdy adolescence into a new, mature adulthood. For although “Te Book of Martha” champions imagination and free will, it also wrestles with the consequences of these ideas, namely that human beings have a great capacity for experiencing and inficting sufering and domination on one another. Some of the consequences of Martha’s solutions are “dulled down” individuals who have lost interest in much of human activity, “including real, wide-awake sex. Real sex is risky to both the health and ego. Dream sex will be fantastic and not risky at all” (205). Most pertinent to Martha’s experience is the fact that leisure activities, such as reading, might eventually become passé. Essentially, Martha may have destroyed her own vocation for, as God suggests, “People will read for information and for ideas, but they’ll create their own fantasies” (212). While Martha spends time contemplating other options, nevertheless, she nevertheless adheres to the plan that will dramatically change her of her life’s work and even her social standing. Tus, “experience” and “experiential living” will fundamentally change, as imagination and fantasy triumph and interior life begins to trump wide-awake living. Although Martha is tasked with saving humanity from self-destruction, “Te Book of Martha” is far from a conventional utopia but a story that depicts a complicated future like so many Afrofuturist texts. Tis is in line with much of Octavia Butler’s works, which frequently depict postapocalyptic wastelands. Her Parable series, for example, takes place in a ravaged United States where gated communities have devolved into tyrannical city-states, and scarcity and violence are symbiotic and endemic. As Steven Shaviro suggests, “Butler imagines alternative genetic and cultural histories, reminding us that life can always be otherwise. Still, these alternatives aren’t ‘utopian’; each of them represents a diferent set of constraints and possibilities than we are used to, though in each remain both constraints and possibilities” (2013, 266). Conventional utopias, on the other hand, have very little place in Butler’s oeuvre. In the afterword to “Te Book of Martha,” Butler reveals, with characteristic frankness, the following: “‘Te Book of Martha’ is my utopia story. I don’t like most utopia stories because I don’t believe them for a moment. It seems inevitable that my utopia would be someone else’s hell. So, of course, I have God demand of poor Martha that she come up with a utopia that would work. And where else could it work but in everyone’s private, individual dreams?” (Butler 2005, 214). Generally, a utopia (and by extension, a utopia story) is “a place, state, or condition ideally perfect in respect of politics, laws, customs, and conditions,” as most notably depicted in Tomas More’s 1516 book, Utopia. (Oxford English Dictionary). Tus, utopia stories usually revolve the creation, destruction, or misconception of such an idyllic place. Angela Warfeld argues that “to foreclose on utopia is to abnegate responsibility,

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because the very concept of utopia entails the idea of the future. If we equate utopia merely with perfection and realization, then we deny the impossible possibility and reify presence” (Warfeld 2006, 69). And Butler’s own statement on utopia signifes on the common pejorative connotation of the word, a stance that implies that utopias (and utopia stories) are not simply about creating “perfect places,” but rather are about “impossibly ideal scheme[s], esp. for social improvement,” that they may be, in fact, thinly veiled dystopias (69). Te notion that Butler’s idea of utopia “would be someone else’s hell” underscores her critique of any universal perfect standard and immediately asserts that any sort of specifc “perfection” can only exist if tailored to individual desires, an ambiguous, ambivalent relativity and an uncertain road for a communal species. Tis is particularly interesting, especially considering the interest that Africana studies takes in the collective or communal aspect of African diasporic cultures. Because of the dismantling of social systems as we know it prompted by Martha’s solution, “Te Book of Martha” can also be understood as piece of apocalyptic fction, one that argues that even ideas with the best intentions might incite a type of social entropy. Peter Sands argues that the trope of cannibalism, which he defnes as a “violent transgression of bodily boundaries…one deeply concerned with otherness and contingency” frequently appears throughout Butler’s oeuvre (2003, 2). And while images of voracious incorporation are more starkly apparent in the Xenogenesis/Lilith’s Brood and Patternist series, Sands’s assessment of a profound transgression of bodily boundaries is indeed present in “Te Book of Martha.” At the end of the story there is no guaranteed success; Martha has persuaded God to trigger her dream solution, but both are unsure as to whether or not it will work. Tis is not the frst time God has destroyed the world. And never before has her plans worked. What will happen is that human society will turn increasingly inward, perhaps even to the point where it will consume itself because of its insatiable appetite for dreamed living. Tus, we are ultimately left with an ambivalent portrayal of imagination. On the one hand, it is what saves humanity from certain destruction, as Martha is able to circumvent much of our impending danger. On the other hand, imagination, in the form of seductive, mind-controlling dreams may lull humanity into a dull sense of complacency that may eventually destroy the species altogether. Tis tension between communal needs for survival and individual desire for freedom connects Butler’s statement on utopia to dystopia to the larger questions about the role of the collective in Africana studies and Butler’s ongoing Afrofuturist feminist project in her canon. Because of the tensions between the collective and the individual, and imagination and free will, the line between utopia and dystopia becomes increasingly blurred. So while the world of “Te Book of Martha” may not feature the Orwellian oppression of 1984, or even the lawlessness and violence of Butler’s own “Speech Sounds” or the Parable series, it does beg the question of whether a “perfect society” can be achieved without severely undermining individual freedom. Tat being said, neither is Butler advocating for an authoritarian sovereign. Rather, what we are left with is an unsettling ambivalence that speaks to the precariousness of the human condition.

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NOTES 1. For more on the history of Africana studies/Africology, see Tonja Lawrence’s “An Africentric Reading Protocol: Te Speculative Fiction of Octavia Butler and Tananarive Due” (PhD diss., Wayne State University, 2010). 2. For more on the debates regarding gender, Afrocentrism, and Africana studies, see Reynaldo Anderson, “Molef Kete Asante: Te Afrocentric Idea and the Cultural Turn in Intercultural Communication Studies,” International Journal of Intercultural Relations (2012) and Patricia Hill Collins, Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice (Minneap­olis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998). 3. In “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism,” Kodwo Eshun identifes Afrofuturism as a “tool kit developed for and by Afrodiasporic intellectuals” (301). 4. For more on Afrofuturism, see, for example, Mark Dery’s “Black to the Future: AfroFuturism 1.0,” Kodwo Eshun, “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism,” Alondra Nelson, “Introduction: Future Texts,” Ytasha L. Womack, Afrofuturism: Te World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, and Lisa Yasek’s “Afrofuturism, Science Fiction, and the History of the Future.” 5. I have previously argued in favor of illuminating the explicit connections and possibilities between Afrofuturism and Black feminism as Afrofuturist feminism, noting that: “Afrofuturist feminism is a refection of the shared central tenets of Afrofuturism and black feminist thought and refects a literary tradition in which people of African descent and transgressive, feminist practices born of or from across the Afrodiaspora are key to a progressive future. Ultimately, I argue that recognizing Afrofuturist feminism ofers a critical epistemology that illuminates the working of black speculative fction in vital ways” (Morris 2013, 154). 6. For more on Afrofuturist feminism, see also Susana M. Morris’s “More than Human: Black Feminisms of the Future in Jewelle Gomez’s Te Gilda Stories,” Te Black Scholar 46, no. 2 (Summer): 33–45.

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REFERENCES Anderson, Reynaldo. 2012. “Molef Kete Asante: Te Afrocentric Idea and the Cultural Turn in Intercultural Communication Studies.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations. http:​//dx.​doi.o​rg/10​1016/​j.iji​ntrel​.2012​.08.0​05. ———. 2017. “Afrofuturism 2.0 & Te Black Speculative Art Movement: Notes on a Manifesto,” Obsidian, 42.1–42.2(2016): 230–38. Butler, Octavia E. 2005a. “Preface.” In Bloodchild and Other Stories. 2nd edition. New York: Seven Stories Press. ———. 2005b. “Afterword” to “Te Book of Martha.” In Bloodchild and Other Stories, second edition. 214. New York: Seven Stories Press. ———. 2005c. “Te Book of Martha.” In Bloodchild and Other Stories, second edition. 189–213. New York: Seven Stories Press. ———. 1993. Te Parable of the Sower. New York: Grand Central Publishing. Collins, Patricia Hill. 1998. Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Curtis, Claire P. 2008. “Teorizing Fear: Octavia Butler and the Realist Utopia.” Utopian Studies 19(3): 411–31.

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Dery, Mark. 2008. “Black to the Future: Afro-Futurism 1.0.” In Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction’s Newest New-Wave Trajectory, edited by Marleen S. Barr. 6–13. Columbus: Ohio State University Press. Eshun, Kodwo. 2003. “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism.” CR: Te New Centennial Review 3, no. 2: 287–302. Govan, Sandra Y. 2005–2006. “Going to See the Woman: A Visit with Octavia E. Butler.” Obsidian III: Literature in the African Diaspora 6, no. 2/7, no. 1: 15–39. Kilgore, De Witt Douglas. 2008. “Beyond the History We Know: Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, NisiShawl, and Jarla Tangh Rethink Science Fiction Tradition.” In Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction’s Newest New-Wave Trajectory, edited by Marleen S. Barr. 119–29. Columbus: Te Ohio State University Press. Lawrence, Tonja. 2010. “An Africentric Reading Protocol: Te Speculative Fiction of Octavia Butlerand Tananarive Due.” PhD diss., Wayne State University. Morris, Susana M. 2012. “Black Girls Are from the Future: Afrofuturist Feminism in Octavia E. Butler’s Fledgling.” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 40, nos. 3 and 4: 146–66. ———. 2016. “More than Human: Black Feminisms of the Future in Jewelle Gomez’s Te Gilda Stories.” Te Black Scholar 46, no. 2: 33–45. Morrison, Toni. 1987. Beloved. New York: Vintage. Sands, Peter. 2003. “Octavia Butler’s Chiastic Cannibalistics.” Utopian Studies 14, no. 1: 1–14. Shaviro, Steven. 2013. “Exceeding the Human: Power and Vulnerability in Octavia Butler’s Fiction.” In Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler, edited by Rebecca J. Holden and Nisi Shawl. 221–32. Seattle: Aqueduct Press. Warfeld, Angela. 2006. “Reassessing the Utopian Novel: Octavia Butler, Jacques Derrida, and the Impossible Future of Utopia.” Obsidian III: Literature in the African Diaspora 6, no. 2/7, no. 1: 61–71. Womack, Ytasha L. 2013. Afrofuturism: Te World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books.

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7 African Futurist Themes and Fantasy in Modern African Speculative Fiction

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Dike Okoro

According to John Mbiti, Africa’s religious worldview is anchored on the existence of spirit beings, spirits, and the living-dead or spirits of ancestors.1 Tis claim is authenticated by the numerous works of speculative fction by and about Africans that are infused with futuristic themes that are typically associated with speculative narratives. In these works, the authors adopt tropes and forms that could easily be classifed as science fction (SF) and fantasy fction, two genres often mistaken as one and obviously similar in the ways they explore the supernatural, myths, magic, and mystery. In fact, many Africans writing SF and fantasy fction are writing imaginative material infuenced by the belief systems of the culture they were either born into or that already exist in the culture they were born into. Put simply, they are incorporating aspects of the reality of their culture into the creative works they are producing. Furthermore, these authors are concerned with capturing an African world where social, political, and economic situations share symbiotic ties to the beliefs or mythical realities presented through narrative techniques such as magical realism or fantasy tales. Hence, fables, myths, and allegorical tales incorporating magical realism are used by these authors as an aesthetic of necessity to situate postcolonial realities and imagined worlds that satirize or illustrate social realism and other forms of postcolonial African crisis. Historically, the relationship of African fction writers and the fantasy tradition probably spans fve decades or more. Postindependence works and recent works by African novelists and short story writers enunciate the numerous ways the neocolonial experience infuences African novelists and short story writers whose stories are representations of speculative fction and futuristic narratives. From oral stories harping on the interplay between humans and spirits to speculative prose mirroring the reality of a society in transition, African fction writers have strived to engage society and the world beyond their boundaries with narratives detailing disparate 91

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lives in confict-laden and imagined places that are linked both to the real and the supernatural. In their engaging narratives which are often fables or fantasy, they have passionately illuminated memorable characters, timeless places, and intriguing conficts that uplift the human spirit in the face of harsh human conditions. Many of the themes they explore include gender, poverty, magic, patriarchy, war, tyranny, and varying forms of human and environment exploitation. Te notable authors from Africa or with parental links to Africa whose novels and stories deploy speculative narratives sufused with futuristic themes and fantasy include Elechi Amadi, Ngugi wa Tiong’o, Ben Okri, Kodjo Laing, Zakes Mda, Syl-Cheney Coker, Benjamin Kwakye, Nnedi Okorafor, Deji Bryce Olukotun, and Lauren Beukes. Novels and stories by these authors typically feature characters with supernatural abilities and transformative roles. Also, the enemies these characters confront appear in either human or nonhuman/spirit forms. Te historical reach of their narratives stretches from slavery through colonialism to the postindependence period. In particular, the geographical location is Africa and other imaginary worlds, but the authors also deploy characters whose struggles in the real-world clash with the magical. Tere is also the representation of the living and the dead coexisting in imagined spaces that present oppression, manmade conficts with ties to the spirit world, and varying forms of the human quest for freedom. A lot of the books explore the neocolonial experience in Africa through speculative narratives or fables that demonstrate the impact of magic, myth, and supernatural forces on the lives of characters. A close examination of these books also reveals diferent levels of futuristic themes and fantasy. For example, Ben Okri’s Te Famished Road, Ngugi wa Tiong’o’s Te Wizard of the Crow, Kojo Laing’s Te Woman of the Aeroplane, Zakes Mda’s Ways of Dying, Syl-Cheny Coker’s Te Last Harmattan of Alusine Dubar, and Buchi Emechetta’s Te Rape of Shavi are narratives that explore the postcolonial realities of Africa and the imagined worlds the authors themselves create. Many of these books have been reviewed and lauded by reputable literary critics and magazines. For example, when Publishers Weekly asserts that Cheney-Coker’s Te Last Harmattan of Alusine Dubar is “full of such unusual occurrences, but in the tradition of magical realism, a sense of history and psychological drama make the story believable.”2 Further, the magazine suggests that: “Pioneering former slaves from New World plantations . . . marry and murder in . . . the small town of Malagueta on the Atlantic coast of Africa. Covering two centuries, the tale ends with a modern-day failed coup.”3 Cheney-Coker’s style of writing in Te Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar exhibits a deeper interiorization as he utilizes the allegory form which is represented in the character Sulaiman the Nubian and his prophesy concerning a cycle of events. It is obvious that Cheney-Coker primarily draws on the infuence of magical realism in his novel, a form of narrative which has been described by Te Modern Novel.org: “primarily known as a poet but has written one novel—Te Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar—which shows infuence of the Latin American magic realism style.”4 While it is relevant to credit the Latin American magic realism style as an infuence in Cheney-Coker’s novel, it is also important to note that Cheney-Coker’s use of oral resources, especially the African storytelling technique

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that incorporates myths, fables, or allegorical tropes, could easily be mistaken as a style that is derived solely from the Latin American magic realism style. Put simply, Cheney-Coker’s novel uses symbols that are also informed by the African reality and belief systems. Many African writers have tried to clarify this misrepresentation when their work is examined under the lenses of the Latin American magic realism style. For example, South African novelist Zakes Mda has been consistently associated with the genre which merges varying level of tropes and symbols to present a realistic view of the world through magical realism. However, Mda had rejected the claim that his work is infuenced by the Latin American tradition of magical realism. Instead, he insists that his idea of magical realism is authentically African and is a carryover from the African oral tradition. He states thus: “I wrote in this manner from an early age because I am a product of a magical culture. In my culture the magical is not disconcerting. It is taken for granted. No one tries to fnd a natural explanation for the unreal. Te unreal happens as part of reality.”5 Mda’s argument is justifed in the numerous ways he represents his characters. A typical example can be found in Ways of Dying, a novel that exposes social problems through the events of a colonized African society that is still in apartheid’s grip. For example, Gail Fincham observes that “We need only think of Ways of Dying, in which children of 5 are killed by ‘necklacing’ because they are accused of being informers.”6 Fincham goes on to add that “What Mda’s ‘magic realism’ achieves, therefore, is ‘an afectivity and a dignity denied for generations by the impositions of colonialism and apartheid.’”7 Nevertheless, the genre of SF and fantasy narratives has not been fully embraced by the African society.

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MARKETING CHALLENGES IN AFRICA Strikingly, the current market and publication of SF and fantasy novels have not been encouraging for numerous reasons. Unlike the West where both SF and fantasy writing have a long standing among contemporary authors that is unopposed, there seems to be a cautionary approach toward embracing both forms wholeheartedly in Africa. John Joseph Adams, editor of the anthology Te Way of the Wizard, acknowledges that “Africa is a less common setting for fantasy stories, but there are some notable works out there for readers who are interested in the continent,”8 without providing a plausible reason that supports his conclusion. Yet it is understandable to note that aside from obvious myths associated with traditional forms of worship and belief systems in Africa as being diabolic, the disregard for SF and fantasy by conservative religious groups in Africa seems to be one of the key reasons for its unpopular standing.9 Even some of the authors writing in these genres have maintained the need for critics of SF and fantasy writing to be understood on the merits of their concerns. Nnedi Okorafor seemed to be drawing attention to this view of SF in Africa when she acknowledged that “At the same time, she understands the apprehension. For some Nigerians, the creatures in her books are not just fantastical beasts—they evoke real beliefs and traditions.”10 Okorafor thus concedes that the

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creatures in her books recreates certain aspects of the African experience that some of her readers, especially Nigerians, real points of view and conventions that many associate with their sense of reality.

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THE QUESTION OF DEFINITION For a start, African writers of SF and fantasy do not share the same foundation for their corpus as their counterparts in the West who are chiefy infuenced by Afrofuturism, the term coined by Mark Dery. Considering Africa’s colonial past and the emergence of postcolonial literature that focuses on governmental transformation, poverty, wars, and other economic and social issues of relevance, there might be a lack of interest for writers to invest their time and space in fantasy writing. Instead, African futurism relies on features and trends that are traceable to the evolution of African-based fantasy writing and SF that has at its foundation in myths, folk tales and various supernatural elements in a spatial world that ofers readers insight into characters choices and struggles. Tese struggles, oftentimes mistaken for mysteries, have led to stereotypical conclusions about African fantasy novels as we notice in Matthew Wolf-Meyer’s declaration that “Te use of Africa generally takes two forms in science fction and fantasy, frst as a geographical or historical place of importance.”11 Wolf-Meyer’s statement illustrates one of the many conundrums that surround postcolonial African literature when viewed from the purview of critics with limited knowledge of the history and tradition that infuenced African storytelling and published fction. Te “geographical” and “historical place of importance” are relevant; however, the beliefs systems such as the existence of spirits/ghosts, myths, fables and folktales, have always taken precedence when serious matters concerning the continent’s culture and literature are discussed. Perhaps, there are no two ways to look at this situation other than examining it from the trajectory that maintains the existence of the literature itself. Tis seems to be Nnedi Okorafor’s argument when she asserts in a recent article that “Here’s my list of ‘African SF.’ It’s really short. . . . How do I defne African SF? I don’t. I know it when I see it. . . . Te main fact is that this list DOES exist. Africans ARE writing their own science fction, contrary to what some may think. But the fact is that Africans need to also write more of it.”12 But Okorafor’s claim that Africans need to also write more is derived from a determined efort to see a proliferation in the number of Africans writing in the genre. For years, only the frst generation of African authors and some members of the second generation have been associated with narratives that deploy sci-f. Ngugi wa Tiong’o’s Wizard of the Crow, Ben Okri’s Te Famished Road, Kojo Laing’s Woman of the Aeroplanes, and Syl-Cheney Coker’s Te Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar have each employed fable, magic, satire, fantasy, and magical realism in diferent ways to demonstrate the author’s familiarity with the narrative representations that are associated with SF and speculative narratives. Perhaps, as is known in African literary circles, scholars and the authors themselves may not have branded their works as SF; however, the aforementioned works, including many others by

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African authors not mentioned, capture Africa’s postcolonial reality and other imagined worlds with the kind of language, vision, and imaginative writing obsessively associated with SF and fantasy narratives.

WHAT IS THE AFRICAN FANTASY STORY?

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Te authors whose works best ft this defnition are numerous but judging today’s SF and fantasy fction market in Africa. Ben Okri, Ngugi wa Tiong’o, Kojo Laing, Zakes Mda, Syl Cheney-Coker, and Buchi Emechetta represent the most acclaimed writers whose narratives possess tropes and other narrative deployments that show infuences that are directly linked to the African oral tradition. Unlike the West that depends on advancement in technology and science to inspire SF and fantasy authors, Africa’s geographical landscape, physical environment, and storytelling tradition seem to be the muse of many authors writing in this genre. Ben Okri refects on his Booker Prize-winning novel Te Famished Road, noting that “Te Famished Road is fed by the dreams of literature . . . [is] a perpetual story into which fowed the great seas of African dreams, myths and fables of the world, known and unknown.”13 Okri’s indebtedness to stories of the oral and cultural resources of his people authenticates the relevance of his narratives as belonging to a rich blend of literature from Africa. Like Okri, Okorafor’s stories are also infuenced by an African setting, which is also Nigerian. In her stories “Magic, ritual and secrecy are threads that run through . . . a head-spinning menagerie of otherworldly spirits and deities drawn from Nigerian myths and legends.”14 While Okorafor’s blend of African American folklore and African myths clearly sets her apart from Okri as possessing a unique vision that straddles two continents, there’s no doubt that “Her stories, which are often set in West Africa, use the framework of fantasy to explore weighty social issues: racial and gender inequality, political violence, the destruction of the environment, genocide and corruption.”15 It is for this reason that her readers and those familiar with her work fnd in her writing elements and themes that are connected local and global issues afecting the African continent and Africans in the Diaspora.

THE FOREBEARS AND AFRICAN FUTURISM In order to gain insight on the nature of African futurism, perhaps one might be better served tracing its emergence by examining the oral resources and some of the landmark works of the genre. Literary forebears such as Daniel O. Fagunwa and Amos Tutuola, both of whom are renowned for their seminal publications, Forest of a Tousand Daemons and Te Palm-Wine Drinkard, respectively, as well as the novelists Elechi Amadi (Te Concubine), Ngugi wa Tiong’o (Wizard of the Crow), and Cyprian Ekwensi (An African Night’s Entertainment) belong to this group. Tese engaging books deftly utilize characterization, setting, and myths to engage with the plausible representations of myths and supernatural forces in the art that

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refects a people’s reality and culture vis-a-vis narration. In fact, many critics and reviewers have stressed this aspect of Amadi’s novel, heaping praise on his artistic vision. Alistair Neven claims that “Amadi frst gained serious attention as a writer . . . of Te Concubine, an early contribution (no. 25) to the great Heinemann African Writers Series. [Te] novel .  .  . explored the boundary between myth and reality, its protagonist Ihuoma being revealed as the wife of the Sea King and hence only a concubine to her male partner.”16 If the African Writers Series which produced the likes of Ngugi wa Tiong’o and Elechi Amadi must be commended for exposing to the world speculative narratives from Africa, one must also examine the authors’ investment in futuristic themes and conficts that suggest a mode of writing that points to “African futurism.” Scholars and artists have made many attempts to defne, or perhaps situate, black literature, which in this sense includes literatures of the African diaspora, within a dialogue that defnes the term “African futurism.” Pamela Satsimo Sunstrum, author of the essay “Afro-mythology and African Futurism: Te Politics of Imagining and Methodologies for Contemporary Creative Research Practices,” asserts:

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I am interested in locating an African sensibility with regards to futurism and the imagining of African futures. In African futurism, major concerns include postcolonialism, neocolonialisms, transglobal identities, transcultural identities and, of greater signifcance to my own imaginings, the de-defning . . . and transcendence of these historical . . . and temporal specifers.17

Reynaldo Anderson, author of the critical essay “Afrofuturism 2.0 and the Black Speculative Art Movement,” ofers a critical view on this matter from the purview of Afrofuturism, stating, “Afrofuturism is the current name for a body of systematic Black speculative thought originating in the 1990s as a response to postmodernity that has blossomed into a global movement the last fve years.”18 He adds that “Although contemporary Black speculative thought has roots at the nexus of nineteenth-century scientifc racism, technology, and the struggle for African self-determination and creative expression, it has now matured into an emerging global phenomenon.”19 Anderson’s defnitive statements coincide with the theoretical analysis provided by several scholars of Afrofuturism and works intersecting African futurism. One example of such scholars is Kodwo Eshun, who asserts: “Afrofuturism may be characterized as a program for recovering the histories of counter-futures created in a century hostile to Afrodiasporic projection”20 Both Eshun and Anderson, at best, whether directly or indirectly, ofer rationalized framework for contextualizing African diasporic literature through a compass that values the contributions of Africa’s past to its future. However, a defnition for African futurism will belong to the argument that African mythology and oral traditions have a major impact on the ways the literature of the continent and authors from there situate realities through the lens of fctitious characters, settings, and conficts dictated by myths and supernatural forces. Pamela Phatismo Sunstrum contends that “African mythic modes, and indeed most mythic modes, already lend themselves to SF, and as Delphi Cartens and Mer Roberts argue, Afro-mythology can wind its way into and weave its way

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out of Afro-SF. Afro-mythology is replete with sf imagery and ideas.”21 Her claim draws from an earlier assertion in her essay that states: “the future as a strategy in contemporary creative research practices . . . begins with a consideration of the commonalities and diferences between Afrofuturism and African futurism in order to locate an African sensibility in the imagining of African futures.”22 Strikingly, the logic in the aforementioned quote makes it easier for any reader familiar with African literature to acknowledge the impact of the oral tradition and African mythology as defning forces that aide one’s understanding of how an African sensibility is located in sf narratives coming out of Africa and why narratives with historical signifcance are considerable models of works of African futurism. In African futurism the human concerns are linked to a postcolonial experience, whereas in Afrofuturism, as Pamela Phatismo Sunstrum suggests, Afrofuturism at its very beginning, focused on addressing African American problems relating to identity, history, and consciousness. Put simply, it attempted to show and revive ideologies of Afrocentricity by merging them with futuristic and space-themed postulation.23 To me Afrofuturism refects the existing sociopolitical and economic conditions afecting the lives of people in a postcolonial state. In these experiences are the tensions and ambitions of living a good and happy life absent the setbacks of failed governments. I believe this is what prevails in the Ghanaian author Kojo Laing’s novel Woman of the Aeroplane, which Kirkus Review describes thus: “Rich in incident, African mythology, vivid characters—sometimes a dozen appear on one page—and wordplay, the novel demands close reading. No easy read, but Laing is a promising talent.”24 Like the works of Okri, Laing’s novel has the defning features of magical realism. On top of that, it is rich in African mythology and speculative writing, two qualities that make it a major work dealing with African futurism. Furthermore, the characters concerns and the other features, including nature and animals, ft perfectly with a postcolonial world. Te aspect of a town being invisible to the rest of the country, adds a dimension of fantasy that is arguably infuenced by SF.

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POSSIBLE FUTURES, MYTHS, AND ALTERNATE REALITIES Within this context, one might fnd validation in Anderson’s defnition and Eshun’s theoretical statement by looking no further than the novel Legacy of Phantoms by Accra-born US-based author Benjamin Kwakye. In Legacy of Phantoms, Kakra, the protagonist, is repeatedly visited by phantoms (who otherwise are characters in the novel). When he is alone, these phantoms communicate with him, revealing thoughts that otherwise are not stated in the ordinary course of their interactions. One author who readily comes to mind here is the Nigerian novelist Elechi Amadi. In the essay book Bloom’s Modern Critical Views: Alice Walker, American Alice Hall Petry credits Amadi for having infuenced Walker’s In Love & Trouble and You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down, two of Walker’s notable publications that also included references to Ahurole, a character in Amadi’s Te Concubine. In the

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essay, Petry states: “Te Concubine by Elechi Amadi, depicts a girl, Ahurole, who is prone to fts of sobbing and ‘alarmingly irrational fts of arguments’ . . . she was being unduly infuenced by agwu, her personal spirit.”25 In taking a similar stand on Amadi’s work, African American novelist and poet, Alice Walker, in her book Te Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm’s Way, speaks admirably of Amadi: “I remember reading Te Concubine by Elechi Amadi . . . and just being stunned.”26 Walker’s view of Amadi’s work is admirable, given that Amadi belongs to the frst generation of African authors, a point expanded upon by Somak Ghoshal who, writing for Te Telegraph, a Kolkata, India, newspaper, links Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s emergence to Amadi’s generation in an article titled “Te African Writer and the Burden of History”: “Adichie comes out of the tradition of modernist African literature initiated by Chinua Achebe and enriched by Buchi Emecheta, Elechi Amadi, Chukwuemeka Ike and others.”27 Amadi’s novels are populated with memorable characters. At the crux of his characters’ conficts are myths and superstitions. One easily fnds in characters such as Madume in Te Concubine a caricature of humans misled by motivation. Tis is what Amadi’s readers discover after Madume fought with Emenike, husband to Ihuoma, the beauty. Ihuoma is also Amadi’s female protagonist, and Madume chooses to court her just days after Emenike’s death from wounds inficted by Madume. Te aftermath of Madume’s visit to Emenike’s compound portends several things that turn out to be of grave consequence to him. For example, he sustains a severe injury to his toe when he visited the dead Emenike’s compound to woo his widow, Ihuoma. Several critics of Amadi’s work have attempted to unravel the mystery of Madume’s injury but none have come close to providing a perspective as convincing as that presented by the Nigerian scholar Emmanuel Obiechina. In his book Culture, Tradition and Society in the West African Novel, he reiterates: “Amadi has . . . handled the intervention of the supernatural in traditional life most convincingly. It is not simply that gods and spirits mingle freely with the people, shaping their destinies for good or ill; Amadi’s tale conveys this efect with ease and conviction.”28 Obiechina’s suggestion here is a learning curve for the troubled Madume. Human errors are experiences in life that teach lessons. Perhaps Amadi, even as the writer of this story, reminds us in a speech he delivered titled “Literary Criticism and Culture,” that “every novel is a recounting of human situations. Every human situation teaches us a lesson or two.”29 Furthermore, Madume’s consultation of Anyika for possible purifcation reafrms Amadi’s own belief in African tradition, an issue he visits in his essay “Background of Nigerian Literature,” stating, “An Ikwerre proverb says: to set up a shrine the dibia must have a piece of earth.” Tis means that he must have a strong and stable link with his community in order to practice his art of spiritual and physical healing. Terefore, Emenike’s visit, besides being an attempt at resolving his troubles, is symbolic for Anyika in that it justifes his place of importance as one with “a strong and stable link with his community.”30 Te fact that he wrote during Nigeria’s civil war era (1967-1970) makes a proper assessment of his work both easy and difcult. His frst novel, Te Concubine, was published in 1966, a year before the breakout of the Nigerian civil war. Two other

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books by the author, both major works, Te Great Ponds (1969) and Sunset in Biafra (1973), were published during the war and three years after the war by Heinemann African Writers Series, UK. It is easy in the sense that he represents the frst generation of Nigerian and African authors whose response to Europe and her unyielding grip on Africa’s waist as a colonial interest makes a case for a rethink of the depiction of the continent’s image to the rest of the world. His romance with the oral literature of his people is remarkable. In his novels, there are agencies at work that foreground the relevance of proverbs, myths and belief systems from the African world. Today, there are vestiges of his infuence in the Nollywood industry. Anyone familiar with Wodu Wakiri the wag, a mischievous character in Te Concubine, need not look too far to embrace the idea of continuity should they encounter characters with like mannerisms in Nigerian movies centered on village life. If this is not a mark of the genius in the deceased author, I beg to difer. Te Concubine possesses every charm one might fnd in a narrative that could easily pass as SF and a marvel work of Afrofuturism. Te idea of having a sea-king as the lover of a village beauty is something that has vestiges of SF. Te fantasy aspect of such an idea, as in creating characters that are out of this world, adds to his narrative’s SF characteristics. Te book’s trope centers on the beauty of a woman that seems to be the downfall of every man who marries her. Ihuoma, the lead character, is a beauty admired by all. Yet it is the same beauty of hers that is directly linked to the deaths of her husbands and suitors, with Amadi providing a trope that gives his reader the indication that Ihuoma, after all, might be married to the sea-king. Te following quotation from the novel suggests the relevance of the sea-king as a character whose actions are also responsible for the outcomes of future events in the life of the village beauty, Ihuoma, to whom he is married in the spirit world:

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Tere are few women like [Ihuoma] in the world .  .  . it is death to marry them and they leave behind a harrowing string of dead husbands. Tey are usually beautiful, very beautiful but dogged by their invisible husbands of the spirit world. With some spirits marriage is possible if an expert in sorcery is consulted. With the sea-king it is impossible. He is too powerful to be fettered and when he is on the ofensive he is absolutely relentless. He unleashes all the powers at his command and they are fatal.31

Amadi’s declaration about the character Ihuoma in the aforementioned quote explains the impact of African belief systems in his narrative logic. His infusion of mythology and fantasy in Te Concubine is powerful and demonstrates the African writer’s attempt at writing speculative stories that address human conditions such as love and tragedy through narrative forms that are infuenced by African realities and culture. Te boundary between myth and reality is also explored in Benjamin Kwakye’s novel Te Clothes of Nakedness, which Publishers Weekly (1998) describes this way: “Evil lurks in the streets of Accra, Ghana, and it goes by the name of Mystique Mysterious. He can turn the sober to drink, persuade the faithful to cheat, and rally the masses to hysteria.”32 Kwakye’s keenness to examine the postcolonial state of

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homeland using a trope dependent on fantasy and myth adds a unique character to his storyline. Te names and the conficts, for example, free narcotics to drug-free clubs and extorting money from men after fnding them employment, all resonate with the realities of postcolonial Africa. And Kwakye’s vision is simple, yet a model of African futurism, in that it addresses future problems through the cycle of present challenges.

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INTERPLAY OF THE REALISTIC AND FANTASTIC Narration, in particular from an African context, does not only approximate conficts enunciating the birth or emergence of protagonists and antagonists but involves a sequence of conficts that build from very believable sources even triggered by acts readers might fnd puzzling. Tese narrative features are thrust in the tales of enviable merit that occupy the desks of many teachers of literature in the schools across the African continent today. Tese signature aspects of the widely promoted fction genre illustrates the thematic trends, conficts, and characterization situated within the discourse of authors such as Ben Okri, Elechi Amadi, and Benjamin Kwakye. One writer whose novels and short stories continue to provide an aesthetic appeal that elicits ideals suitable to African futurism is Ben Okri. In his Booker Prize-winning novel, Te Famished Road, we notice the impressionable narrator Azaro, who at seven years old, takes on in bringing incidents in the narrative within the framework of arbitrary shifts. Okri’s greatest achievement with this book is his ability to impose on his craft the deftness of indigenous beliefs. Azaro from the onset announces himself as no ordinary child. His diction and vision merits that of children the Yoruba tradition would describe as abiku, which literally translates as spirit children who retain contact between the real world and the spiritual one, or as Ato Quayson puts it, “a child in an unending cycle of births, deaths and rebirths.”33 In the Igbo mythology system, such a child is branded as ogbanje, which according to Chidi Maduka, “denotes a person who acts in a weird, capricious, callous and even sadistic way.”34 Te form of Okri’s Te Famished Road is unique in the sense that its narrator’s consciousness leads the reader in precisely obtaining whatever glimpses of observable contradictions one might fnd in the narrative. It also helps to note here that the narrator’s intimations serve as pointers suggesting that this child must possess not only charms in tone but also an understanding of life that is beyond his age: “One of the reasons I didn’t want to be born became clear to me after I had come into the world. I was still very young when in a daze I saw Dad swallowed up by a hole in the road. Another time I saw Mum dangling from the branches of a blue tree. I was seven years old.”35 Okri’s treatise avails us with the wisdom of a child while also using the child as an assured examiner of reality he dabbles into generalizations that easily appear both metaphorical and proverbial: “In the beginning there was a river. Te river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry” and the statement “things of the

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world partake of the condition of the spirit-child.”36 Much as a reader might fnd the preceding statements possibly beyond the diction or knowledge of a seven-yearold, one must fnd conformity in the very notion that the child in question is no ordinary child. Tis is what Okri posits as he uses Azaro consciousness to transmit messages of ethereal value. More so, if we are to recall Sunstrum’s claim on African futurism incorporating “transglobal identities” and “transcultural identities,” then Ato Quayson’s conclusions that “since the narration is in the frst person, with all events being focalized through the consciousness of Azaro, the universe of action is located simultaneously within both the real world and that of spirits.”37

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BLENDING PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE Similarly, Benjamin Kwakye’s novel Te Legacy of Phantoms echoes Ytasha Womack’s claim that “Afrofuturism blends the future, the past and the present.”38 In the story, “a deeper blink at history,” the description of the character Kakra and the ensuing food of events provide for the reader a microcosm through which things, both real and imagined, attempt to mediate meaning. In a manner similar to Okri’s character Azaro, Kakra is a child of school age and one with a special afliation with nature. Tere is a sort of animist representation in Kwakye’s narrative, given that Kakra’s sense of solitude is compared to natural agencies such as the tree and a sparrow. What this does for the narrative is that it makes the reader to look beyond the surface level of the author’s intent in order to understand the impact of memory in speculative narratives. Like much of African literature, West African fction embodies elements of sociocultural nature that assert a dependence, or rather indebtedness, to oral resources. Te stories explored by these authors hinge on the narrator’s quest for some form of parity that can only be actualized through selfessness and recognition of one’s own contribution as a storage of his/her people’s past and present. Calyxthe Beyala’s novel Te Sun Hath Looked Upon Me (1996) relies on the young narrator, Ateba’s quest to right the wrongs of both her people’s past and their memory. Tis is what Beyala postulates according to Marie-Chantal Kalisa who claims that: “In her words, Ateba wants to save the future and teach the children of Africa how “the confusion of values, ideas, feelings, memories had ended up by killing history all the way back to its beginnings.”39 Kalisa’s attempt to identify with and resituate the preeminence of women as pivotal fgures in mainly patriarchal African society is both daring and visionary and echoes a similar attempt illustrated by the female heroine Aisha in Dike Okoro’s epistolary story “Letter to Aisha,” published in Letter to Aisha and Other Stories (2015).40 In the story the protagonist Aisha is reinvigorated by the prospects of renewing a childhood friendship with a woman she grew up with in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. In the story, she references the excesses of their husbands and encourages her friend to be appreciative of the struggles they both endured as young women growing up in a postcolonial African society. Aisha’s optimism is inspired by her

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hopes for the future. She remembers the past and uses the childhood experiences shared with her friend Moji as a source of inspiration. Tey are both mothers who have experienced the efects of globalization. It is as a result of this experience that they are able to look past the struggles of marriage and motherhood. Many of the ideas espoused in the preceding discussion elicit a multiplicity of experiences increasingly seen in African literary works addressing an openness to a wider dialogue on gender issues. Te attainment of independence by many African nations coincided with a universally accepted criteria to reconsider the role and place of women in African society. By and large this decision has been relayed in individual works with ranging takes on the relationships between wives and husbands, and the efective modes of the female voice actively studying domestic issues, and the many parts of marital conficts. How this is idealized in the African futurism narrative can be best understood through the various ways the African region is represented on the world stage. Ben Okri says in an interview titled “Talking with Ben Okri,” “I was told stories; we were all told stories as kids in Nigeria. It’s very much like the river that runs through your backyard. It’s always there. It never occurs to you to take a photograph or to seek its mythology. It’s just there; it runs in your veins, it runs in your spirit.”41 Tis quote by Okri is a good example of African futurism, for it blends the past, present, and future. Furthermore, Okri’s statement validates the importance of mythology to African stories and writing.

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CONCLUSION In postcolonial Africa there still exists the necessity for individual authors to explore indigenous beliefs, myths, gender transformations, and human limitations through stories indebted to the oral tradition but written to inform an audience beyond the shores of their homeland. Amadi’s heroine Ihuoama in Te Concubine could easily pass for Kojo Laing’s Woman of the Aeroplanes. Both characters exude the confdence and bravery embodied by Kwakye’s Kakra and Okri’s Azaro. Te level of conficts they traverse within the framework of the narratives from which they symbolically replicate patterns of common events and the realities of African societies illustrate the deftness and clarity of vision by the aforementioned authors to dissect eroding morals, push forward indigenous beliefs, and embellish their narrative structure with ideological musings amplifed by ironic twists, tragedy, and narrators whose ambitions are guided by their consciousness. In the end, SF and fantasy in African literature, especially in the novel and short story form, have not fourished as one would expect. Nevertheless, the argument can be made that authors born to African-born parents in the West, in particular Tomi Adeyemi and many others, and those writing in the continent such as Efe Okogu and Tendai Hushu address futurist themes in diferent ways that explore African myth, society, and culture. Also, conficts and events that the authors whose works illustrate the deployment of characters and plotline that easily pass for SF and fantasy fction have earned praises because the conficts they recreate engage readers with

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the realities of the societies they depict. After all, one does not have to believe in the supernatural to believe it is often, if not occasionally, cited in the furry of stories that foat in the newspapers and daily gossips in the African continent. Perhaps it is safe to say that even those who do not believe these realities have a sense of the way they are anchored in the myths that are in circulation in the various cultures of Africa.

NOTES

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75.

1. John Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1969),

2. Publishers Weekly, January 1, 1991, “Te Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar,” ww​w.pub​lishe​rswee​kly.c​om/97​8-0-4​35-90​572-9​. 3. Ibid. 4. Te Modern Novel.org. 5. Gail Filcham, Dance of Life: Te Novels of Zakes Mda in Post-apartheid South Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012). 6. Ibid. 7. Ibid. 8. John Joseph Adams, Te Ways of the Wizard, http:​//www​.john​josep​hadam​s.com​/way-​ of-th​e-wiz​ard/t​able-​of-co​ntent​s-2/t​he-go​-slow​-nned​i-oko​rafor​/. 9. Ibid. 10. Alexandra Alter, “Nnedi Okorafor and the Fantasy Genre She Is Helping Redefne,” Te New York Times, October 6, 2017. Accessed January 25, 2018. 11. Matthew Wolf-Meyer, Te Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005), 7. 12. Ser pell, Namwali. “Afrofuturism: Everything and Nothin,” Public Books. March 1, 2016, 12. https://www.publicbooks.org/afrofuturism-everything-and-nothing/. 13. Ben Okri, “Ben Okri: ‘Te Famished Road was Written to Give Myself Reasons to Live,” www.theguardian.com/books.web. 14. Alter, “Nnedi Okorafor and the Fantasy Genre She Is Helping Redefne.” 15. Ibid. 16. Alistair Neven, “Elechi Amadi Obituary,” Te Guardian, August 22, 2016. Accessed October 7, 2017. 17. Pam ela Satsimo Sunstrum, “Afro-mythology and African Futurism: Te Politics of Imagining And Methodologies for Contemporary Creative Research Practices,” Paradoxa; Studies in World Literary Genres 25 (2013): 113–29. 18. Reynaldo Anderson, “Afrofuturism 2.0 & the Black Speculative Art Movement,” Notes on a Manifesto. 19. Anderson, “Afrofuturism 2.0 & the Black Speculative Art Movement.” 20. Eshun Kodwo, “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism,” CR: Te New Centennial Review 3(2) (2003): 287–302. 21. Sunstrum, “Afro-mythology and African Futurism.” 22. Ibid. 23. Ibid. 24. Kirkus Reviews, “Woman of the Aeroplanes,” May 23, 1990.

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25. Alice Hall Petry, “Alice Walker: Te Achievement of Short Fiction,” in Bloom’s Modern Critical Views, edited and with an Introduction by Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House, 2007), 34. 26. Alice Walker, Te Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to being in Harm’s Way (New York: Te New Press, 2013), 226. 27. Somak Goshal, “Te African Writer and the Burden of History,” Te Telegraph, August 10, 2007. Accessed March 11, 2017. 28. Emmanuel Obiechina, Culture, Tradition and Society in the West African Novel (London: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 146. 29. Elechi Amadi, Speaking and Singing (Port Harcourt, Nigeria: University of Port Harcourt Press, 2003), 2. 30. Ibid. 31. Elechi Amadi, Te Concubine (Oxford: Heinemann, 1966). 32. Publishers Weekly, https​://ww​w.pub​lishe​rswee​kly.c​om/pw​/auth​orpag​e/ben​jamin​-kwak​ ye.ht​ml. 33. Ato Quayson, Strategic Transformations in Nigerian Writing (Oxford: James Currey/ IUP, 1997), 122–25. 34. Ibid. 35. Ibid. 36. Ibid. [Part of Quasyson’s quote of Okri’s work]. 37. Ibid. 38. Steven W. Trasher, “Afrofuturism: Reimagining Science and the Future from a Black Perspective,” Te Guardiano. 39. Marie-Chantal Kalisa, “Review of Calyxthe Beyala’s Your Name Shall Be Tonga,” H-AfrLitCine (July, 1997). 40. Dike Okoro, Letter to Aisha and Other Stories (CWP, 2015), 9. 41. Philip Emeagwali, “Talking with Ben Okri,” July 19, 1992. Accessed October 5, 2017.

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REFERENCES Amadi, Elechi. 1966. Te Concubine. Oxford: Heinemann. ———. 2003. Speaking and Singing. Port Harcourt, Nigeria: University of Port Harcourt Press. ———. 2004. Elechi Amadi: Collected Plays. Port Harcourt, Nigeria: Pearl Publishers. Anderson, Reynaldo. 2017. “Afrofuturism 2.0 & the Black Speculative Art Movement.” Notes on a Manifesto. http:​//www​.acad​emia.​edu/3​08636​57/AF​ROFUT​URISM​_2.0_​and_ T​HE_BL​ACK_S​PECUL​ATIVE​_ART_​MOVEM​ENT. Beyala, Calyxthe. 1996. Te Sun Hath Looked Upon Me. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Bloom, Harold. 2007. “Alice Walker: Te Achievement of the Short Fiction.” In Bloom’s Modern Critical View: Alice Walker. New York: Chelsea House: 33–34. Bould, Mark. 2016. “From Afrofutursim to AfroSF.” February 1. Accessed October 5, 2017. Ekwensi, Cyprian. 1996. An African Night’s Entertainment. London: John Murray Publishing. Emeagwali, Philip. 2017. “Talking with Ben Okri.” July 19, 1992. Accessed October 5, 2017. Eshun, Kodwo. 2003. “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism.” CR: Te New Centennial Review 3(2): 287–302.

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Fagunwa, Daniel O. 2013. Forest of a Tousand Daemons, A Hunters Saga. Translated by Wole Soyinka. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books. Fincham, Gail. 2012. Dance of Life: Te Novels of Zakes Mda in Post-apartheid South Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press, https​://ww​w.ohi​oswal​low.c​om/ex​tras/​97808​21419​939_ i​ntro.​pdf. Gayland, Gerald. 2005. After Colonialism. African Postmodernism and Magical Realism. Johannesburg, South Africa: Wits University Press. Goshal, Somak. 2017. “Te African Writer and the Burden of History.” Te Telegraph. August 10, 2007. Accessed March 11, 2017. Kalisa, Marie-Chantal. 1997. “Review of Calyxthe Beyala’s Te Sun Hath Looked Upon Me.” H-AfrLitCine, July. Kirkus Reviews. 1990. “Woman of the Aeroplanes.” May 23. https​://ww​w.kir​kusre​views​.com/​ book-​revie​ws/ko​jo-la​ing/w​oman-​of-th​e-aer​oplan​es/. Kwakye, Benjamin. 2011. Legacy of Phantoms. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. ———. 1998. Te Clothes of Nakedness. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. Laing, Kojo. 1990. Woman of the Aeroplanes. New York: William Morrow & Co. Niven, Alastair. 2017. “Elechi Amadi Obituary.” Te Guardian, August 22, 2016. Accessed October 7, 2017. Obiechina, Emmanuel. 1975. Culture, Tradition and Society in the West African Novel. London: Cambridge University Press. Okoro, Dike. 2015. Letters to Aisha and Other Stories. Milwaukee, WI: Cissus World Press. Okri, Ben. 2010. Stars of the New Curfew. New York: Vintage Books. ———. 1991. Te Famished Road. New York: Anchor Books. Petry, Alice Hall. 2007. “Alice Walker: Te Achievement of Short Fiction.” In Bloom’s Modern Critical Views. Edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 34. Publishers Weekly. 2019. “Te Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar.” Accessed June 9, 2019. https​://ww​w.pub​lishe​rswee​kly.c​om/97​8-0-4​35-90​572-9​. Quayson, Ato. 1997. Strategic Transformations in Nigerian Writing. Oxford: James Currey/ IUP. Sunstrum, Pamela Phatsimo. 2013. “Afro-mythology and African Futurism: Te Politics of Imagining And Methodologies for Contemporary Creative Research Practices.” Paradoxa Journal, ‘Africa SF’, ed. Michael Bould 25: 199–36. Te Modern Novel.org. 2019. “Syl Cheney-Coker.” Accessed June 11, 2019. https​://ww​w.the​ moder​nnove​l.org​/afri​ca/ot​her-a​frica​/sier​ra-le​one/c​heney​-coke​r/. Trasher, Steven W. 2017. “Afrofuturism: Reimagining Science and the Future from a Black Perspective.” Te Guardian, December 7, 2017. Accessed October 7, 2017. Walker, Alice. 2013. Te Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to being in Harm’s Way. New York: Te New Press.

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8 B[l]ack to the Future Futurism and Blackness in Zone One

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Souleymane Ba

Te title of this chapter signifes on two references: frst, the interview in which the moniker “Afrofuturism” appeared for the frst time was titled “Black to the Future” by Mark Dery (1994); second, the oxymoronic expression “back to the future” connotes narration through a simulation of a futurist story. While pretending to represent a speculative fction of what the future world might look like, the narrative revisits the history of African Americans. Te two phrases “black to the future” and “back to the future” underscore “how and why blackness matters to science fction” (Lavender III 2017, 167). Lavender reviews André M. Carrington’s Speculative Blackness: Te Future of Race in Science Fiction (2017) in which the author claims that racism is deeply rooted in the cultural production of science fction because of the underrepresentation of minority voices and experiences. One has to understand that, in the context of science fction aesthetics, the idea of “voice and experience” does not ask for a return to the realist approach. In fact, in “Simulacrum and Science Fiction” (1981) Jean Baudrillard describes how in Simulacra by Philip K. Dick, “gigantic hologram in three dimensions, in which fction will never again be a mirror held toward the future, but [it has become] a desperate rehallucination of the past” (120). Tis statement echoes the claim a French novelist made during the nineteenth-century Restoration era. Henri Beyle, known under his pen name Stendhal, announces his aesthetic intent: “A novel is a mirror carried along a high road” (Rafel 2002, 134). Undeniably, Baudrillard’s concern with science fction as a genre extrapolates, transfgures and misrepresents reality—contrary to the mirror-like refection the realist approach that Stendhal has adopted. Te relation between imagination and reality, simulation and reality, or “real” life and fantasy is at stake when one reads science fction. Stories that narrate the apocalypse propose an imaginary end of the world and envision a rebirth/reconstruction of human civilization according to a new order. 107

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With regard to the particular interest some African American artists have nourished by imagining potential futures in which racial identities may or may not play a major role, Mark Dery (1994) has coined the moniker Afrofuturism to best describe the aesthetic originality of their artistic creations. Indeed, Dery fnds its representation in the works by black artists such as Sun Ra, the jazz avant-gardist and Samuel R. Delany, the African American science fction writer. Afrofuturism is a “speculative fction that treats African-American concerns in the context of twentieth-century technoculture—and more generally, African-American signifcation that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future—might, for want of a better term, be called ‘Afrofuturism’” (180). According to Dery, Afrofuturism appeared in various genres performed by famous African American artists. In addition to the music of Sun Ra and the fction of Delany, in painting, Jean-Michel Basquiat caught Dery’s attention; in movies, he mentioned John Sayles’s work; and fnally in black drawn comics, the company Milestone Media released four issues—Hardware, Blood Syndicate, Static, and Icon—in which Dery picked out multicultural superheroes (181). I would add to this list the music by George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic (1973), Afrika Bambaataa, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae. Born in Botswana and currently living in South Africa, the afrofuturist artist Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum (2013) argues that the aesthetic of Afrofuturism is not tethered to a specifc discipline, medium, country or continent. In Africa and in the diaspora, Sunstrum references to Kiluanji Kia Henda’s photo-based project, Icarus 13 (2006–2008) which “collapses myth into sf while simultaneously igniting African postcolonial imaginings” (118) before discussing the interesting project developed in Mali by artist and flmmaker Neil Beloufa who has produced Kempinski (2007) which shows interviews in which he asks interviewees “to speak about the future using only the present tense. Filming entirely at night, and using ordinary but strategically placed fuorescent light strips” (120). Imagining the future in the present tense enables hypothetically a motionless time travel, in addition to constructing a science fction atmosphere. In Senegal, another francophone African country, Selly Raby Kane opens up a new avenue for the expression of an afrofuturist creativity to fourish in the country. I can relate the futurist flm directed by Beloufa to the grotesque, surreal and alienation impression that emerge from Kane’s collection “Alien Cartoon” (2014) where Dakar is invaded by aliens, demonstrating Madagascan baobab trees with hip hop artist Jay-Z’s head hanging as fruits. Tus, both artistic works combine themes of race, temporality, and identity to create what Sunstrum calls “mythologies of the future” (Onabanjo 2015). Tese mythologies concern mainly Africans on the motherland continent or in the diaspora. Terefore, because of all these instances of Afrofuturist work exhibited on the African mainland and realized by African artists, I take up Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones’s argument when they critique Tegan Bristow who “asserted that ‘Afrofuturism has nothing to do with Africa, and everything to do with cyber-culture in the West’” (2016, ix). Broadly speaking, Afrofuturist aesthetics, as shown in Beloufa’s and Kane’s works, foreground and explore the theme of identity with regard to the concepts of race and politics.

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AFROFUTURISM AND THE POSTHUMANIST PROJECT At bottom, Afrofuturism raises the problematic of race and temporality: how is blackness defned and understood in the past, present, and future? Or, better, as Dery asks: “Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures?” (180). Such a question is at best rhetorical. In the term “Afrofuturism” there is a prefx “afro,” which means anything or anybody related to Africa, and the stem “futurism” explores events and trends of the future or anticipates the future. In addition to this dictionary-like defnition, in 1909, the Italian artist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti theorized “Futurism” in a manifesto for a new kind of art. Tis new form celebrated advanced technology and urban modernity to the extent that it despised the older motifs. In 1911, André Tridon, who was then called the “archpriest of Futurism in America,” defned the new aesthetic: “‘Futurism believes in making the present an attribute of the future rather than of the past’” (Hand 1981, 337). With regard to this interpretation of the term I do not understand what Dery could deem more difcult for African Americans to achieve. In the same vein, in the article “Afrofuturism on Web 3.0: Vernacular Cartography and Augmented Space,” Nettrice R. Gaskins argues that: “Afrofuturism is not a black version of the early twentieth century Italian futurism since it is not solely concerned with the future. Instead, Afrofuturism navigates past, present, and future simultaneously. Afrofuturism is counter-hegemonic and not concerned with representing the mainstream or the canon of Western art” (see Anderson and Jones 2016, 30). In its broad sense, Afrofuturism questions history, dramatizes racial issues, and counterattacks racialized discourses that marginalize people of African descent. Furthermore, Afrofuturist aesthetics symbolize hope and optimism. Te Africans who were enslaved in America and ripped of their past did not only grieve for their lost traditions but they also dreamed of a better future. Tey kept optimism alive. And when their grandchildren became citizens, fully integrated or yet to be, they could engage with “advanced technology” and “imagine possible futures.” At any rate, particularly in African American literature, a positive answer to Dery’s question could be found in Colson Whitehead’s Te Intuitionist (1999) and Zone One (2011). Tese two books are respectively the author’s frst and ffth novels. Whitehead (1969–) belongs to a category of novelists whom I call “genre writers”: from Te Intuitionist, which revisits the crime fction genre, to Zone One, that is a postapocalyptic science fction novel, each book is written in a diferent genre. Whitehead does not defne himself as an afrofuturist or a science fction writer, but his fction engages with the complex relation between blackness, technoculture, and the future. In the former, the plot revolves around the detective work of the protagonist, Lila Mae Watson, who looks for the missing text that will enable the future elevator: “the next elevator, it is believed, will grant us the sky, unreckoned towers: the second elevation. Of course they are working on the black box; it’s the future” (Whitehead 1999, 61).1 As the reader may perceive it, this extract like many other instances in the novel, combines, confates or confuses a discourse on elevators

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and on race. In other words, the expression “second elevation” may implicitly refer to the doctrine of racial uplift as it explicitly talks about progress in the lift business. Keeping up with the mixing up of futuristic themes and the representation of racial progress, in Zone One, Whitehead works out a speculative fction that represents a postapocalyptic American society in which racism has temporarily disappeared: “Every race, color, and creed was represented in this congregation that funneled down the avenue. Te city did not care for your story, the particular narrative of your reinvention; it took them all in” (2011, 243). Tis tentative representation of a postracial American society signifes on the hot debate that has gained momentum since the frst national election of an African American as president of the United States. Ten the futurity of the elevator and the fantasy of an apocalypse, even though ironic, are two prominent features of Afrofuturism. Te intersections linking science (technology), futurism, and race signal a rich playground for exploring the aesthetics of Afrofuturism. In Zone One, the advent of the plague corresponds to a zombie invasion. Te plague has caused an infection that kills and enables a transformation of the body of the dead into either “skels” or “stragglers.” Tis distinction marks the change Whitehead has made in the characterization of the Hollywood zombie. George Romero’s Te Night of the Living Dead (1968), a classic zombie horror flm, has infuenced the writing of Zone One. In “Night of the Living Wonk” (2010), Daniel W. Dregner determines the diference between Hollywood flms and the traditional West African zombie-like fgures:

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For our purposes, a zombie is defned as a reanimated being occupying a human corpse, with a strong desire to eat human fesh—the kind of ghoul that frst appeared in George Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead, and which has been rapidly proliferating in popular culture in recent years (far upstaging its more passive cousins, the reanimated corpses of traditional West African and Haitian voodoo rituals. (34)

Tere is a particular ethnic group in Senegal named Peuhl Firdu, when they travel and one of them dies, they practice a ritual that enables the corpse to perform certain functions such as sitting or lying down until the group returns to the homeland where the body can be buried. By and large, the representation of the zombie invokes an antiromantic vision of the human. As a philosophical speculation on what is the quintessence of a human being, it ushers in a philosophical redefnition of what it means to be human. Te body has registered a series of information to live up to certain duration, independently, without the usual orders sent by reason. In Zone One, we identify “standard-issue skels” and “stragglers” (48). Te diference is detailed: skels are fast-running zombies; they hunt and attack survivors whom they eat as their food. Tey are predators: they are difcult to kill but the marines have eliminated so many of them. Ten sweepers, civilians who are engaged in fghting skels, are exterminating the rest to avoid they pass on the plague (ibid.). Te name “skels” could be an abbreviation of “skeleton,” referring to the thin famished bodies of the zombies or it could signify on the fact that a zombie is a human reduced to its minimum form of its being. In other words, the plague has caused a form of degeneration and degradation that the term “human” does not qualify to name

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the dead who will ultimately become skels or stragglers. According to the Urban Dictionary, “skel” comes from the Dutch word “skelder” that means “to trick,” “to swindle,” or “to cheat.” In New York City’s slang, the term refers to a homeless, a parasite, and a hustler. Tese latter characteristics suit very well the description of “skels” in Zone One. On the other hand, if the dead become “stragglers,” they are slow-moving zombies that haunt a place they used to like a lot—it can be a supermarket, a workplace or a McDonald restaurant where they died. Tey wait in ambush for the survivors who will fall into their trap. Ultimately, when the dead become stragglers or skels, they sufer living in the prison of a degenerate body until what I may call a “second death” comes to liberate them (33). Tis representation of stragglers entrapped in their own bodies and incapable of escape symbolizes the absence of will or liberty in the existence of zombies. Te narrative underlines thus a clear distinction between the body and the brain/mind: the soul is supposed to fy freely, whereas the body is meant to be a prison. In contrast to skels, before diving into that dichotomy mind versus body, let’s now take a look at the way the narrative describes stragglers. Tey could stay eternally on one spot for a very long time motionless and idle: while skels are fast hunters, stragglers are slow and easy targets for civilians (48). Te text calls them “an army of mannequins, limbs adjusted by an inscrutable hand” (49). Te metaphor of “mannequins,” motionless, reinforces the moment of inertia some survivors have fallen into. To make the stragglers more active, in the aftermath of the apocalypse, the military government installed in Bufalo has organized the reconstruction eforts by carefully attributing roles to individuals and groups of survivors. As indicated earlier in the quotation, the marines track down the skels and civilian units hunt down the stragglers. Following the marines’ mission, and applying quite strictly the government orders, civilians referred to as “sweepers” are assigned in three-member groups to patrol portions of New York to make the city inhabitable again. Te protagonists (Mark Spitz, Gary, and Kaitlyn) form the unit called Omega (8). Tis name, “Omega Unit,” the last letter of the Greek alphabet might be chosen because its members are one of the groups that have fought to the very end. To give a glimpse of their mission, inside the building 135 Duane Street, accessing the door to Human Resources service, Mark Spitz is ambushed by stragglers: “He was the frst live human being the dead had seen since the start, and the former ladies of HR were starving” (14). Te irony of the situation is the department where the protagonist is at represents the old ofce of the Human Resources, which means that instead of using the resources people have to contribute to the well-being of society, this place is locked and not accessed since the plague. Tere are no resources to acquire or process in there. Omega Unit has to sweep the room of its zombie squatters. Heedless, Mark Spitz is trapped; a zombie, called Marge because of her hairdo worn by Margaret Halstead who made it fashionable before the apocalypse, threatens his life. In this scene, the text shows a fght between Mark Spitz and the straggler referred to as Marge in order to reveal, basically, the technical diference between a skel and a straggler (15). Mark Spitz remains safe despite the attack of a straggler, but if it were an attack of a skel, it would have been more risky for him. By and large, the

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representation of the zombie in Zone One reveals a lack of consciousness, an animalistic pursuit of its basic needs; it is a creature whose essential characteristics are in stark opposition to what defnes humans. Teir exact status “living dead” expresses an oxymoron that blurs the line between life and death: the zombie is neither dead nor alive; it is conscious of the presence of fresh meat, but it has no conscience. Classical defnitions of humanism reveal that reason takes priority over any other matter. Aristotle (384–322 BC) and Plotinus (c. 205–270) argue that the human being is a rational animal. In “Te humanists and ancient philosophy” (2000) Susan Khin Zaw and Lucille Kekewich note that “for Aristotle the essential human attribute is reason, since it is reason that distinguishes people from animals, and what makes a life is action” (152). Following this defnition, the body matters less than reason when one needs to point up the distinguishing quality of humans. Founder and leading exponent of Neoplatonism, Plotinus grounds his defnition in the transcendence of the material world, for the soul rises above the cage that represents the body. In other words, humans are the result of their mental activity and not of any sort of essence. Man is thus a rational life. But Plotinus asks a key question: if humanness belongs solely to one’s “rational life,” why isn’t the soul human anymore when it lives in another being? (Derrida 2010, 67). While asking this question Plotinus did not have in mind the fgurative zombie mutation, but in Zone One, the narrative describes the impact of plague on former human bodies. Survivors have diferent opinions on the status of creations they have to exterminate: “If the beings they destroyed were their own creations, and not the degraded remnants of the people described on the things driver’s licenses, so be it. We never see other people anyway, only the monsters we make of them” (214). Zombies may lack consciousness or possess only a degraded form of reason, but they still own a degenerate soul that inspires life to the human body in which it is entrapped. Despite their degeneration, the narrator refers to zombies as human beings. In the course of action, Omega Unit has fred until all that needed to be killed had been killed. But the narrator draws our attention to the fact the (former) identity of the targets: “Tey were human beings, after all, and full of things that needed to be put down” (215). Zombies are, at the most basic level, not monsters like aliens coming from outer space; rather they are considered here as invaders to terminate because they exhibit only the worst characteristics of humans. Te narrative exploits this negative feature to its utmost potential in order to extend the classical defnitions of what it means to be human. According to N. Katherine Hayles (2010), Te posthuman does not really mean the end of humanity. It signals instead the end of a certain conception of the human, a conception that may have applied, at best, to that fraction of humanity who had the wealth, power, and leisure to conceptualize themselves as autonomous beings exercising their will through individual agency and choice. (22)

Hayles’s statement—especially her defnition of the posthumanist critique of an old conception of the human—resonates with the Afrofuturist perspective, and so forth, the posthumanist stance I point out in the aesthetic representation of a

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postapocalyptic world in Zone One. In the frst wave of the plague, people who were infected were indeed the ones who best adapted to the dominant society before the apocalypse: “Te dead had graduated with admirable GPAs. . . . In short, they had been honed and trained so thoroughly by that extinguished world that they were doomed in this new one” (25). An overpreparation of an orderly world has made the dead unprepared for the chaotic world of the apocalypse. Terefore, it is through a process of dehumanization that survivors rationalize their extermination of zombies. Te most qualifed survivors in the government organized-war eforts against the zombie invasion are the ones who are deemed mediocre if old social standards are applied. All Omega Unit members, except Kaitlyn, demonstrate a marvelous adaptation to the mediocrity of the postapocalyptic world they live in. Kaitlyn’s exceptionality has to be sided with the change of moral standards that propels Gina Spens, an old pornographic actress as a cheerleader of the resistance movement. In the reconstruction phase, a world summit is organized to mobilize resources and expertise on how to rebuild human civilization. “Gina Spens was Italy’s emissary to the summit. Before the catastrophe, she had been a pornographic-flm star of nimble and well-documented prowess, a Top 25 search string on adult sites across three hemispheres. She had her own fans” (42). In the temporary society of the postapocalypse, there is a switch in morality: Spens has become a national emissary, a leader, and a hero. “Society manufactures the heroes it requires” (ibid.). According to the text, “Gina was that new species of celebrity emerging from the calamity, elevated by the altered defnitions of valor and ingenuity” (42–43). Spens symbolizes the change of times, and she is the exact opposite of Kaitlyn. On the one hand, Gina Spens’s past profession was kept silent to the general public, considered obscene by many, and known only to adults. But after the reverse caused by the new mindset, her reinvention interests many followers: “Her comeback as it were, for she had retired from the business, was occasioned by the End of the World As We Know It, that epic saga to which all were audience and supporting cast” (42). On a broader scale, Gina becoming national hero in Italy, “her feats trickled out with the reestablishment of communications with the European powers, and for her exertions she had become a player in her homeland’s provisional government. Provisional governments were really big these days, an international fad in the grand old style” (ibid.). Tis passage is written tongue-in-cheek. Spens’s popularity, which coincides with the reestablishment of communications between the United States and European powers, is not serendipitous. It connotes an ironic situation: a political notion such as democracy is losing meaning when the people do not elect the government, however temporary or “provisional.” Expressions like “grand old style,” “really big,” “international fad,” and “European powers” contrast with the relatively modest contribution Gina Spens makes for reconstruction; in the same way that her commonplace reformation (or “comeback”) is not consistent with the capital letters of the “End of the World” that has occasioned it. On the other hand, “Secretary of the Student Council” (44), daughter of an upper-middle-class family, and a former Model United Nations (47), Kaitlyn embodies all the success the former world had to ofer. To some extent, even though

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she did not perish at the outbreak of the plague in the same way that “many of the high-functioning members of society had been killed of” (72), she has surprisingly survived the zombie invasion to a degree that she is in charge of Omega Unit. Nevertheless, when compared to Gina Spens’s charisma, Kaitlyn’s successful adjustment to the new world looks poor. Reactions to the efect Spens has are very positive. For making some spectacular killings; Gina Spens has become an international celebrity respected worldwide (43). In the contrary, other survivors do not easily identify with Kaitlyn when they meet her: “No one at Fort Wonton, man or woman, failed to experience an episode of cognitive dissonance on meeting Kaitlyn, being subjected to her buoyant giggle” (47). Te sense of uneasiness other characters may demonstrate when meeting Kaitlyn reinforces the diegetic opposition between her and Gina Spens. While the former represents an anti-hero, the latter embodies the hero of the postapocalypse. In the context of the postapocalypse, heroism incorporates a contradictory dimension in the sense that heroes do not rise above the mediocrity that surrounds them; rather, they are favored by that mediocrity. Te postapocalyptic hero never escapes from the mediocre environment that shapes his/her traits. Te experience of Kaitlyn’s colleagues, Mark Spitz and Gary, demonstrate how the mediocrity of these characters goes hand in hand with the posthumanist critique. Posthumanism emerges from philosophical works and cultural representations that reconsider the classical defnitions of what is human. Postmodern philosophers like Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, to name but two French thinkers, engage deeply with ideas of humanism developed by their seventeenth-century countryman René Descartes (1596–1650). Descartes has made his famous claim, “I think, therefore I am,”2 to place reason or conscious experience and existence as a necessary condition for human life. Responding to a stimulus or by experience may testify a control of bodily functions but does not amount to revealing a conscious existence. Te narrative postulates that the survival of Gary and Mark Spitz depends strictly on their bodily responses to the situation of the postapocalypse. Reason has nothing to do with it. Gary, for instance, considers zombies as his enemies he will be revenged on. To a few exceptions, all the smart people who succeeded in the old social standards that he failed in died of the plague. In Zone One, the portrayal of Gary presents a mediocre character. Before the plague, Gary dropped out of school to work in his father’s garage with his brothers (23); he has got a “crazy grin” (12). However, after the apocalypse, there is an indolent change of character. “Ten came Last Night, transforming them all. Gary’s case, latent talents announced themselves. He prided himself on how efortlessly he had grasped and mastered the new rules, as if he had waited for the introduction of hell his whole life” (25–26). In this context, the adjective “efortless” refers to something “requiring no physical or mental exertion” (New Oxford American Dictionary). Indeed, Mark Spitz perceives a physiognomic similarity between Gary and the zombies he exterminates: “Each morning when they woke, Mark Spitz marveled anew at how his comrade was scarcely in better shape than the creatures they were sent to eradicate. (Discounting the ones missing body parts, of course)” (22). Gary’s physical appearance lacks hygiene, and as goes the old saying,

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“cleanliness comes next to godliness.” If the Christian faith has it right, mankind is created in the image of God; sanitation reveals in a sense the degree of humanity of a person. In Mark Spitz’s opinion, Gary stands out for his sickly and unhygienic demeanor. One day, Gary showed Mark Spitz a picture of him when he was six years old. Mark Spitz has noticed that his colleague has remained as dirty now as years ago. Gary looked so dirty on the picture that Gary Spitz imagined he was a dead rising from his cofn (22). Te comparison sounds exaggerated and inappropriate in the sense that usually the dead are bathed and perfumed before being buried. If the corpse remained intact so must be the clothed and the appearance. Anyway, the bottom line is Gary was dirty before the plague by negligence and is dirtier now because of the circumstances. In other words, like a zombie, Gary is inhuman in his appearance. Reason dictates a cluster of values and principles that constitute the foundation of human civilization. Cleanliness and hygiene being one of those values, healthy, sensible, and reasonable people do their best to neutralize bad smell3 and sanitize the area they live in. Zombies show no interest in what condition they undergo or what place they loom out of. Philosophers have been occupied for so long with the dichotomy culture vs. nature because civilization in terms of progress, testifes how far humans have walked away from nature (see Tomas Hobbes, Leviathan [1651]; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Te Social Contract [1762]). History narrates then a linear progress: from living on hunting, fshing, and fruit picking to eating mainly frozen food bought in supermarkets. Culture is a biological adaptation to nature. Human species have elevated itself above and beyond other species through culture. Technology, for instance, materializes the disconnection between humans and the physical world to enter a virtual one. Te incipit of the novel foregrounds and yet ironizes the futurity of the digital innovations in the preapocalyptic society that the protagonist was aware about, opposed to archaic devices of his parents. When the family visits Manhattan, New York: “His parents were holdouts in an age of digital multiplicity, ranking the soil in lonesome areas of resistance: a cofee machine that didn’t tell time, dictionaries made out of paper, a camera that only took pictures” (3–4). Te passage contrasts the new technology available and his family’s electronic devices not designed for multitasking. It is ironic that the family takes the usual picture at the entrance of a museum, an architectural invention to save archives that tell the cultural history of a people. Following a binary way of thinking, the protagonist’s parents were still living in the “state of nature,” whereas the generation of their son was living in a progressive “state of culture.” Te state of nature (Hobbes and Rousseau) refers to a previous condition mankind used to live in, while the state of culture tells the history of its elevation toward a relatively better station. Te repetition of the pose the family adopts signifes an inalterable posture that recalls a calcifed habit, a composition quite natural to assume. Habitude becomes second nature (Montaigne). To go further, in Zone One, the theme of hygiene, related to the idea of posthumanism, resonates with the work of sweepers who opt for defenestration to make their work easier and faster. “For the frst few weeks they tossed the bodies out the windows. It was efcient. Tey lugged the bodies to the sill and heaved them out”

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(60). Survivors are partially losing their humanity for a series of explanations. Since the beginning of humanity, the dead are buried, mummifed, or cremated, anything but to throw disrespectfully away corpses on the street without the proper care due to a human body.4 In the logic of reconstruction, “sweepers” terminate and put zombies in bags. Ten “Disposal” carry the bags to the incinerators. So, the name “Disposal” implies an action of getting rid of the corpse, in contrast to a proper burial of the dead. Since their task indicates that they throw away bodies into incinerators, they complain to the authorities when sweepers and wreckers choose defenestration, arguing that it was “disrespectful” to the human bodies and “unhygienic” (60). Te complaint pulls on all the heartstrings of the American mentality: procedural law (“unduly”), the phobia of germs (“unhygienic”), and fnally the fber of nationalism (“unpatriotic”). It is ironic that the last argument appeals to patriotism, because in this context, national borders can never resist the total disappearance of the world in ruins.5 Law, hygiene, and patriotism—the opposites of “unduly,” “unhygienic,” and “unpatriotic”—characterize what a nation must be built on: the law guaranties the rights of each citizen, it regulates on what term people must interact with one another; and hygiene is a preventive measure to fght diseases; a zombie does not groom itself.

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TEMPORALITY, POSTHUMANISM, AND POSTRACISM Te protagonist’s opinion on the validity of the claim made by Disposal emphasizes the transformation of the human body. Te gradual degradation starts with becoming a zombie—a condition that means a lack of consciousness and a diminution of mobility of stragglers. Such a transformation inscribes the narrative in the posthumanist critique of humanism because it reveals a comparison between humans and nonhumans, monsters. After highlighting how the narrative attacks the defnition of what it means to be human by exploring body mutations, now I shall analyze how the consequences of a zombie invasion provokes a madness that questions a defnition of humanism based solely on reason. Overall, there are two recurrent metaphors in Zone One: the metaphor of the soup and the metaphor of dust or ash. And both metaphors are related to the impact of the apocalypse on survivors; namely the end of the world has caused a Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder (PASD). Civilians, Bufalo authorities, sweepers, wreckers, and ­Disposal are all infected, in a way or another, by the trauma of a zombie invasion and the prospective disappearance of human civilization, with its best and worst accomplishments. Very late in the reconstruction eforts, Bufalo has installed incinerators the Coakley, named after its inventor (186). “It burned things. Here, it burnt the bodies of the dead with uncanny efciency, swallowing what the soldiers fed into it and converting it to smoke, fy ash, and a shovel of hard material too stubborn to be entirely consumed. Hearts, mostly” (187). In one word: the machine is the most efcient and the best technology that has survived the apocalypse. Te cleaning service called “Disposal” uses technology to reduce the bodies of the dead to ashes. But the stubbornness of the “heart,” reinforced by its homophone “hard,” underlines

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the usual contrast philosophers make between heart (emotions/feelings) and reason. Te heart constitutes the hardest organ to burn because it represents, according to the text, the most important body part for human beings. Coakley symbolizes also an environmental awareness for the simple reason that it extinguishes the use of fuel to make a bonfre. However, the handling of the ash that results from body cremation causes a phobia to the protagonist Mark Spitz, who has never seen “Disposal without their biohazard suits on” (187). Te biohazard Disposal wear corresponds to a coverall, a full-length zipped protective suit that does not even reveal their identity, for fear of infection. Even though Disposal are well equipped to prevent illness in the process of cremation, the ultimate consequence of burning human bodies to ashes is an outbreak of a phobia leading to madness. In Madness and Civilization (1988), Michel Foucault critiques classical defnitions of humanism that confned eccentric personalities to asylums. Foucault opens his work with a quotation from Blaise Pascal “Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness,” and another from Dostoevsky, “it is not by confning one’s neighbor that one is convinced of one’s own sanity” (ix). Opposed to the way Pascal envisions madness, Foucault engages in a critical revision, which is closer to Dostoevsky’s conceptions of the question without completely sharing his view:

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We have yet to write the history of that other form of madness, by which men, in an act of sovereign reason, confne their neighbors, and communicate and recognize each other through the merciless language of non-madness; to defne the moment of this conspiracy before it was permanently established in the realm of truth, before it was revived by the lyricism of protest. (ibid.)

Foucault looks for the precise moment when reason was not privileged over madness as a form of insanity that does not ft with the rational thinking humans set to be the norm to always follow. Zone One seems to give voice to the language of madness with the twist of letting it be the norm. Broadly speaking, in Zone One, all survivors are afected in a way or another by the trauma of the apocalypse. According to the defnition the American Psychology Association provided on their website, “trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical.” Its “longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, fashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difculty moving on with their lives.” Te narrative presents many scenes in which characters sufer severely from a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that impairs their human faculty. Mark Spitz in particular displays symptoms of sufering from PASD due to his phobia of ashes. In fact, Kaitlyn assigns Gary to ID collection when the Omega Unit sweeps a building because she knows that for Mark Spitz, “touching these artifacts nauseated him now, in the latest manifestation of his PASD” (51). Bufalo has distributed leafets to inform survivors about measures to follow in order to cope with the symptoms of PASD in the same way that it has sent them

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dietetic recommendations. Te list of symptoms is so long and contradictory that it sounds illegible. To name but a few, according to specialists, symptoms included “feelings of sadness or unhappiness” and “Nightmares, goes without saying” (54–55). In the text, the long list imitates and ridicules the side efects that pharmaceutical companies warn the consumer about before they use certain drugs. Tese enlisted side efects are sometimes so dangerous that one may ask if it is healthy to cure a disease by risking a more serious one. Likewise, the PASD may cause a gain of weight but it may cause as well its loss. Patients sufering from PASD are sometimes “‘jumpy’” or maybe they lose “energy.” It may lead to insomnia or excessive sleeping, or both? Tat is a bit confusing, isn’t it? Te horror of the zombie invasion has installed a disruption in the personal and social life of the survivors. It has triggered a complex relation between time (past, present, and future), memory, and identity. After roaming over the “wasteland” (infected by zombie presence), survivors arrive at Zone One, the safest place where they can rest and be human again. Once there, the protagonist witnesses a teenager undergoing a physical and psychological pain for having walked outside of the safe zone, Mark Spitz was halfway to the reconstruction center when he discovered one of the communication operators, Hank, a teenager soldier (55). Mark Spitz asks the communication operator, Hank, what is the matter, what happened and the latter responded “he get bit’” (Ibid.), and the latter informs him that “‘no, it’s his PASD’” (ibid.). It sounds like past to the protagonist, “‘his past?’” His interlocutor has to dissipate the confusion, “‘his P-A-S-D, man his P-A-S-D. Give me a Hand’” (55). Te narrator emphasizes Mark Spitz’s use of slang (“he get bit” instead of standard English [“was he bitten?”]) in order to draw the reader’s attention on the homophony between PASD and past; both letters “t” and “d” being dental consonants. Another symptom of overwhelming trauma is the unprecedented cases of suicide. In the fght against the threatening proliferation of zombies, survivors feel so hopeless they choose suicide. Te government worries about the high rate of suicide because it signifes a renouncement to the cause of bringing back human civilization (201). Te Lieutenant of Zone One has surprisingly committed suicide by swallowing a grenade that exploded (202). Despite the tranquility other characters have observed in the Lieutenant’s behavior before his suicide, his surrender connotes degeneracy, a rampant normalization of despair and insanity. In terms of language, the text uses an irrational, meaningless discourse. Tat is to say, survivors do no longer consider insanity or madness as an illness. Mark Spitz relates his adventure with Richie and his former colleagues: one day, they have stopped in front of an enigmatic sign, which says: “To Anyone Who Can Read Tis: Stay Away. Please Help. Remember Me” (233). Is the character that has written this message asking for help or is he warning not to fall into the same trap? Is the character seeking to be remembered after his death? Gary explains that this strange action is a symptom of the PASD, to him. In Rainbow Village there is one guy who wrote Bible verses in his own defecation (ibid.). Mark Spitz responds to this irrational action by making a general statement that all survivors are afected in a way or another (30). Almost all of them are on the verge of losing their mental health. Madness and reason, sanity

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and insanity are two opposites that used to be checked if one wanted to stay safe and accepted in the public arena of reasonable behavior. But in the postapocalyptic society of Zone One, insanity, irrationality, and madness have become the major elements that determine the survivors’ actions. A change of circumstances accounts for this posthumanist reversal—a radical change in the perception of ir/rationality—that ushers in a new defnition of what is normal and reasonably acceptable in human behavior. While expecting a return to normalcy, as the standard in the old days, there is in the narrative a repetitive reference to the word “soup”—a metaphor to signify on the old comparison between humans and monsters. Even though the monster is only an imaginary fgure that does not really exist, it bears comparison with human beings when it comes to describing horrible actions people are capable of. On the other hand, the ironic comparison between humans and soup intrigues the reader. In the aftermath of the apocalypse, Bufalo wanted to conduct scientifc research to reverse the body infection that led to the zombie condition. Indeed, the metaphor of the soup tastes bad when the protagonist arrives at Zone One and fnds chicken soup a little bitter to swallow after roaming so long in territories invaded by zombies. For his frst lunch in Zone One, Mark Spitz eats reluctantly chicken soup even though it is food for sick people (90). He does not enjoy this welcome meal because it reminds him of Munich, where the scientists had transformed into soup remnants of the infected bodies while working on a vaccine to fght the plague (230–31). Te passage reveals that it has become popular to consider that human bodies are transformed into soup; more precisely, people are like the protagonist notes, physical transformations and mental illness make survivor feel or look less human and more like monsters (231). Tis preposterous comparison between humans and soup (coming from human body mutations) constitutes a hyperbolic extrapolation to propose new defnitions of humanism. Te same old cliché that assimilates a bloodthirsty murderer to a monster and which makes a people call a stranger a barbarian questions the humanity of people of African descent. Kodwo Eshun (2003) argues that Afrofuturism, as an aesthetic approach, “uses extraterrestriality as a hyperbolic trope to explore the historical terms, the everyday implications of forcibly imposed dislocation, and the constitution of Black Atlantic subjectivities: from slave to negro to coloured to evolué to black to African to African American” (298–99). What Eshun describes in this passage resonates with the fction of Whitehead. In Apex Hides the Hurt (2006) Whitehead explores the importance of naming in the African American culture.6 Zone One represents the image of zombies as a hyperbolic trope to imagine what could be the main consequences for African Americans if they survived an apocalypse. Naming is also a major theme in the novel in the sense that the protagonist’s name, Mark Spitz, is ironically a nickname. Like in Apex Hides the Hurt, Zone One presents a protagonist who is an unnamed African American. In the latter there is yet a nickname that comes from a white champion of swimming. Te irony of the name lies in the fact that Mark Spitz (1950–) won seven gold medals in 1972 Olympic Games at Munich, whereas the protagonist has earned his nickname for not being a strong swimmer. When Gary asks the protagonist where his nickname comes from and why did they call him Mark Spitz (135), he starts answering by

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explaining the context: he had been in a refuge called Happy Acres a few months ago where he signed up as a volunteer willing to help and since he was malfunctioning, having “weird dreams,” his colleagues started making fun of him (ibid.). At that time, the protagonist did not know that he was sufering from his PASD, what he called “weird dreams” meant “hallucinations” and “nightmares.” He is rescued by the army and placed at “Happy Acres” that denotes a wishful thinking when naming a camp that represents the hope to reconstruct human civilization. Ten the narrator summarizes the story Mark Spitz tells Gary: When the group left Camp Screaming Eagle, Happy Acres was still known as PA-12. Two days after his arrival, everyone started calling him Mark Spitz, reminding the American actor who like the Phoenix never dies (ibid.). Te symbol of the American Phoenix rising from ashes conveys the idea of rebirth, reconstruction (120). However, the adjective “white” draws the reader’s attention on racialism before the apocalypse. As if to be part of the reconstruction efort, the African American protagonist needs to accept a “new name,” “fresh,” and “white.” Further on, we learn that Mark Spitz was on a mission with wreckers, they were attacked by skels. Mark Spitz was on the bridge, Richie shouted to signal the danger. By instinct he should have jumped into the water but he did not (147), for the simple reason, as Mark Spitz jokingly told the wreckers later, he could not swim. Te all laughed at the joke that Mark Spitz could not swim. It then became obvious: his name should be Mark Spitz. Te irony of the name is that the protagonist cannot swim in contrast to the American world champion of swimming. In the same scene, Mark Spitz adds to the anecdote “‘the black-people-can’t swim thing’” (231), which refers to the racial stereotype. Afrofuturist readings propose a fresh reinterpretation of such a stereotype. Kodzo Eshun (2003) argues that in 1997, “Drexciya, the group of enigmatic producers published their CD Te Quest [in which they] proposed a science-fction retelling of the Middle Passage” (300). In that retelling, “Drexciyans” are water-breathing, aquatically mutated descendants of ‘pregnant American-bound African slaves thrown overboard by the thousands during labor for being sick and disruptive cargo” (135). Te aquatic milieu in which the Drexciyans evolve signifes on the stereotype that holds that blacks cannot swim. And by locating them permanently under water as their natural milieu, the authors reverse not only such a stereotype, but as Eshun argues, they engage in “the aesthetic of estrangement” (300). In other words, racism in society estranges African Americans as the water may estrange the Drexciyans. In Zone One, the “black-people-cannot-swim-thing” adds a diferent layer to the stereotype. Mark Spitz’s interlocutor seems unaware of such racial determinism. Gary appears puzzled when Mark Spitz mentions the stereotype, asking his colleague if it was true that he could not swim, members of his community could not swim (231). Mark Spitz informs him that he can swim and it is just a stereotype, but Gary advises him kindly to learn how to swim because his survival might depend on that (ibid.). Te fnal sentences of the novel signify on Gary’s remark with the use of the sea in the proper and fgurative meaning: “Fuck it, [Mark Spitz] thought. You have to learn how to swim sometime. He opened the door and walked into the sea of the dead” (259). Te protagonist is convincing himself that one needs to “take the

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plunge,” as the idiom says. Tis expression applies metaphorically to Mark Spitz: he takes fnally the decision of coming out of his shelter to step on the heap of dead bodies. Yet, on a symbolic level, Mark Spitz seems to think that the stereotype on swimming does not need to be reversed, but it must be considered with more humility: one should overcome one’s own shortcomings; race should not have anything to do with that personal efort. Te relation and conversation between Mark Spitz and Gary reveal how both characters respond to this racial stereotype. Te narrator describes Mark Spitz’s surprise at Gary’s innocence with regard to racial prejudices. Mark Spitz remarks that Gary was not aware of a many racial, gender, and religious stereotypes (231). Because, according to Mark Spitz, Gary is the perfect member of the new society in which postracialism becomes possible, there is no more opposition between people of diferent races (231). Te context changes the logic of the game. Instead of opposing blacks to whites, the text opposes humans to zombies. On the one hand it presents who has survived of the human race and on the other there are modifed humans, zombies. Placing the human body in an environment in which it is opposed to other non/posthuman forms of life corresponds to what Pramod K. Nayar calls critical posthumanism. It treats “the human as co-evolving, sharing ecosystems, life processes genetic material, with animals and other life forms” (8). Nayar’s remark decenters the position humans occupy in the universe and is very humbling for humans to tolerate otherness, not to deem it inferior. However, race becomes a subcategory that has to be dismissed when it comes to fghting for the survival of the human, as it is the case in Zone One. In conclusion, the United States’ political context in which Whitehead produces his fction corresponds to the race and postracialism debate era. Signifcantly, Zone One dramatizes such a debate with a particular focus on the meaning of race in a futuristic setting. Surprisingly, Zone One presents a postapocalyptic society that witnesses the disappearance of racism. Te invasion of zombies brings in a new era for the survivors who have supposedly transcended racial and gender diferences. Kaitlyn, Gary, and Mark Spitz are placed in a dystopian world in which race, class, and gender are deprived of their political meanings. Old communities distinguished by race are disintegrated; there is now only one community, the human community. Te plague does not discriminate therefore the collective response must not discriminate. Yet, the protagonist fears that if “they could bring back paperwork” and “parking tickets,” old bigotries could be reborn as well (231). In other words, race may be as important and determinant after reconstruction is fully accomplished as it used to be and it continues to be in the current American society. Precisely, Paul Gilroy (2000) critiques Emmanuel Kant and David Hume for their racist ideologies, and Derrida and Foucault for not considering race in their posthumanist approach. Ten Gilroy argues that race should not be discarded so quickly because “nobody ever speaks of a human identity” (98). Either thinking from the particular to the general or from the general to the particular, no matter what may be the trend of thought, race and gender are always considered as key categories that cannot be disposed of.

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NOTES 1. In the present chapter, I will not engage in analyzing the Afrofuturist aesthetic in Te Intuitionist because I have proposed such an exercise elsewhere. For the length of this chapter, I have decided to focus solely on the study of Afrofuturism in Zone One. 2. Tis assumption constitutes the departing point of the Cartesian philosophy: “I think, hence I am, was so certain and of such evidence, that no ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the skeptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that I might, without scruple, accept it as the frst principle of the philosophy of which I was in search” (Descartes 27). 3. I have in mind the words of the French essayist Michel de Montaigne (1533–92): “It has been reported of some, as of Alexander the Great, that their sweat exhaled an odoriferous smell, occasioned by some rare and extraordinary constitution, of which Plutarch and others have been inquisitive into the cause. But the ordinary constitution of human bodies is quite otherwise, and their best and chiefest excellency is to be exempt from smell. Nay, the sweetness even of the purest breath has nothing in it of greater perfection than to be without any ofensive smell, like those of healthful children, which made Plautus say of a woman: ‘Mulier tum bene olet, ubi nihil olet.’ [‘She smells sweetest, who smells not at all.’ —Plautus, Mostel, i. 3, 116.]” (in Hazlitt 1877, chap. LV). 4. Te frst murder in the history occurred when Cain killed his brother Abel. Ten a crow showed him how to bury the body (Te Qur’an 5:30–34). 5. Te analogy with the American reality becomes more explicit when latecomers seek refuge: “All over the country survivors formed ill-fated tribes that the dead inevitably tore to shreds. Desperate latecomers asked for asylum from those inside and were turned away at the barrel of a semiauto: Tis is our house” (180). Despite the fantasy of a zombie invasion, what is described in this scene echoes the patriot Americans patrolling the frontier with Mexico, to prevent illegal immigrants entering the United States. Te use of a semiautomatic rife may also refer to the issues of violence and gun control in the ordinary life of Americans. 6. Te anonymous protagonist, African American, works as a nomenclature consultant to rename a small town, Winthrop, originally founded by emancipated slaves.

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REFERENCES “Alien Cartoon Fashion Show & Art Performance By Selly Raby Kane.” 2016. Indiegogo. Accessed January 27, 2016. http:​//www​.indi​egogo​.com/​proje​cts/7​18861​/fblk​. Anderson, Reynaldo, and Charles E. Jones. 2015. Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of Astro-Blackness. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Badmington, Neil. 2003. “Teorizing Posthumanism.” Cultural Critique 53 (2003): 10–27. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1354622. ———. 2004. Alien Chic: Posthumanism and the Other Within. London; New York: Routledge. Baudrillard, Jean. 1981. Simulacres et simulation. Collection Débats. Paris: Galilée. Bobonich, Christopher, and Pierre Destrée. 2007. Akrasia in Greek Philosophy: From Socrates to Plotinus. Philosophia Antiqua 106. Leiden and Boston: Brill. Carrington, André M. 2016. Speculative Blackness: Te Future of Race in Science Fiction. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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Costello, Brannon. 2010. “Randall Kenan Beyond the Final Frontier: Science Fiction, Superheroes, and the South in ‘A Visitation of Spirits.’” Te Southern Literary Journal 43(1): 125–50. David, Marlo. 2007. “Afrofuturism and Post-Soul Possibility in Black Popular Music.” African American Review 41(4): 695–707. Derrida, Jacques. 1976. Of Grammatology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ———. 1985. Marges de la philosophie. Nouv. tirage. Critique. Paris: Ed. de Minuit. Derrida, Jean. 2010. La naissance du corps: Plotin, Proclus, Damascius. Collection la philosophie en efet. Paris: Galilée. Dery, Mark. 2002. “Black to the Future: Afro-futurism 1.0.” Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction’s Newest New-Wave Trajectory 1: 6–13. Descartes, René. A Discourse on Method. Trans. John Veitch. London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1912. EBook. https​://ar​chive​.org/​strea​m/dis​cours​eonme​tho19​12des​c#pag​e/n9/​mode/​2up. Dregner, Daniel W. 2016. “Night of the Living Wonks.” Foreign Policy. Accessed January 25. https​://fo​reign​polic​y.com​/2010​/06/1​5/nig​ht-of​-the-​livin​g-won​ks/. Eglash, Ron. 2002. “Race, Sex, and Nerds From Black Geeks To Asian American Hipsters.” Social Text 20(71): 49–64. doi:10.1215/01642472-20-2_71-49. Eshun, Kodwo. 2003. “Further Considerations of Afrofuturism.” CR: Te New Centennial Review 3(2): 287–302. Accessed January 27, 2016. https://muse.jhu.edu/. Foucault, Michel, and Richard Howard. 1988. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New York: Vintage books. Fumerton, Patricia, and Simon Hunt. 1999. Renaissance Culture and the Everyday. New Cultural Studies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Hand, John Oliver. 1981. “Futurism in America: 1909–14.” Art Journal 41(4) [Taylor & Francis, Ltd., College Art Association]: 337–42. doi:10.2307/776443. Hayles, Nancy Katherine. 1999. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago and London: Te University of Chicago Press. Hazlitt, William Carew, ed. 1877. Te Essays of Montaigne, Complete. Project Gutenberg EBook, produced by David Widger, 2006. Hobbes, Tomas, and Richard Tuck. 1996. Leviathan. Revised student ed. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Tought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kekewich, Margaret Lucille. 2000. Te Impact of Humanism. Te Renaissance in Europe. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Lavender, Isiah III. 2017. “Further Deliberations on Black SF Criticism.” Science Fiction ­Studies 44(1): 164–71. Accessed February 27, 2017. Lee, Josephine. 2001. “Review of Review of Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life, by Alondra Nelson, Alicia Headlam Hines, and Tuy Linh N. Tu.” Te Journal of Asian Studies 60(4): 1136–37. doi:10.2307/2700035. Mark, Bould. 2007. “Te Ships Landed Long Ago: Afrofuturism and Black SF.” Science Fiction Studies 34(2): 177–86. Nelson, Alondra. 2002. “Introduction: Future Texts.” Social Text 20(2): 1–15. New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd edition. 2010. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. Onabanjo, Remi. 2015. “A Studio Visit with Afrofuturists Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum and Tenjiwe Niki Nkosi.” Africa Is a Country. April 7. http:​//afr​icasa​count​ry.co​m/201​5/04/​ a-stu​dio-v​isit-​with-​afrof​uturi​sts-p​amela​-phat​simo-​sunst​rum-a​nd-th​enjiw​e-nik​i-nko​si/. Palmer, E. H., trans. 2007. Te Koran. Souix Falls, SD: NuVision Publications, LLC.

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Pfeifer, John R. 2003. “Review of Review of Social Texts 71: Afrofuturism 20, by Alondra Nelson.” Utopian Studies 14(1): 240–43. Plotinus. 1995. Plotinus: In Seven Volumes. Repr. Te Loeb classical library 443. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press. Rollefson, J. Grifth. 2008. “Te ‘Robot Voodoo Power’ Tesis: Afrofuturism and Anti-AntiEssentialism from Sun Ra to Kool Keith.” Black Music Research Journal 28(1): 83–109. Romero, George A. 2008. Night of the Living Dead. Bach flms [George A. Romero, Continental Distribution]. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1998. Te Social Contract: Or, Principles of Political Right. Edited by Henry John Tozer. Wordsworth Editions. Sunstrum, Pamela Phatsimo. 2013. “Afro-mythology and African Futurism: Te Politics of Imagining and Methodologies for Contemporary Creative Research Practices.” Paradox 25: 113–28. Accessed November 20, 2015. Whitehead, Colson. 1999. Te Intuitionist. London: Granta Books. ———. 2006. Apex Hides the Hurt. New York: Anchor Books. ———. 2011. Zone One. London: Vintage books.

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9 Dragons, Vescells, and Writing Afro-Latino Futures An Interview with Enrique Carrion

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Stacey Robinson

I recently caught up with fction writer Enrique Carrion to discuss his ideas around humanizing characters of color. He recently completed his master’s in Communication in 2017 from Gothenburg University in Sweden where he currently resides. His thesis “Does Swapping the race and gender of Communication afect perspectives on Leadership & Securitization?” examined Donald Trump’s comments and how people feel about his words communicated by other people. As an enigmatic creative and narrative designer, Enrique’s work spans many genres from science fction to fantasy. His debut professional comic was the critically acclaimed Vescell (2011) on Image comics, about Te company Vescell which specializes in “Vtrans,” the transferring of a person’s mind and spirit from one person into another. He then went on to publish the urban fantasy novel titled Dragons from Enceladus (2014) on Acuzio LLC, a love story about a man traveling the furthest reaches of time and space to fnd his stolen love. Te dystopian comic book Kill Godz (2014) on Anomaly Comics, which features Sigourney Ischariot, a lovely young lady who hunts down rogue Gods who try to get out from under the thumb of the company that genetically duplicated them. Ten he even brought his pen game to the house of ideas, working on Civil War II: Choosing Sides (2016) for Marvel Comics, where heroes have drawn the line that divide the Marvel Universe. From an academic standpoint, Enrique is highly infuenced by Professor Adilifu Nama’s book Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes (2011). In this text Nama dives into ideas that black superheroes are often dismissed as imitators of established white characters. Tis contextualizes Enrique’s work as he strives to raise his art standard by creating heroes of color ensuring that they are original and contemporary. 125

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Stacey Robinson

In your comic series “Vescell” and your short story “Dragons from Enceledus” race is almost a nonfactor in your future-based narratives. Yet your characters are clearly Latino and/or black and Latino. Can you speak about your choices of racial identity and its importance in our advancing techniculture? Caucasian characters whether in James Bond or Lord of the Rings don’t run around saying hey “I’m white!” And on the contrary black characters in most movies such as Te Help (2011), Selma (2015), and 12 Years a Slave (2014), tend to be constantly yelling “hey! I’m black!” or tell their story from the point of view of the black experience! And I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, we need that too, but it limits our narrative, it limits the ability to showcase the entire spectrum of our creativity if that is the only perspective I can speak from. A writer should focus on making his characters intelligent, thought provoking, contemporary, and most importantly, cool. I think it’s important for me to showcase intelligent and dynamic characters in fantasy and science fction settings, not just settings that have to do with slavery and civil rights, not because those eras should be forgotten, but because one way to show respect for the struggles of slavery and the civil rights is to showcase our ability to not just be strictly defned by those era’s. We must showcase that we can create gems from the limitless depths of the imagination. We have to control and expand our narratives and representations in the media. Tese new representations must be thought provoking, and mind expanding, and leap into the richness of our history beyond slavery and skyrocket into cosmos of our future and imaginations.

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As a male writer, you pay special attention to your portrayal of women, which are strong, diverse, and personable. With “Vescell” in particular, it seems to me that your female characters may be stronger protagonists than the story’s lead character Mauricio. In pop culture, sci-f/fantasy women many times are objectifed. What are your thoughts in reference to humanization of your characters? Te women in my narratives have to move you, whether they are villain or hero, antihero or the bad guy with a code of honor. I like to showcase that no matter what weapon they are using, whether their mind or a gun, that they can pop of answers and shots with the best of their male counterparts. I try to allow the narrative to display the humanization of my characters by allowing them to express their multifaceted personalities. Like any human being we are not one-sided. Vescell and Dragons from Enceladus are both love stories in alternate spaces where love survives. Specifcally, love between people of color. In pop culture love and resolution between people of color is almost nonexistent. How do you think about representing confict resolution between your characters of color when most popular culture does not? Stacey Robinson and John Jennings are always talking about “Spaces of Resistance.” Love has always been my space of resistance. I use love in my daily life to shield me from the pain and give me the strength to get through the harsh realities of life.

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Love, true love, is given freely and maintained through respect and loyalty. Love is my space of resistance; through my narratives I can create spaces to explore failed love, betrayal, disappointments, love of triumph, and standing tall in the face of tribulations. All these things we go through trying to create the ultimate space of resistance, which is called love. All stories have confict and of course confict resolution, but I always try to keep the dual stream of confict going on, which is the outer adventure of protagonist versus antagonist and the inward confict as the character battles their emotional and spiritual handicaps. Tese are what my characters must overcome to prevail, the character versus self, which if he/she is successful, they will reach their destiny, if they fail they will succumb to their fate. Tematically, you’re also creating spaces where your characters have to escape from other dimensions to return to Earth. In Dragons from Enceladus, Rocky and Kali have to escape back to Earth. In “Vescell,” Avery is trapped in the Bane realm. What are you saying in reference to these spaces of escape? I was born in the 1980s in Spanish Harlem New York City, and went through my adolescence in the 1990s in that same concrete desert. I was always trying to escape without losing myself. So, I think that shows through in Dragons from Enceladus When Rocky escapes his destitute environment by betting on himself, seizing opportunity, following his heart, and believing in himself. By following that path he begins to achieve his destiny. In “Vescell” Avery is trapped in a world where she is constantly compromising herself just to survive, a path which usually leads to your fate.

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With both Vescell and Dragons from Enceladus there are multiple metaphorical layers about time and fulflling promises, particularly men’s promises made to the women in the stories. Promises that are the basis of the life and death struggles in the narrative but you are also touching on time and memory and loss of time and memory, specifcally in Dragons from Enceladus. What are these metaphors of promise, time and memory speaking to? Tere is nothing more brutal in the world than a heart full of broken promises. When those promises are broken we long for the feeling when that promise woke us every morning with joy, so we constantly foat in its memory, to relive the feeling of how our senses were electric with the passion of that promise. Te cruelty of the promise maker to forget their oath, the pain of the promise taker to realize their faith is shattered and irreparable; this is what I paint with the brush of metaphor and the paints of experience, dreams, hopes and memories on the canvas of time. In Vescell you use the body as a metaphor for replaceable shells or vehicles where people can access their ultimate fantasies or commit ultimate evils in order to actualize their fantasies. What is your commentary about the human body in the future and how do you see interactions with our own bodies as people of color in the future?

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Humans seem disconnected from themselves, looking for artifcial things such as silicone implants to make them feel beautiful, or AI to make them feel more real. People use social networking to enhance connection when in reality, through those things, we become more disconnected from each other and ourselves. On the fip side, I think there are some awesome applications of technology infused with the human body, like people being able to receive new limbs or restore senses. As people of color, I think we have a rich history of connection and balance between mind, body, and spirit. Tat trifecta is connected to the earth and the universe, from the Nile valley civilization creators, to martial arts and chakra mastery of the east, to the indigenous people of the Americas. But, somewhere that got lost. You are writing a very optimistic “urban” narrative with seemingly bright possibilities for the future. Not many stories seem to come from your angle of hope and optimism with people of color. Coming from Spanish Harlem how are you commenting on your birthplace through your narratives?

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My mother always made sure I understood that my birthplace is just a pit stop as I travel on the road of life. No matter how bleak and decrepit my physical environment became, she always did her best to expose me to other aspects of the world’s cultures, arts, and modes of thinking. Terefore, I was always aware that there is more out there than my immediate surroundings. I appreciate that space, it is a large part of my being, but not all of me, I understand that the hood was created to test the faith of true hearts, so it can be very easy to lose your optimistic outlook as you realize you are not living, but actually fghting to survive, and usually losing your optimism often leads to losing your faith. As a member of those striving for a better tomorrow, it is my job to inspire and also create plans of action to make sure desperation does not settle in the hearts of good people. In Dragons, you see rocky leaving his environment, an environment flled with pain and self-doubt, there is also love and optimism there too, and he carries that into an alien world, where he must have enough faith in his faculties that he can survive and accomplish his goal. You are largely concerned with telling tales of Latin-based fantasy. What are the inspirations behind your narratives? Are there Latin-based sci-f/fantasy creators that are founding your inspirations? I was raised in a Puerto Rican household, so my house was flled with stories of our history, enchanted homeland, and beautiful music and also the story. I think the illest enchanted history I was given is that of Chango the African Orisha black god of thunder, who is respected, revered and even worshipped by many across Africa and Latin America today. Just the idea of a black god of thunder infused with Latin lightning is inspirational and powerful.

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In Dragons from Enceladus your male lead character Rocky follows the love of his life to another galaxy in order to convince her that he’s her lost love, even after she’s pledged her love to the antagonist. In a hip hop based culture that often depicts women in a less than favorable light, why did you consistently decide to break the rules of hypermasculinity? Ain’t nothing wrong with having no love for deceitful women or fraudulent dudes, but Rocky is not chasing an insidious heart, he’s chasing his destiny, she is just under the spell of a beautiful lie, like most of us.

REFERENCES

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Carrion, Enrique. Vescell. Image Comics, 2011. ———. Dragons from Enceladus. Acuzio LLC, 2014. ———. Kill Godz. Anomaly Comics, 2014. ———. Civil War II: Choosing Sides. Marvel Comics, 2016.

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10 “The Electric Impulse” The Legba Circuit in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

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Sherese Francis

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is considered one of the defnitive novels of the twentieth century; the novel gave voice to the horrors and absurdities of racial imaginings within American society. As a representative work of Afrofuturism, the novel explores the interfaces between racial identity construction, science/technology, and black spiritual-mythic-cultural framework, creating what can be named as an “Afro-technomythos” (reapplication or remixing of an Afrodiasporic mythic archetype). Scholars have previously discussed technology’s role in the evolution of the narrator’s identity as he confronts race and culture in America. Yet despite the discussions on race and technology in the book, the spiritual mythos and cosmological framework undergirding the book intertwined with its technological aspects have no scholarly articles entirely dedicated to them. It is not surprising since modern Western-centric perceptions of science and technology tend to be culturally myopic, limiting interdisciplinary connections to cosmology, mythology, magic, fantasy, and art. Spiritual, religious and magical myths and rituals tend to be treated simply as backward or irrational in relation to modern science. Instead they should be viewed as foundational and complementary to explorations of human knowledge and ethics, creating a fuller view of human philosophy, imagination and thought (Selin 1997, 523–27; Nair 2013). Ellison’s novel provides an example of an alternative speculative understanding of the world, embodying Sun Ra’s program of “mythscience” (Youngquist 2010, 144–47). Invisible Man reveals a framework in which to approach the modern world, presenting a modern revision of ancient knowledge, a cyborgian code for change; it highlights not only the invisible structures of racialized American society but engages with metaphysical and macrocosmic forces to reveal a deeper understanding of microcosmic structures and material realities of our lives.

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Sherese Francis

Given that Ellison references black folklore throughout the novel, it is not surprising that he made a practice of adapting myths (ex. Ulysses) and ritual into his creative work; “the myths and rites . . . we fnd functioning in our everyday lives” gave “form and signifcance to [his] material” (Chester and Howard 1955). Te “themes, symbols, and images” of human psyche that Ellison mentions infuenced his work are often embodied in archetypal fgures found in narratives. Although he is not mentioned by name in the novel, one specifc Afrodiasporic archetypal fgure corresponds with Ellison’s themes, the West African (Fon and Haitian) Vodou deity Papa Legba. Although Legba is associated with other deities of the Afrodiaspora, like Papa Limba, Papa Laba/Leba, Eshu, Esu, Exu, Eleggua, and Eshu-Elegbara, to keep this chapter simple, in addition to emphasizing Legba’s relevance to the Haitian Revolution and Louisiana Voodoo, and some of his specifc traits visible in a few of the novel’s characters, like Tarp’s limp, Trueblood’s sexual mishap and Wheatstraw’s question of the dog (Marvin 1986, 587; Davis 1991; Russell 2009, 12; Coulter and Turner 2000, 239), I will employ only him as the main fgure. Primarily known as a trickster deity, Legba’s powers are signifcantly more expansive than simply being a trickster. As the god of the crossroads and gateways, he is more of a tester than a trickster, “engaging in ‘trickery’” to prove philosophical points or reveal divine knowledge (Russell 2009, 10). Additionally, Legba governs communication, musicians (Marvin 1986, 587), travelers, and sexuality and is the guardian of ashe, the spiritual energy of the cosmos. Since he also guards the crossroads, he is found at spaces of human interaction. Legba’s characteristics are ftting for the cross between the novel’s two forces—science/technology and spiritual-myth. A conduit of transformation, Legba’s governance over ashe and musicians is compatible with the narrator’s encounter with electricity and percussive sound. We fnd his “trickery” in characters or situations that change the narrator’s course, “hacking” into his misconceptions about society as a means for him to undergo a spiritual-cyborg transformation. With the narrator’s ultimate destination in the manhole, he eventually mirrors Legba’s ability to escape codes, which he simultaneously reinforces (Davis 1991), knowing all the tricks and loopholes. Legba doesn’t feel obligated to stay inside boundaries as does the narrator. As the ultimate hacker, in both senses of the term, Legba breaks or cuts through things with repeated hits or clears paths from obstruction; he also hacks, as it is popularly defned today, to gain unauthorized access to information or data (i.e., computers and digital technology) as a means to expand perspective. Examining the novel through the metaphor of Legba reveals a mythic tale about the constant fuid, relational permeations and permutations of communicative power moving through social structures and socialized bodies. To show how the fgure of Legba provides a greater blueprint for understanding the novel, the main framework I am engaging with is Africologic theory, by way of Tonja Lawrence’s Africentered speculative fction reading protocol. According to scholar Jefrey Woodyard, Africology involves “placing African values and ideals at the center of [any] analysis involving African American rhetorical behavior or

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text.” Trough the analysis of spiritually symbolic texts, we can see the dynamics in human interaction and how cultural mytho-spiritual principles found in various African societies are reiterated throughout the diaspora (Woodyard 2003, 133–134). Lawrence narrows the focus, applying Africology to speculative fction, listing these values in a reading protocol: a shared metanarrative (trickster hero/god), history and remembrance (references to folklore and cultural fgures), metaphysical relationships (interconnection between supposed opposites, like spiritual and material or invisible and visible), Africanisms (polyphonic, circular, polyrhythmic, and signifying speech), cooperative socialism (presentation of a diversity of characters or identities), decolonization (consciousness of “the other,” “the alien,” “dispossession,” or “evil”) and gendered relativity (gender and race are fuid, infuenced by social power dynamics) (Lawrence 2010, 63–64). Several of these elements are evident within the fgure of Legba as well as Invisible Man. Further decentering Africology, using the fgure of Legba incorporates an Afro-Caribbean hybridity sense, which is explored in concepts like Negritude’s “creolity,” Glissant’s “errantry,” and Kamau Brathwaite’s “creole cosmos” (and his works like DreamStories and Elegguas). Applying him to the analysis of this US American book unveils the African-descended cross-cultural relationships between diferent ethnic groups in various geographical places. Hybridity is a foundational aspect of Afrofuturism. Alondra Nelson and Mark Dery’s defnitions for Afrofuturism consist of intersections and interfaces between African American cultures, science/technology, futurism and speculative fction in areas of digital media, music, literature, and visual art (Nelson 2002, 9 and 14). Current defnitions of Afrofuturism have expanded to include the global African diaspora and felds of “metaphysics, aesthetics, theoretical sciences, social sciences, and programmatic spaces” (Lavender 2017, 164). Afrofuturism has been signifcant in its treatment of cross tensions between the spiritual and material realities; tradition, presence, and innovation; roots and routes; living beings, society and technology; the identifcation of societal constructions and the ritualization/socialization of them; consciousness and unconsciousness; the individual and the community; and intra- and intercultural relations. It is a new term for describing an old dilemma of managing the relationships between disparate elements within a unifed structure. African and Caribbean cultures as early incubators of modern discussions of hybridity are often missing and so the fgure of Legba is an efort to show the ancient dialogue concerning hybridity. Te essay will be divided into three sections, based on scientist and engineer Nikola Tesla’s quotation about energy, vibration and frequency: (1) the correlation between ashe and electricity, and the electric hacking which brings the narrator to consciousness; (2) the musical percussiveness and percussive actions in the novel reinforcing the narrator’s journey into consciousness; and (3) the other defnition of circuit as a performative and interactive space for diferent bodies or “intensities” of body leading the narrator to a deeper understanding of racial identity and the ambiguous power of invisibility.

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ASHE IN THE FORM OF ELECTRICITY Establishing parallels between Legba’s manipulation of ashe, and the function of electricity in the novel sets a foundation for understanding the novel’s technomythic framework. Several defnitions exist for ashe. Ashe is defned as an organizing “substance or cosmic energy undergirding every aspect of existence that becomes the power, grace, blood and life force of all reality” (De La Torre 2009, 37). It is considered the frst cosmic power that existed in the universe, and the original thought to become material (Asante 2009, 74). Ashe is a neutral power, neither good nor bad but in everything (De La Torre 2009, 503). Legba and his associates play a major role in the fow of ashe throughout the cosmos. As Heather Russell wrote about EsuElegbara, he is “gifted to ‘make all thing happen and multiply [ashe],” afrming ashe as a power that forges potentials into being. Ashe’s creative power, like the two forces of the novel, comes in two forms: (1) “biological power which shapes the individual’s physical existence for good or ill (biological/material/technological),” and (2) “political power which shapes people as moral and social beings” (social/ethical/spiritual/ mythical) (Barnes 1997, 124). Like ashe, electricity is the creative driving energy of the novel and the narrator. Te narrator’s constant contact with electricity and electrical systems brings him to a fuller realization of power relations. His interactions with light, power, and electricity reimagine Western Enlightenment by looking at them beyond human possession and control of nature; instead they are shown as metaphysical forces giving form and power to the narrator’s identity and social culture. Just as electricity is harnessed through the structure of the circuit, the narrator’s enlightenment is harnessed through the circuit structure of the novel. Tis circuit theme found in Invisible Man extends throughout the novel, which I call a “circuit novel.” Invisible Man, similar in structure to other novels like Octavia Butler’s Kindred, or Zora Neale Hurston’s Teir Eyes Are Watching God, is not written in a linear beginning-middle-end style but begins toward the end of the story and circles around. Te beginning is in the end and “the end is in the beginning,” as the narrator declares in the prologue (Ellison 1997, 6). Russell confrms the cyclical structure as part of African Atlantic narratives (Russell 2009, 13). Tis structure of the stories is conducive to selfrefection. Other stories that are not necessarily circular in structure but depict the main character leaving home and coming back after a journey of self-discovery, in a prodigal-son manner, include Te Wizard of Oz and Kurt Vonnegut’s Te Sirens of Titan. Its narrative circularity is further confrmed by Robert Stepto’s commentary about Invisible Man—the novel goes beyond the static linear narratives of ascent (migration from the repressive symbolic South to the less repressive symbolic North) and immersion (return to the symbolic South). Te novel combines the two, the narrator journeying north with his personal identity still connected to his southern cultural heritage—the home energy moves with him through the social landscape, remixing in diferent contexts and spaces (Stepto 1991, 167).

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Te circuitry of the novel’s narrative is itself a kind of hack, going against the traditional narrative and involving the main character going against social norms to fnd himself through cultural acts of recovery. Russell, in her book Legba’s Crossing: Narratology in the African Atlantic defnes the metonym, the “Legba Principle,” as “texts whose narratologies interrupt, disrupt and erupt Euro-American literary convention for sociopolitical, ideological purposes” (Russell 2009, 12). Similar to Legba infuence in Hurston’s Teir Eyes Are Watching God (Pavlic 2004, 61–85), the main characters in the novel undergoes several abrupt interruptions or life-changing moments as if his paths are “hacked” to turn him from the static energy of Euro-American centered principles. Tis breakage or opening is a tool of Legba. Legba uses the force of disruption or sacrifce to alter connections and pathways, and to intensify ashe’s potency. “He takes part in every interaction, transforming paths into dead ends and dead ends into paths. . . . To say that Eshu is destructive is like saying that fre is hot. It is a function of his volatility, his mercurial power of transformation. He liberates trapped energy. He keeps things moving” (George 2011). For example, when Bledsoe expels the narrator or prevents him from getting work in New York, this is an example of Legba-like redirection to open another path for the narrator’s true purpose at the end. But as with any circuit, it has to be fueled with energy and power. Russell and Johnnie Wilcox have similar approaches in their depictions of ashe and electricity, respectively. Russell and Wilcox address the ambiguous fuidity of ashe and electricity as reasons why marginalized people fnd power in them. “Te power of ashe . . . lies in its ability to cross the borders or boundaries of fxed constructs regarding knowledge, interpretation, and apprehension as well as formal structures framing such hermeneutical engagement. If ashe is thus the sign of formal ideology, Esu-Elegbara is the conduit through which communities of participation and critical analyses apprehend the ideology of form” (Russell 2009, 10). Trough Legba’s “tangled lines of force that make up [his] cosmic interface” (Davis 1991), communities come to understand the fexible temporality of form and the freedoms within that fexibility. Russell compares ashe to jazz, referencing Robert Farris Tompson’s defnition of ashe as the “fash of spirit.” Russell’s reference ties ashe closer to Ellison’s novel as it is a jazz-infuenced work, seen, for example, in its consistent references to Louis Armstrong (Russell 2009, 11). Ashe, electricity and jazz have a fuidity that give freedom of movement and connection, through empowering all living beings, technology and society, something the narrator learns over the course of the novel. Wilcox’s treatment of electricity parallels Russell’s treatment of ashe: While the boundary between animal and machine is often construed as an ontological barrier, Ellison’s Invisible Man reconfgures this boundary as an interface whose primary substance is electricity. Electricity is a medium that binds humans to other humans and to nonhumans by virtue of its abilities to carry information and to fow through the very (conductive) materials of which organisms and machines are made. (2007, 988)

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Electricity crosses borders in its ability to carry information to and inhabit diferent entities or “across disparate . . . ontological orders.” Although Wilcox hints at it, it would be important to note electricity’s pervasiveness in all the cosmos, including atom charges, electromagnetic felds, lightning, biological systems defense/tools, defbrillation, and galvanism. Tus, electricity goes beyond a relationship between animal and machine but includes a relationship with cosmic forces, much like Legba’s role as medium between diferent entities on earth and in the cosmos. Tis fuidity is seen in the narrator as he crosses borders, constantly moving place to place, or is a mediator between various groups throughout the novel, such as in his role as a speaker to various crowds. Both ashe and electricity are subject to manipulation for diferent purposes by various groups of people with the power, knowledge, and tools to do so. Te narrator demonstrates his knowledge of this in his description of how he lit his “hole.” His knowledge of electricity’s ambiguous, fuid nature allows him to subversively hack a gateway through the main power system. Managing to hack into the main system, he diverts without detection electricity from the Monopolated Light & Power Company, a corporation that managed to centralize power into a stationary place and limit access to its control. His redirection of the electricity to light his hole becomes a symbol for his redirection through the novel provides him an alternative enlightenment and shows the usefulness of Legba, tricksters and also magicians’ tool of misdirection and redirection. Doing so, the narrator highlights Russell’s comment about the function of power. Citing Houston Baker, she writes, “fxity is a function of power. Tose who maintain place, who decide what takes place, and dictate what has taken place, are power brokers of the traditional. Te placeless, by contrast, are translators of the nontraditional” (2009, 12). Monopolated Light and Power represents the fxed, accumulated mass of traditional power with a defned location. Conversely, the narrator does not have a fxed address; the company knows the power is being drained but does not know where or who is doing it: “A lot of free current is disappearing somewhere into the jungle of Harlem.” He escapes paying the “outrageous rates” for power, escaping a trap of capitalistic society that limits access to power to a few with the means to gain access. Tis fght he has with Monopolated Light and Power gives him a feeling of “vital aliveness” (Ellison 1997, 5–6) and like Legba, multiplies his power through this circulation. His choice of words speaks to the divine power of ashe. Te narrator is invisible to the traditional power and appears to be taking their power as if by magic and it’s that invisibility that makes him appear supernatural. He uses his disability of invisibility to his advantage, to create an alternative knowledge, much in the way Legba uses his limp as a dance and his limp shows his fow between the material and invisible worlds. It parallels Du Bois’s concept of double consciousness and the veil—the societal disadvantage gives the narrator access to counter power and insight. Another interesting tidbit to look at is the name of the company in relation to ashe: monopolated is a singular source of power; light gives the ability to see or is a symbol for consciousness; power gives the ability to create or move. Te company has a double meaning within a capitalistic framework and a spiritual framework from which the narrator

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draws to empower himself and possibly distribute to others like a Prometheus taking fre from the gods. Te narrator marks his conscious break from the capitalistic system through his recognition of the diference between his use of light and light used for proft-oriented function. Living in the “border area,” he embodies the gates and doors Legba rules over. He lives at the edge of both Stepto’s symbolic South and North. Although he’s still in the North, a place that emphasizes social mobility but lacks social collectivity, his falling into this hole is a symbolic South of a diferent kind. His enlightened imagination and connection to cultural values give form to a psychic symbolic South to resist the soulless, mechanizing alienation in Northern society. Tere, he fnds an alternative “utopian” loophole within the “master discourse of a societal norm,” a “heterotopic” environment (Otto 2005, 33–35). Living on the edge, he sees the truth about the lights of Broadway and the Empire State Building, an awareness of the illusions of power and light: they “are among the darkest of . . . our culture.” He can see “the darkness of [their] lightness.” Yet, he understands in lighting his hole that “without light I am not only invisible, but formless as well; and to be unaware of one’s form is to live a death” (Ellison 1997, 5–6). Although it is can be an illusion, he needs light and power to exist as well, fnding common ground with capitalist culture. Light is more than a product for capitalist scientifc proft but a metaphysical element vital to the creation of his being. Trough understanding his own social death and social darkness (a double meaning: his social status and its connection to dominant culture’s hidden darkness), he produces a new cosmic visibility for himself (Otto 2005, 35). Te narrator takes energy away from the landmarks of Western capitalist culture to power his own stage’s spotlight of consciousness. But the narrator’s ability to manipulate electricity subversively comes after several crossings frst with electricity and the dynamics of power. For example, the Battle Royal scene, which involved young black boys treated as blindfolded “rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots” as older white men controlled their movements in the room. Although this scene is supposed to represent a symbolic social castration for the black boys, the narrator makes a discovery while on the rug. As the boys rush to grab the small amount of currency thrown to them on the rug, he realizes that the rug is electrifed: “ignoring the shock by laughing, as I brushed the coins of quickly, I discovered that I could contain the electricity—a contradiction, but it works” (Ellison 1997, 27). He gains new knowledge of nature around him that the others have not, and though electricity is a free-fowing substance, his body becomes a vessel that can contain this energy. His epiphany is an ecstatic realization that his body is a permeable “vessel for cosmic energy,” that his body can possess power, too, not just the white men in the room, a theme common to the empowerment of spirit possession ritual (Pinn 2003, 3). However, his realization comes later that the electric rug only had static power—representing that this was an initiation ritual not for his own power yet, but to become a “robotic consumer” and product, a modern reimagining of the social slave and the enslavement of natural elements (Yaszek 2005, 308). Another encounter with electricity involves the hack into the narrator’s memory system—the hospital electric shock scene. In this scene, a doctor asks the narrator a

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series of questions from which he recoils as he is connected to an electrical machine. As he screams from shocks, one of the voices in the room yells at him to be quiet because they are “trying to get [him] started” (Ellison 1997, 232). Te scene acts as a rebirth, but again it is a rebirth into a capitalist system where he is to be initiated as a disempowered (of his own power) machine. As Wilcox states, “Electricity is a substance . . . which conditions the narrator and other blacks for connection to larger systems of power and control” (Wilcox 2007, 992). His function is not for his own purpose but is being reconfgured for others, especially for their proft. Tis is suggested in another scene with the Liberty Paints engineer, Lucius Brockway’s statement “we the machines inside the machine” (Ellison 1997, 217). But as the machine hacks into him, it also releases a food of memories as if his mind is initiating a security backup protection. He remembers wading in a brook, eating sugarcane and his grandmother singing. Tese memories a human memories that are considered useless in a social culture oriented toward being productive and therefore against bodily pleasure. His cultural memory acts as a shock absorber as the doctor and nurses discuss options to treat him, like lobotomy.37 Instead, they try to perform an “electrical lobotomy” to desensitize him (Yaszek 2005, 305). As a result, the narrator experiences a loss of bodily sensation; he feels lost in “clinical whiteness” (Ellison 1997, 236). Te alienating shock results in a communication breakdown. Despite his humanness, he does not immediately understand them even as the doctor continues to probe. However, the narrator’s cultural memory fghts the hack of alienation. Despite his attempts, the doctor cannot remove that invisible, impenetrable extended part of the narrator reinforced through Legba’s system. Sound, an outer body extension, reinforces (swirling around in Legba’s cultural remixes) cultural ties between bodies, much like all invisible forces in the universe. Tis reinforcement of his cultural connection gives some protection from white cultural hacking.

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PERCUSSIVENESS AS HACKING (RE)IN(FORCE)MENT Although scholarship about musical elements, particularly spirituals, jazz, and blues, in Invisible Man exists, there is not any known of how music, percussive sound, and percussive movement are extensions and fortifcations for the electric discourse of the novel, recharging the energy force. Troughout the novel are several mentions of drums, percussion and percussive action, including the boomerang hit across the head, boxing punches, chapel bells, military march drums, Mr. Norton’s pulse (which not only beats but vibrates), etc. (Ellison 1997, 18, 22, 28, 34, 36, 78, 136, 55, 63–64, 110, 281, 232, 438, and 440). Since the power of electricity and ashe, which Legba rules over, is the ability to make things happen or set something into motion, electricity and ashe are conducive to motion or vibration, strengthening form. Sound, especially music, and body are associated with each other; sound usually implies movement or life as well as connection. Percussion represents, like the rhythmic beating heart, a physical embodiment or incarnation and circulation of these powers.

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Playwright, choreographer and composer Vance Holmes wrote in his piece, “It Don’t Mean a Ting: A Jazz Rif on Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man,” about the spiritual connective role of music in the novel. Te narrator comes to understand the “’infnite possibilities’ of his future through encounters with the various forms and idioms of African-American musical history. [Tey] act as gravitational forces to ground the narrator. Once he learns to hear and accept the past, this same music enlightens, lifts and leads him toward transcendence on his search for self” (Holmes 2013). Music helps essentially to ground the narrator’s cultural energy. Anthony B. Pinn, in his essay about black danced religion, “Du Bois’ Souls: Toughts on “Veiled” Bodies and the Study of Black Religion,” confrms this notion of music’s gravity and the implicit recognition of the body’s physical movement as an expression of something deeper. He says, “music kept the body and soul together connecting them through a style of expression” (Pinn 2003, 1) . . . it is through a focus on the body that one sees the manifestation of a deep impulse—a soul—a drive for full humanity that pushes through over-determined and fxed identities” (2). In the body’s movement, we see the percussive force of the soul. His statement also shows music’s contradiction—it grounds the body but also pushes energy past fxed boundaries, much like Legba’s simultaneous reinforcing and breaking of codes. Tis contradiction reinforces both the narrator’s security memory system that exists both within him and as an extension of him in the larger cultural memory, and this gives him a freedom of movement. As Nathaniel Mackey describes, it allows transforming the break or open wound into a self-defensive tactic, absorbing the shock of the hit (1993, 246). Hacking continues through the novel as the narrator gains more knowledge about himself and surrounding world. A hack can be a dismembering change of body and can also release hidden resources to circulate energy and knowledge; the force of the cultural hits force the narrator to conjure an act of remembering, a catalyst to rebuild his sense of self back to a wholeness. Percussive hacking acts as a reinforcement for the narrator’s enlightenment. Some examples are physical breaks through objects showing the possibility of both reconnection to true self and freedom of movement, such as Tarp’s leg shackle and the breaking of the jolly bank. Other are percussive music’s hack to fortify the narrator’s cultural memory and consciousness, as in the prologue’s radio-phonograph scene, blues singer Peter Wheatstraw and Todd Clifton’s funeral music. From the beginning, the narrator uses percussive language to describe his understanding of how the universe works in an impactful, recursive vibration, not in a linear sense. In the prologue, he states, “but that (by contradiction, I mean) is how the world moves: Not like an arrow , but a boomerang. (Beware of those who speak of the spiral of history; they’re preparing a boomerang. Keep a steel helmet handy)” (Ellison 1997, 6). In other words, expect a knockout. In a world of Legba remixes, everything comes back. Te narrator after implies that a hit, or as he says to be “boomeranged across my head,” opens up consciousness or “the darkness of lightness” (6). His description of receiving a hit is suggestive of ecstatic dances of Afrodiasporic religious rituals in which repetitious rhythms send participants into another world of

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consciousness. Pinn states that the rhythmic preaching of the word, the music and the coming of the “holy spirit” preceding dance of black Christian services (similar to other danced religious rituals throughout the diaspora) “points to a central reality—the black body and its encounter with a cosmic other as a way of breaking the Veil,” a reference to Du Bois’s veil (Pinn 2003, 3). Breaking through the veil was a way to escape the confnement of the white gaze and encounter an inner and greater outer cosmos, the remembering of traditions, which the narrator suggests through the boomerang of history. Te narrator discusses the doubleness of visibility in the prologue. His invisibility results from the “peculiar disposition of the eyes” of whom he comes into contact (Ellison 1997, 1). But it is not their physical eyes he is referring to, as they can see him but their inner perceptions that shape how they see him physically. Since they cannot see past their perceptions of him, the narrator questions his own existence behind them, that he might be a phantom—an image that is a projection of an energy feld but not physically real (4). His projection of his own image is masked by theirs. He knows that he is real only when he bumps into another person, a percussive act. At that moment, the narrator knows he is both visible and invisible, two disparate conditions simultaneously existing and shaping each other. Te “tall blonde man” he accidentally bumps into sees his physical black body before him but does not see him as a whole person beyond just a body. His inability to see fully angers the narrator; he wants to break through it: “it’s when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back . . . you ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you are part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fsts . . . to make them recognize you” (4–5). He wants to hit back but realizes the diffculty in breaking the static projected image in other’s mind because it is beyond the physical. His mention of “sound and anguish” implies those realities beyond the physical (4–5). In another prologue scene, a chorus of records plays Louis Armstrong’s “What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue” and it opens up the narrator’s subconscious. Holmes gives an in-depth analysis of the scene—the music, like external storage, releases a food of new memories and heightens the narrator’s rediscovery of his sense of the world. As “an acoustic mirror. [it] refects and amplifes Invisible Man’s disjointed sense of spatial awareness and ragged timing—a timing that is never ‘quite on the beat’” (Holmes 2013). Tis sonic technology hacks into a space of deep cultural reconnection and space of possibility for him, a refection closer to his true image, his true sound. He is forced to confront the entangled, contradicting lineages from which he and black cultural institutions, like the church, are descended, including the painful history. Tat is what he learns from the woman in his dreams who is “mixed up” about freedom; though she should hate her slave master, she would not have her sons without him (Ellison 1997, 10–11). It is that entangled web of Legba that twisted mass of muscle like the heart, that forces life into beating existence with all of its messy truths. Holmes describes, “he dropped into a place even deeper, brighter, more familiar and more forgotten than his secret basement cave; he went

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inside the music itself. ‘I not only entered the music but descended,’ he says, ‘like Dante, into its depths’ (9)’” (Holmes 2013). With the music surrounding him like a “cypher” or ringshout, he can “feel its vibration, not only with [his] ear but with [his] whole body” (Ellison 1997, 8), forging a new fuller form deep beyond the superfcial, ordered surface of Western social culture. Te narrator’s journey into this vibrating underworld is achieved through his grounding in the hole of the earth. As earth is a conductor that pulls excess electricity from circuits into its reservoir of infnite electricity, the narrator’s hole pulls excess energy and marginalized memory from the static gorges of higher society, keeps the energy circulating, and absorbs the shocks of its excess violence. Tis “surplus” energy reveals and revises the “underexamined margins” or “undervalued communication systems” of black cultures in a white hetero-patriarchal capitalist society (Lawrence 2010, 23–24). For him, this renewed symbolic South, is a place pregnant with creative possibility and resources to rebuild. But how the narrator reaches this hole is through the actions of several Legba-like percussive guides. Musical characters and encounters, like Jim Trueblood, Todd Clifton’s funeral music, and Peter Wheatstraw, are additional hackers for the narrator. When he meets Peter Wheatstraw, Wheatstraw introduces himself as “the Devil’s son in law” (Ellison 1997, 176); Wheatstraw’s name alludes to an actual blues singer, William Bunch, whose stage name was Peetie Wheatstraw. Also called “the devil’s son-inlaw” and “the High Sherif from hell” (Marvin 1996, 590), Bunch’s titles correspond with the deity Legba and his associates, who are often linked to the Western fgure of the devil but who are more ambiguous than the Western Christian fgure. As stated before, Legba is the ultimate hacker but is also the best security because of it. Te High Sherif from hell is not necessarily good or evil but knows good can come from an understanding of evil, that a tighter security can come from knowing, and intimacy with, where a system is weak. He holds the door between freedom and imprisonment. Wheatstraw’s actions stir the narrator’s reservoir of memory: “there was no escaping such reminders” (Ellison 1997, 173). Wheatstraw collects blueprints, not to discard them as Ostendorf (Pavlic 2002, 135) thought but to have a reservoir of knowledge of the city that can possibly be used again in the future. Governing powers constantly change their plans, and he wisely expects that, but he has realm of possibility outside of their fxed buildings. He quickly frowns at the narrator’s infexibility to the chaos, nuances, and changes of reality (Ellison 1997, 175). Holmes confrms Wheatstraw’s Legba nature: the narrator is disturbed by Wheatstraw’s rhythmic riddles and raunchy rhyme. . . . At that point in his journey, however, the narrator is just beginning to learn to tune into the confounding nature of the invisible connection between his personal reality and the historical manifestations of his cultural heritage being carried to him across time and space on waves of sound. (2013)

Te narrator comes across two percussive representations of power via the leg shackle—Bledsoe’s closed shackle and Tarp’s (from Te Brotherhood) open leg

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shackle. Bledsoe, the dean of the narrator’s college, takes out an old shackle during his meeting with the narrator to discuss his future at the college. Bledsoe describes the shackle as a “symbol of our progress” (Ellison 1997, 141). But his symbol of “progress” is not real; it shows no evidence of a struggle to be free. Its closed, undisturbed nature represents Bledsoe’s support for static traditional power systems, which lack dynamic power, for his beneft at the expense of the black community. Traditional power cares only for itself, justifying itself and systems that support it. Its “recursive architectures multipl[ies] [its] power and autonomy” (Wilcox 2007, 987). Additionally, its immobile and hard to open. When Bledsoe strikes the shackle on the desk, it stirs the narrator into defensive action, but it does not deter Bledsoe. Bledsoe makes it clear that when the narrator bucks against power, he is bucking at a larger system harder to break open than he is (Ellison 1997, 142). But it is also a system that is more like a machine than human or a living being. Later in the novel, we see another approach to the shackle and progress—Brother Tarp and the broken shackle. When Brother Tarp enters his ofce, the narrator receives a shock: “my grandfather seemed to look from his eyes” (384). His grandfather is the one who introduces the narrator to trickery as a means of subversively fghting back. Why is he seeing his grandfather in Tarp? Tarp is a remix of his grandfather and provides him a similar answer on how to strike back—break open a hole. After the narrator receives the shackle, he describes how it was hacked opened with a violent force for Tarp to gain his freedom: “I took it in my hand, a thick, dark, oily piece of fled steel that had been twisted open and forced partly back into place, on which I saw marks that might have been made by the blade of a hatchet. It was such a link as I had seen on Bledsoe’s desk, only while that one had been smooth, Tarp’s bore the marks of haste and violence, looking as though it had been attacked and conquered before it stubbornly yielded” (389). Breaking free does not mean Tarp is completely free either, as seen in his limp. Freedom and empowerment for himself come with a price. His limp is not a physical impairment but a psychological one produced by the trauma of imprisonment. Te “oily and skinlike” (392) shackle is his “extracted limb,” it is evidence of his living, and now he has a “phantom limp” (Mackey 1993, 245). Tis time, like Bledsoe, the narrator places this extended limb over his knuckles and strikes the desk. Tarp responds, “Now there’s a way I never thought of using it” (Ellison 1997, 388–89). Te narrator’s mimic of Bledsoe implies a shift in bodily orientation and power, a symbolic transformation of the damage done to Tarp’s psyche, and a reclaiming of power. Te placement of the leg chain over his knuckle is signifcant again later in the novel, too (502 and 557). Wilcox, citing Steptoe, argues that Bledsoe’s and Tarp’s leg shackles represent the circuits of power in relation to electricity—Bledsoe’s as the “closed circle” of dominant power, which is neatly static and Tarp’s ruptured shackle as infnite mobile power in open space (Wilcox 2007, 990). Tarp’s shackle is open, permitting its connection to other circuits and functions, moving energy to other spaces or “region[s] of greater potential to . . . region[s] of lesser potential.”63 But this movement is not full freedom; the “exquisitely rude aperture” exists from a taxing physical breakage

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within a state of resistance. As James Baldwin said, freedom is not given but taken and complete freedom is actually rare; there is always a “debt to be paid” (Yaszek 2005, 387). Like electricity’s movement, there is always a force of resistance with energy loss. For Tarp, he is still, to some extent, within dominant power’s hold and though he is “free,” he does not move without barriers to his full potential, like electricity. It relates to Legba’s creation of openings through destruction or creating new meaning through friction (Marvin 1996, 590). Tarp’s limp is like Legba‘s; one foot is physically sound, the other is a representation of an invisible world interacting with the physical (587). Tarp, Legba, and electricity move not in direct straight paths but in a jagged movement colliding with the fxed physical world—the collisions of invisible entities with the visible. It is the sounds, percussive actions and percussive actors in the novel that mimic and teach the narrator the movement of spiritual energy through fxed, physical construction.

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BUCKING ON LEGBA’S CIRCUIT Circuits usually connote electricity, but they also can be applied to a performance space where diferent bodies are present and interact. One example is the “chitlin circuit,” a collective of performance venues for African American musicians, comedians, and other performers during the Jim Crow Era. Besides Wilcox, other scholars have written about the novel’s carnivalesque nature illuminating the distorted “absurdities of racial imagining” (Shinn 2002, 243, and 256). Tus, circuitry in this section is the performances or expressions of identity and interactions between socialized bodies. To put it in terms of frequency, it is the choreographed interactions of bodies situated at diferent frequencies, and frequencies fowing through the narrator’s performing body; as he says in the last line, “who know but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you” (Ellison 1997, 581). Edward Pavlic’s critique of Ellison’s work in comparison to Zora Neale Hurston’s was that Ellison’s lacked a communal voice that Teir Eyes Are Watching God had (Pavlic 2002, 64–67). However, though Ellison’s work was not as explicitly polyvocal like Hurston’s novel, it is there subtly in the narrator’s circuitous double-speech and “shape-shifting,” mimicking the capacity of electricity to fll multiple entities at once. He inhabits various entities, a good reason as to why his name is never revealed. Te narrator shape-shifts inconspicuously without a specifc name to defne him. His self-discovery is his lack of one defnable self and wanting to record that truth. He “obtain[s] ultimate meaning through a process of ‘becoming’” (Pinn 2003, 4). Legba’s crossroads, or circuit, is a location of constantly shifting connections. Using Russell’s description of the Caribbean game limbo, a game similar to a rising crossing gate of a garage, the narrator shifts into new bodies of “sensibility” to fgure how to “accommodate African and other [cultural] legacies” within the new limited space of modern “architecture of cultures” (Russell 2009, 7). It is Legba’s creative, improvising power and ability to shift the shape of knowledge no matter the given space.

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As the narrator discusses on page 439, dominant cultures rely on and have the power to keep their fxed narratives and exclude others that do not ft them; if that narrative is taken away, their power falls apart. Subcultures, on the other hand, consistently have to renegotiate multiple narratives within and out of the dominant culture. Vodun had to be syncretic in the Americas in order to survive; in fact, the religion already had that fuid polyvocal, polyrhythmic openness because ashe is considered universal despite diferent cultural manifestations (De La Torre 2009, 37). Tis “multiplicity in one” manifests in ecstatic performance—the art of putting on diferent identities, having them exist in one body, or, in terms of ashe, taking fuid energy and containing it. D. Denenge Akpem claimed that performance artists are “conduit[s] or conductor[s] to afect transformation” (Vocalo 2013). Invisible Man is flled with transitional, transformative performers who reorient themselves to “open up new territory,” usually using the dynamism of musical and dance performance as a tool of subtly shifting power and creating change (Marvin 1996, 599). In Pinn’s essay on danced religion, he argues, “connected to this style of making meaning is a posturing of the body—a placement of bodies in various space of socioeconomic, political and cultural purpose” (Pinn 2003, 3). Identity, including race, is a mask over the constantly orienting and reorienting of social currency and mobility within in a system. Wilcox coupled minstrelsy with electricity in regards to race relations. He advocates for reading race as intensities (or frequencies) of the body without organs (society) (Wilcox 2007, 173). Race becomes visible through a ritualistic role-play, a dance of exchanges where body becomes currency, social energy, or a social network. Earlier I mentioned Bledsoe’s words to the narrator, “bucking against power” (Ellison 1997, 142). Although bucking is defned as an act of resistance, bucking is also a popular dance originating from both European-American clog dancing and African American foot dancing. Tomas Defrantz, a dance professor, described buck dances as “percussive and weighted down into the foot” (Defrantz 2012). Bucking, as well as Tod Clifton’s doll’s jig, act as intensifed or ritualized versions of Legba’s limp. Te dances, like the limps, are strategies to maneuver through the “doubleness” of being. Percussion scholar John Mowitt , Wilcox, and Joel Dinerstein, who wrote Swinging the Machine: Modernity, Technology and African-American Culture between the Wars, argue that dance, music, storytelling, sermonizing and other parts of public ritual were forms of “survival technology” used to fght the isolation, bleakness and pressures of slavery and industrialized capital society, and to afrm “somebodiess”— physicality, spirituality, joy, sexuality, individuality and cultural heritage (Mowitt 2000, 297; Wilcox 2007, 173; Dinerstein 2003, 22). Tey were eforts to celebrate the pleasure of the body that Western Enlightenment science, racism and capitalism has tried to suppress. Such percussive and rhythmic dances are similar to trance and ecstatic dances in traditional African religions; they look like bodies undergoing electric shock, similar to the boxer’s jolting motions on the rug after the Battle Royal (Pinn 2003, 3). Tese dances “synthesized energy and control pattern and improvisation” (Wilcox 2007, 173). Te word buck also has a complex association to African American culture, as both a degrading term for black men, implying they were wild

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animals, which can be subversively tied to the resistance of capitalistic mechanization, and thus the dance was subversive. Black people had to play between restriction and freedom, fgure out ways to be outside the eyes of controlling government and clergy, who restricted dances, by syncretizing African aesthetics to European Christian regulations, playing a game of limbo (DeFrantz 2012). Ellison integrated these masquerade-dance rituals that managed the experience of “doubleness” into the novel (Ellison 1997, 271). Te transformation of minstrelsy into a ritual technology of trickster masquerade shows in the sambo doll image of ex-Brotherhood member, Tod Clifton. Here, a black man has gained some power over this sambo fgure; he pulls the invisible string, behind a minstrel mask. Te grotesque, two-faced sambo doll shakes and jigs, as if electrifed, to entertain the public (431–33). Wilcox claims Clifton’s selling of the dolls is a subversive tactic (Wilcox 2007, 175). Clifton’s attempts to capitalize of and drain some power from an image meant to overpower him. Tis was unlike the Battle Royal where the narrator and other black boys box (percussive action) for white men’s entertainment and proft, the Liberty Paints doctor’s scientifc objectifcation, or the designation as a kind of ventriloquial vehicle for white liberal validation with Mr. Norton and the Brotherhood. Te narrator in those scenes lacks control of his movement around these men as if a vessel of possession; these white men charge and project onto his body as he performs for them, “keeping him running” (Ellison 1997, 448), in his place. However, Clifton is on a mission to regain some of his power and mobility back. After the Brotherhood pushes him out, his dancing doll becomes a subversive symbol through percussive bodily reorientation, using feet instead of hands to fght. Still, like Tarp, his full potential is limited; he dies in a direct confrontation with police authority for illegally selling these dolls. His subversive circulation of currency is defeated when exposed functioning within the dominant system. Te narrator says, he “was only a salesman, not the inventor,” and “they had power to use the paper doll, frst to destroy his integrity, then as an excuse for killing him.” Te narrator expresses the need for inventors, not just salesmen and consumers but “socio-cultural transformers” to confront obsolete, corrupted systems of power (xv, 33, and 194). Trough his encounters, the narrator acquires a range of avenues from which he can maneuver his way through social networks. He fnds that “he must conduct his subversion of the system covertly, as its ‘hidden organ,’” employing the “strategy of signifyin(g)” through minstrel technology. He fnds loopholes in the “existing power structures,” and thus, “assemble[s] a network of subalterns within the context of a more powerful social apparatus” (Wilcox 2007, 987). Te narrator reinvents himself as a virtual invisible man, a supplemental phantom avatar to fnd empowerment from the hacks of dominant society and to slide through its cracks like a game of limbo. Tis virtual self is a fctive “tool of mediation,” in the sense of a mirror and lens of a camera, for him to speculate and refect at himself and society in diferent orientations to understand both better in the now (Otto 2005, 35–41; Lawrence 2010, 11). Using it, he choreographs through static impositions of commodifed images, their psychophysical damage, and a chaotic social world to create a dance of survival.

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BODY WITHOUT ORGANS: INFINITE POTENTIAL ENERGY Te narrator’s invisible ruling head consciousness (comparable to Vodou’s “Met tet,” or Yoruba’s “ori”), Reverend B. P. Rinehart corresponds with Legba’s electric fuidness. “His world was possibility. . . . Te world in which he live is without boundaries. A vast seething, hot world of fuidity” the narrator exclaims. He consequently feels a “new freedom of movement” (Ellison 1997, 498–99). Rinehart, “the spiritual technologist,” is a master of disguise, weaving the novel’s two seemingly contradicting forces together. He is both the hard skin of the “rind” and the foundational core of the “heart,” the innovating technologist and immanent spirit. His personalities as a reverend, a womanizer, a racketeer, a gambling operator and possibly a “living god” evoke Legba/Eshu, who is known for his “deceit, humor, lawlessness, [and] sexuality” as well as his roles as “a mediator of fate” and “god of communication and spiritual language” (Davis 1991; Ellison 1997, 498). Legba’s incarnation as Rhinehart is further established in his handbill in which he writes, “the old is ever new,” “New Orleans, the home of mystery” (given the city’s connection to Haiti, creolization and voodoo), and “the new revelation of the old time religion” (Ellison 1997, 495). Rinehart teaches the narrator the diference between a limited physical existence and a larger invisible world of shifting networks, interactions, contexts, meanings and remixes. He is forced to dig deeper and look at all stories of possibility, to live more complexly, as Pinn would put it (Pinn 2003, 4). Tis is unlike Ras the Exhorter whose extremism and infexibility turns him into Ras the Destroyer, and is impaled by his own power. Te narrator instead recognizes the humanity and complexity in people like his grandfather. Recording and speaking for the invisible voices outside dominant narratives of “history” becomes the narrator’s achievement of ashe, the highest level of art, as Russell would describe it. “To achieve ashe one must: ‘cultivate the art of recognizing signifcant communications, knowing what is truth and what is falsehood” (Russell 2009, 10). Truth for the narrator “is no longer defned by the ability of a group to enforce its will, its desires, its recollection of things” but truth is the spiritual power and knowledge he gathers and manifests in his own fesh (Pinn 2003, 4). Using the fxation on the physical world’s mask, or as Wilcox calls it, the cyborg-state of “yes,” he deceptively, like a magician’s tool of distraction, opens a portal to another world (Wilcox 2007, 1004–6). Pinn’s description of African American culture encapsulates the narrator’s journey: Embedded in the words and rhythm, an impulse exists, a musically defned drive, that speaks to the way African-Americans have felt the pulse of life, measured it and harnessed it .  .  . one fnds a source of questioning, prodding the conditions of life, fipping and examining existential circumstances until something useful surfaces. It is recognition of the value of African-Americans through their ability to shape and control language and, in a way, construct a world. Yet, this language has shaped a world marked

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by a mature depiction of life; it is one that recognizes the absurd nature of encounter, but in a way that avoids nihilism while calling into question the nature of social crisis. (2003, 2)

In the epilogue, the narrator philosophizes on behalf of Legba’s last incarnation “Old Bad Air.” All systems, patterns, and machinery consist of “interruptions or breaks” through which someone or something small enough or invisible can slip (Wilcox 2007, 991). Te narrator learns that life was not pure certainty, that we form our lives against chaos (Ellison, 580–81). Legba reveals to those who do not consider all possibilities, or as the narrator says “calculate the risks,” the consequences of that blindness. But he uses the blindness to his advantage. Integrating the chaos of death and loss creates a space for reinvention and mobility; the narrator’s efort to forgo the social death in cultural blackness as a pass to success proved futile. He is initiated into an electrifyingly percussive ritual, a hybrid state of creative subconsciousness (Otto 2005, 33), in which he learns to transform himself in alignment with chaotic changes and new spaces of the world, to reshape the broken pieces of an unavoidable, painful past, and to translate his inner cultural technomythos.

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THE UNIVERSAL PARTICULARS One of the core points of critical lens like Afrofuturism and Africology is that they allow us to examine simultaneously the specifc cultural contributions of the Afrodiaspora to the world and the universal principles and interconnections that undergird all cultural manifestations. Using the loa Legba to analyze Invisible Man might disturb some who have frm beliefs in a particular cultural manifestation, like Christianity, but as Legba himself, other trickster god associates, and Invisible Man have shown, holding extreme footings in one perspective or belief can cause dangerous confict: it prevents one from seeing the larger structure and the various possibilities or interpretations of existence within it. Part of this larger structure is those universal principles—a macrocosm of archetypes that guide our human psyche, flling the various stories of how we understand and structure our world. Tey are the subtle inheritances that we sometimes do not see because we are normalized in the separated superfcial constructions of cultures and fail to uncover the less visible, outer body, holistic connections between our cultures and bodies. But those principles are and have always been there; they give a deeper sense of who we are, a deeper bodily sense. Afrofuturism, and by extension Africology, reveals that connective tissue through reexamining, reimagining, and reenergizing our specifc cultures. It allows us to reclaim the same human and spiritual essence that is devalued in us, and to explore within and outside the binds of society and history. All it takes is for us to fnd the courage to rediscover that in what we already have, in highlighting the stories that refect our interpretation of and movement through universe.

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REFERENCES Anderson, Reynaldo. 2017. “Afrofuturism 2.0 & Te Black Speculative Art Movement: Notes on a Manifesto.” Obsidian 42(1–2): 230–38. Asante, Molef Kete and Ama Mazama. 2009. Encyclopedia of African Religion, Volume 1. Tousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Bâ, Amadou Hampaté. 2008. A Spirit of Tolerance: Te Inspiring Life of Tierno Bokar. Bloomington: World Wisdom, Inc. Barnes, Sandra T. 1997. Africa’s Ogún: Old World and New, 2 edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Chester, Alfred and Vilma Howard. 1955. “Ralph Ellison, Te Art of Fiction No. 8.” Te Paris Review. Accessed November 10, 2013. http:​//www​.thep​arisr​eview​.org/​inter​views​ /5053​/the-​art-o​f-fc​tion-​no-8-​ralph​-elli​son. Coulter, Charles Russell and Patricia Turner. 2000. Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. Dalleo, Raphael. 2004. “Anot her “Our America”: Rooting a Caribbean Aesthetic in the Work of José Martí, Kamau Brathwaite and Édouard Glissant.” Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal 2(2): 1–11. Davis, Erik. 1991. “Trickster at the Crossroads.” 2012. Accessed October 15, 2013. http:​// www​.levi​ty.co​m/fg​ment/​trick​ster.​html.​ DeFrantz, Tomas. 2012. “Tomas DeFrantz: Buck, Wing and Jig.” YouTube. Accessed October 11, 2013. http:​//www​.yout​ube.c​om/wa​tch?v​=A34O​D4eA1​7o. De La Torre, Michael A. 2009. Hispanic American Religious Cultures, Volume 1: A-M. Santa Barbara: Greenwood Publishing Group. Dinerstein, Joel. 2003. Swinging the Machine: Modernity, Technology, and African American Culture. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. Ellison, Ralph. 1997. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage International. Francis, Sherese. 2012. “African Vibrations: Te Percussive Approach in Hip-Hop Music.” BA Tesis, Baruch College. George, Brian. 2011. “Eshu and Ananse: Liberation by Subversive Knowledge.” Reality Sandwich. Accessed October 15, 2013. http:​//www​.real​itysa​ndwic​h.com​/eshu​_and_​anans​e_lib​ erati​on. Holmes, Vance. 2012. “It Don’t Mean a Ting: A Jazz Rif on Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.” Accessed September 10, 2013. http:​//www​.vanc​eholm​es.co​m/edu​/lit3​61_el​lison​.html​. Jaegar, Michael. “Energy: Te Secrets of the Universe, Unlocked.” Te Washington Times Communities (September). Accessed October 22, 2013. http:​//com​munit​ies.w​ashin​gtont​ imes.​com/n​eighb​orhoo​d/ene​rgy-h​arnas​sed/2​012/s​ep/30​/secr​ets-u​niver​se-un​locke​d/. Lavender, Isiah III. 2017. “Further Deliberations on Black SF Criticism.” Science Fiction Studies 44 (1) (March): 164–71. Lawrence, Tonja. 2010. “An Africentric Reading Protocol: Te Speculative Fiction Of Octavia Butler And Tananarive Due.” MA Tesis, Wayne State University. Mackey, Nathaniel. 1993. Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality and Experimental Writing. New York: Cambridge University Press. Marvin, Tomas F. 1996. “Children of Legba: Musicians at the Crossroads in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.” American Literature 68: 587–608. Mowitt, John. 2002. Percussion: Drumming, Beating, Striking. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Nair, Supriya M. 2013. “Magic, Science, Fantasy and Religion.” In Pathologies of Paradise: Caribbean Detours, 112–42. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. Nelson, Alondra. 2002. “Introduction: Future Texts.” Social Texts 71 20(2): 1–15. Otto, Melanie. 2005. “Te Other Side of the Mirror: Utopian and Heterotopian Space in Kamau Brathwaite’s DreamStories.” Utopian Studies 16(1): 27–44. Pavlic, Edward Michael. 2002. Crossroads Modernism: Descent and Emergence in AfricanAmerican Literary Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. ———. 2004. ““Papa Legba, Ouvrier Barriere Por Moi Passer”: Esu in Teir Eyes & Zora Neale Hurston’s Diasporic Modernism.” African American Review 38: 61–85. Pinn, Anthony B. 2003. “Du Bois’ Souls: Toughts on ‘Veiled’ Bodies and the Study of Black Religion.” Te North Star: A Journal of African American Religious History 6: 1–5. Powercube. “Foucault: Power is Everywhere.” Powercube. Accessed November 1, 2013. http:​ //www​.powe​rcube​.net/​other​-form​s-of-​power​/fouc​ault-​power​-is-e​veryw​here/​. Russell, Heather. 2009. Legba’s Crossing: Narratology in the African Atlantic. Athens: University of Georgia Press. Shinn, Christopher A. 2002. “Masquerade, Magic, and Carnival in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.” African American Review 36: 243–61. Selin, Helaine, ed. 1997. Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Stepto, Robert B. 1991 From Behind the Veil: A Study of Afro-American Narrative. Champagne: University of Illinois. Tompson, Tomas. 1966. “Te Comeback of Ray Charles. Pain and Blindness Have Music Soaring.” Life Magazine 61: 54–62. Vocalo. 2013. “Practically Speaking 28: Unpacking Afrofuturism.” Accessed October 5, 2013. https​://so​undcl​oud.c​om/vo​calo/​pract​icall​y-spe​aking​-28. Wilcox, Johnnie. 2007. “Black Power: Minstrelsy and Electricity in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.” Calaloo 30: 987–1009. Woodyard, Jefrey Lynn. 2003. “Africological Teory and Criticism: Reconceptualizing Communication Constructs.” In Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations, edited by Ronald L. Jackson and Elaine B. Richardson, 133–54. New York: Routledge. Yaszek, Lisa. 2005. “An Afrofuturist Reading of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.” Rethinking History 9: 297–313. Youngquist, Paul. 2010. Cyberfction: After the Future. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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III

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BLACKNESS AND PLANETARY PRAXIS

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11 Ashes to Ashes The Second Life of Kiluanji Kia Henda’s Afrofuturist Critique

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Dariel Cobb

African artists born to a postindependence continent, curiously placed in the temporal limbo engendered by their new nations’ violently dynamic notions of future and past, are socially empowered as image-makers to realign, reshape, and rename the world. Te African artist’s process is an enactment of his or her nation’s negotiation with modernity; the artist is an “historical agent capable of representing the modern condition in which he is working” (Enwezor and Okeke-Agulu 2009, 15). Using methods similar to Dadaist bricolage, Afrofuturism seizes upon this chronological purgatory as a site for uncanny cultural remixes. Science fction narratives ofer a compelling populist opening to such rewritten cultural autobiographies. In Spaceship Icarus 13 (2008), Angolan artist Kiluanji Kia Henda (born 1979, Luanda) harnesses Afrofuturist memes to present a vision of the future based on a reimagined past, channeling an unlikely combination of satire and utopianism, irony and hope. Spaceship Icarus 13—an architectural model, a story, and a series of eight photographs—“documents” the creation of Africa’s frst space base and humanity’s frst mission to the sun. Kia Henda’s spaceship is a reappropriated item of totalitarian kitsch,1 a late 1970s-era Soviet-designed mausoleum for Agostinho Neto, Angola’s Marxist-leaning frst president. Within this mausoleum-cum-spaceship, enhanced in Kia Henda’s narrative by icons of American consumerism and Angolan devastation—Budweiser and diamonds—the artist sends Neto’s ashes up to burn. Te violence of this second destruction, from ashes to ashes, is both piercing and poignant. It encapsulates Kia Henda’s artistic critique of Angola’s long civil war, its lost human potential, and the country’s current political and economic climate. Yet the delicious humor of Spaceship Icarus 13, a glorious and impossible fantasy that recalls the hubris of the mythical Greek Icarus and rifs on the Apollo 13 mission, softens the work into a confection easily consumed by foreign audiences. Just 153

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as Kia Henda’s project gives renewed life to Neto’s monument by reappointing it as a spaceship, Spaceship Icarus 13 has itself had a second life as a representative of the larger Afrofuturist movement in Africa as it tours the global art biennale circuit. Tis essay will discuss the evolution of Afrofuturism and its relationship with the visual arts in the twenty-frst century, trace the critical reception of Spaceship Icarus 13 as it has made its way around the world, discuss Kia Henda’s role in presenting the diasporically originating mode of Afrofuturism returned to the African continent, consider the work’s active potential vis-à-vis Angolan culture, and conclude with speculations on Afrofuturist art and design. If the narratives that build nations are based upon the control and containment of time, then the utopian time of Afrofuturist art breaks such narratives to pieces, thus presenting a path toward cultural reinvention. Alongside the facile sci-f iconography of Spaceship Icarus 13, Kia Henda’s larger project may in fact be oneiric rather than futurist, encouraging Angolans to dream again their future and their past. Te melancholy entombed within the extravagance of Spaceship Icarus 13, its travel a paradox of hope in a very poor nation forced to “make everything new” (Kia Henda 2010), is a continuing critique of both Angolan history and the surface reading of the artwork itself by its global audience.

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AFROFUTURISM AND VISUAL ART IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY Defning Afrofuturism, as with any other delineation of an artistic tradition, is the establishment of seemingly concrete boundaries immediately punctured by outliers. Te frst volume of this collection, Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of Astro-Blackness, helps to expand the signifer’s reach through a series of thoughtful critiques that push back the frontier of Afrofuturism’s traditional disciplinary boundaries (Anderson and Jones 2015). Most frequently applied to African American science fction writers like Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany, and to works of imaginative, speculative fction by African American writers born the generation prior—Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man and W. E. B. Du Bois’s short story “Te Comet,” for example—commentators cite cultural critic Mark Dery’s hesitant defnition of Afrofuturism in 1994 is as the term’s frst academic use: Speculative fction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth-century technoculture—and, more generally, African-American signifcation that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future—might, for want of a better term, be called Afrofuturism. (180)

However, the geographic and formal constraints of Dery’s defnition have been superseded in the twenty-frst century by an explosion of black speculative thought, a racial technopolitics for the postmodern era. Of particular interest here is the claim to Afrofuturism by artists, critics and curators for whom its expansion has proved

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both fortuitous and timely, tapping into and perpetuating a zeitgeist of the digital age.2 Zoé Whitley, cocurator of the visual art exhibition Te Shadows Took Shape at Te Studio Museum in Harlem (November 14, 2013 to March 9, 2014) defnes Afrofuturism expansively as “an aesthetic strategy for addressing race, displacement and diference using recognizable visual symbols,” pointing to populist technological imagery which crosses creative genres and ignores the boundaries of national identity (Whitley 2013, 21). Tis imagery would presumably reference the seven most common tropes of science fction: aliens, robots, spaceships, time travel, advanced mechanical and biological technologies, alternative histories, and futuristic utopias/ dystopias (Roberts 2006, under “Tree Defnitions”). Te curators further contest the conception of sci-f’s singular chronological focus: “Artists working within this rubric not only critique the present-day dilemmas of people of color . . . but also revise, interrogate and reexamine actual historical events” (Keith 2013, 13). Tat is, creating the past anew using these same imaginative techniques is contained within the boundaries of the genre—an historical remix may be futuristic or utopian without being necessarily forward-looking in time (Eshun 2003).3 Not surprisingly, the term “Afrofuturism” remains contentious in artistic and academic circles. Artist and curator Tegan Bristow argues that “African Futurism,” unique to African artists working within the explicit cultural framework of African relations to technology, should be distinguished from “Afrofuturism” due to the latter’s American origins (2013, 86).4 African American author Samuel Delany, whose book Dhalgren (1975) is consistently cited as a pivotal work of Afrofuturism, eschews this “neologism” as contrite: “A bit too nakedly, [such terms] declare a desire to be one of the cool people” (2013, 54). Likewise, Nigerian American author Nnedi Okorafor shrugs of “Afrofuturism” as simply the by-product of her intersecting preoccupations, declaring, “I’m not very interested in labels” (Whitted 2015, 208). Yet Delany concedes that “wanting to be one of the cool people isn’t so bad if they’re doing something interesting,” and further states that for his students at Temple University, “if you write stories that deal with some aspect of the future of culture or technology or anything else—well, you’re writing Afrofuturism.”5 He also makes the supportive assertion that science fction, which he frst read as a child in the 1950s, is a useful allegory of the black American experience: “Did the science fction I read at the time talk about the black situation in America, about the progress of racial change? Isaac Asimov’s famous ‘Robot’ stories certainly veered close” (Delany [1978] 2013, 105). Literary critic Adam Roberts echoes this connection when he notes that sci-f can “provide a symbolic grammar for articulating the perspectives of normally marginalized discourses of race, of gender, of non-conformism and alternative ideologies” (2006, under “Diference”). Te actors of Afrofuturism slip sideways through culture into alternate, refreshing, unexpected narratives. Despite the simplifcation genre labels imply, considering both the globality of contemporary culture and the burgeoning state of popular awareness concerning racially charged futurisms, I fnd little harm in the term Afrofuturism or its proposed geographic and intermodal inclusion. Rather than the clumsy moniker “African-American Science Fiction”—with the stipulation that it is no longer just

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African American or just traditional science fction—Afrofuturism seems to ft. Further atomizations and variations of the term, such as Astro-blackness or Black Quantum Futurism, for example, reafrm the need for a foundational category.6 Most simply, the genre of Afrofuturism is the combination of its parts: addressing the cultural circumstances of African and diasporic people of color—afro—and the material technological fascination of futurists. Looking to various twentieth century examples, it seems clear that creative explorations in Afrofuturism were in fact decidedly mixed in media; alongside writers, the genre has been fertile ground for musicians, flmmakers, and visual artists. Musician Sun Ra, born Herman Poole “sonny” Blount in Birmingham, Alabama, 1914, styled himself as an all-powerful being from Saturn who brought his “Intergalactic Jazz Arkestra” to earth to enlighten its people (Szwed 1998).7 George Clinton followed in Sun Ra’s narrative footsteps with science-fction-infused lyrics for the band Parliament—Funkadelic, and album titles like Mothership Connection (1975). In the 1990s, hip-hop and electronic artists like DJ Spooky, Wutang Clan, and Missy Elliot all made extensive sci-f references in their work. Director John Sayles’s Brother from Another Planet (1984) is a precursor to South African Neill Blomkamp’s flm parables Alive in Joberg (2005) and District 9 (2009), which examine South Africa’s apartheid-era Bantustans—race-based controlled encampments—via the lens of sci-f aliens stranded on earth.8 Kenyan Wanuri Kahiru’s Pumzi (2009), in a similar vein, is a dystopian short flm concerning future desertifcation. As clearly evidenced by the 29 international artists included in the 2013/2014 exhibition Te Shadows Took Shape at Te Studio Museum in Harlem, visual art has embraced this genre. In the early decades of the twenty-frst century, Afrofuturism has matured to the extent that one can detect sub-trends developing within it. Representations of “afronauts,” black astronauts, pop up again and again: Yinka Shonibare’s fgurative sculpture installations Cloud 9 (2000), Vacation (2000), and Spacewalk (2002); Kiluanji Kia Henda’s Spaceship Icarus 13 (2008); Cristina de Middel’s photographic series Te Afronauts (2012); Gerald Machona’s video performance Vabvakure (2014); and the 2014 flm Te Afronauts, directed by and starring Ghanian Frances Bodomo. Te last three projects were likely inspired by a 2011 recirculation of the story of Edward Makuka Nkoloso, a science teacher who in 1964 attempted to build a space program in Zambia. His eforts were originally reported by the Lukasa Times in an article titled, “We’re Going to Mars! With a Spacegirl, Two Cats, and a Missionary.”9 Each of the aforementioned examples, suggested narratives of African space exploration, perform like Ralph Ellison’s protagonist in the novel Invisible Man: someone who “creates a space outside linear time where he can begin to rewire the relations between past and present and art and technology,” according to literary critic Lisa Yaszek (2005, 297). To understand what she means by “outside linear time,” consider what postcolonial theorist Achille Mbembe has said regarding the foundational postcolonial thinker, psychiatrist and activist Franz Fanon and temporal displacement:

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For Franz Fanon, the most brutal consequence of the injuries inficted to those who had been subjected to abject forms of racial violation was an inability to imagine or project themselves forward in time while, at the same time, that is, imagining the future. Teir sense of temporality had been crippled, as a result of which they had developed a specifc illness—a faulty sense of a future they believed they could not control or shape. His nightmare was for life to continue in the same way after decolonization, after the loss of so many lives, after an unprecedented scale of material and psychic devastation—repetition. (Mbembe 2013, emphasis added)

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For people who have had the control of their lives taken from them, either directly through slavery, or less directly through the racist institutions of colonialism and neocolonialism, manifesting a vision of the future—a future in which they have reclaimed control—is a political act. Living “outside of time” describes the sensation of temporal disconnection triggered by the imbalance between the recognition of one’s own abilities and talents, and the opportunities accorded to you by the society in which you live because of the color of your skin, as was the plight of Ellison’s Invisible Man. Tis could be described as an internal sense of temporal displacement. Tere is also an external sense of temporal displacement embodied in the ways Africa has been co-opted as an idea: that Africa is itself dislodged from linear time. Western tradition has perceived the continent as an other outside of time, without history—a place located in the eternal present, with no verifable past. It is for this reason, to claim history, that curators Naima J. Keith and Zoé Whitley are concerned with stressing the backward temporality of Afrofuturism, as depicted, for example, in Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred ([1979] 2004).10 Butler takes an African American woman from the present day and sends her back in time to the era of slavery in the American South, then follows her struggle to maintain control over her body and her future. Te use of science fction to rewrite the trauma of the past, to potentially transform it in a healing manner, resonates with what fantasy novelist J. J. R. Tolkien has written regarding the relegation of science fction and fantasy to a specialty subgenre favored by escapist readers: Why should a man be scorned if, fnding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? Te world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter. ([1947] 2008, 20)

Afrofuturism ofers a path toward total temporal control. Kiluanji Kia Henda’s Spaceship Icarus 13 is a project which helps Angolans escape their past as well as imagine their future. Science fction tropes can also be used to describe the colonial experience more generally. In the 1953 flm Les Statues Meurent Aussi (Statues Also Die), directors Chris Marker and Alain Resnais write the following passage, read by Resnais as the narrator over a montage of images of traditional African art: “We are the Martians of Africa. We disembark from our planet, with our ways of

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seeing, with our white magic, with our machines. We cure the Blacks’ illnesses, that is certain. Tey catch our illnesses, that is also certain. Whether he wins or loses in this exchange, his art in any case will not survive.” Tis passage emphasizes the otherness of Europeans from an African perspective and the alien invasion of colonialism. It also links—in a fantastical manner—the material technologies of the colonial era to their cultural impact on the continent. Afrofuturism is an expression of the hybridity of African cultures as a result of colonial imperialism and industrial technology.

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SPACESHIP ICARUS 13 AND THE ANGOLAN CIVIL WAR Spaceship Icarus 13 is marked as Afrofuturist through the science fction tropes of space travel and mechanical augmentation, its African characters, and the African location of the objects photographed—all of which, however, if the viewer does not recognize Luanda, Angola, exist overtly only in the photographs’ titles and the accompanying narrative. Yet the project’s otherworldliness is certainly apparent. Te work’s dominant element, its eight photographs, are placed linearly in supposed chronological order (according to the narrative) at eye level.11 Each print, mounted on an aluminum panel and covered with glass, measures 80cm tall by 120cm wide (31.5” × 47”). Artifcial light refects of the glass surfaces as you walk past. Each image is more than twice as wide as your shoulders and three times the height of your head, framing your refection in a rectangular halo. Below each image is a title that corresponds to its place in Kia Henda’s narrative: “Te spaceship Icarus 13, Luanda,” “Astronomy observatory, Namibe Desert,” “Centre of astronomy studies and astronaut training, Namibe Desert,” “Building the spaceship Icarus 13,” “Icarus 13 (view from the Chicala Island, Luanda),” “Te launch of Icarus 13 (6:00pm, 25th of May, 2007),” “First picture of the Sun’s photosphere from Icarus 13 in orbit,” “Te return of the astronauts (5:00am, 5th of June, 2007).” Finally there is what appears to be a 1:50 scale model of the launch complex built in white plastic and metal mesh, covered by a plexiglass hemisphere.12 Next to the images, typed on a single page and mounted to the wall, is Kia Henda’s narrative, which reads in part: “Te mission’s purpose is to land on the largest of all stars—the sun. Te dream once attempted by Icarus, so Greek mythology tells us, will now become possible. We shall travel by night.” Te notion of traveling to the sun “by night” is in fact a reference to Samora Machel, the frst president of Mozambique, Angola’s lusophone cousin on the Indian Ocean. Kia Henda says of Machel that “he used to say a lot of jokes about himself,” and at a lecture at the Tate Modern in 2010, Kia Henda told the following Samora Machel story: One day he went to [the] people’s assembly, and that the idea was that the American[s] already went to the moon, or somewhere in [a] Hollywood studio. Te Russian[s] went to the moon. We African people, we should travel to space, but we should go to the

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sun. Well, people weren’t really excited about this idea. One of the camarades … said, “Camarade Samora, the sun is too hot!” And Samora said, “No problem Camarade, I’ve already thought about that. We’re going to the sun, but we’re going during the night. So through this idea of Samora, [I] tried to realize his dream. (2010)

Tis story reinforces the specifc historical context of Spaceship Icarus 13 in the mind of the artist. Although the driving science fction element in Spaceship Icarus 13 is Kia Henda’s narrative, the objects appropriated by Kia Henda’s camera are bizarre enough to suggest science fction in and of themselves. Decoding the project uncovers references to Angolan history, revealing the many dual meanings within Kia Henda’s narrative. Kia Henda’s ‘spaceship,’ Agostinho Neto’s memorial tower, is an unfnished, 120 meter-tall, blade-like, neo-Constructivist monument designed by Soviet architect Evgeni Rozanov, (1925–?),13 a prolifc Russian designer who went on to be the frst chairman of the State Committee for Civil Engineering and Architecture in the USSR, and founder of Moscow’s branch of the International Academy of Architecture (IAAM 2015). Te monument, for which construction began in the early 1980s, is in Kia Henda’s narrative “built with a mix of steel and a covering of diamonds, and at its heart is a system based on a catalyst called ‘SnowBall.’” A snowball is, of course, something cold, but it is also a colloquial term for the way negative situations amass and spiral out of control. Any reference to diamonds in an Angolan context is extremely loaded, as I discuss in the following text. In its two depictions, the memorial tower stands alone along Luanda’s sandy red shore, protected from the encroachment of slums (musseques) by three small auxiliary buildings and a chain-link fence. Te astronomy observatory, on the other hand, is the concrete shell of an unfnished saucer-shaped cinema in Angola’s southwestern Namibe province, abandoned and relegated to the status of an informal public toilet (2010). Tis desert zone is also the location of the astronaut training center, of which the artist writes, “Tey have been exposed to high temperatures inside a machine called ‘Sahara,’ developed especially for this project.” Te actual Sahara desert is far to the north of Angola, but there is a vast desert in the southern Namibe province. Te notion of the desert as a machine is an interesting twist on Africa’s relationship with technology and an original application of a sci-f trope to something naturally occurring. Te astronauts’ space suits are “based on the same SnowBall technology . . . equipped with tanks flled with Budweiser.” Considering the Americans’ role in the Angolan Civil War, discussed further here, and Angola’s current consumerist culture, this is another Janus-faced reference. Te image of construction workers was taken in Luanda’s shipyards (Nelson 2012, 86), and the moment of the spaceship’s launch was shot during a freworks display celebrating the national soccer team, the Palancas Negras (Black Antelopes), after their 2006 qualifcation to the FIFA World Cup. Te image of the sun, appearing not unlike a worm’s-eye-view of a low wattage light bulb, required “a special camera” to achieve (Kia Henda 2010). Kia Henda writes, “Te investigation of the Sun’s surface took fve hours, and particles from the photosphere were collected for observation in our laboratory. According to the astronauts’

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description, the Sun has the most beautiful night.” Te viewer is informed that the crew returned safely. Te photograph, “Te return of the astronauts,” depicts a large satellite dish, or perhaps the top of a water tank, in an empty lot in central Luanda. Kia Henda has noted that it was the memorial tower more than anything else that drew him to this project. As compared to other spires in Luanda, “Sputnik”—as the locals call it—represents a mid-point in Angola’s political history.14 Tis history is depicted in a previous project, Kia Henda’s photograph, Te Tree Towers (2009), which aligns three spires together in a single frame: the steeple of a Roman Catholic Church from the Portuguese colonial period, the mausoleum tower from Angola’s socialist period, and a radio and TV antennae from the current neoliberal capitalist period. At Tate Modern Kia Henda noted, “Te spaceship is actually the mausoleum of Agostinho Neto, but he’s not there anymore; no one knows where is the body of our frst president. It’s quite uncertain the destiny of the body, but it doesn’t matter now. It became the spaceship” (2010). After Agostinho Neto’s death (during surgery to remove a tumor) in Moscow in 1979, he was embalmed in the fashion of Soviet leaders but was later supposedly cremated and interred in his monument. Having begun his professional career as a doctor, like Ché Guevara,15 Neto spent time in prison for his political activities before becoming leader of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Portugal, Europe’s frst colonial empire, was also its last, retaining control of its African colonies long after other nations had relinquished their claims to the continent; Angola did not achieve independence until 1975. Neto initially sought support from the Kennedy Administration against the Portuguese before turning to the Soviets for assistance in MPLA’s anticolonial struggle (Huband 2001, 40). “For us,” writes former Soviet operative Vladimir Shubin, deployed by the USSR to lusophone Africa, “the global struggle was not a battle between two ‘superpowers’ assisted by their ‘satellites’ and ‘proxies,’ but a united fght of the world’s progressive forces against imperialism” (2008, 3). Several organizations established by the Soviets after the Second World War facilitated such alliances by interfacing with the leaders of African liberation movements and fltering their communication through to the highest levels of Soviet government. As early as 1961, Nikita Khrushchev wrote to the MPLA, “Te patriots of Angola can be sure that the sympathies of the peoples of the great Soviet Union are fully on their side” (ibid, 9). What has been thought of in the West as a war between the United States and the USSR as enacted in Angola, one of several such proxy wars during the Cold War period, was considered in Russia, Shubin insists, “as part of the world ‘anti-imperialist struggle,’ which was waged by the ‘socialist community,’ the ‘national liberation movements,’ and the ‘working class of the capitalist countries’” (2–3). Te civil war that broke out immediately after Angola’s independence lasted almost thirty years, from 1975 until 2002. Te Soviets, who had provided armaments and fnancing to the MPLA during their war against the Portuguese, continued to back the avowedly Marxist-Leninist group against their internal rival the FNLA, and later, UNITA. Tese latter groups were ostensibly capitalist, but evidence points primarily to diferences in ethnicity and to cults of personality as the main dividing lines

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between these political camps. Te United States, who had supported Portugal prior to Angolan independence—the United States had a military communications outpost on Cape Verde (Huband 2001, 41)—sent money and matériel of all kinds frst to FNLA and later to UNITA, including a cadre of CIA mercenaries. Te United States’ involvement is today widely regarded as rash and uninformed, with motives prompted by Cold War theories of containment, explains activist William Minter, and “not based on Angola or African realities at all” (1994, 145). Angola’s civil war left an estimated 600,000 to 1,000,000 people dead (White 2012).16 Te median number—800,000—would be approximately twice the total number of US casualties in the Second World War and over ten times the number of US casualties in Vietnam. Te human population was so diminished and so many refugees crowed together in cities (primarily Luanda) to escape the battles in the countryside that in 2012 Angola, along with neighboring Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, was able to create the world’s largest nature preserve; in the wake of this human extinction wildlife has returned, including prides of lions that occasionally stray into the remaining rural towns (Te Herald 2013).17 And who was the battle victor? “Nobody in Africa won the Cold War,” writes journalist Mark Huband, “because all the theaters—Somalia, Zaire, Angola, Liberia, and elsewhere—lie in ruins” (2001, 45–46). Today Angola remains deeply impoverished. Te average life expectancy for an Angolan is thirty-nine years of age (CIA DI 2011, 22), and one of the nation’s few domestic industries is the manufacture of prosthetic limbs (Zoellner 2006, 171).18 Tis devastation is all the more poignant when one considers that Angola “should have been one of the richest countries in Africa” (170). Journalist Tom Zoellner explains: Te capital, Luanda, is built on one of the best natural harbors in the Southern Hemisphere. Pink and lemon-yellow skyscrapers were built by the Portuguese during their long colonial tenure, and they line the waterfront in a graceful crescent reminiscent of Rio de Janeiro. Te scrublands of the west coast rise to a central plateau crisscrossed with rivers and full of rich loamy farmland in which virtually anything can grow. Tere is abundant sunshine and the night air feels gentle and Hawaiian on the skin. Reserves of oil are of the northern coast, and galaxies of diamonds are scattered in the rivers to the east. Te well-watered meadows of the highlands used to teem with exotic animals. With peace and clean government, the place could have been a model for a rising postcolonial Africa. (170–71)

While many analysts blame the United States, the USSR, or South Africa for prolonging Angola’s war, some of the bloodiest battles occurred after foreign funding ended. In the 1990s, when the United States backed away from UNITA, the guerrillas turned to diamonds to fnance their war—the term “blood diamond” originated here (10). Angolans born after independence point just as often to internal actors as to external ones, if not more frequently, to carry the blame for the violence and destruction in their nation. A local joke tells the story of Creation wherein “people were complaining that God had given Angola an unfair quantity of valuable

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resources—diamonds, oil—that sort of thing. And so God replied: ‘Ah, but you haven’t yet seen the people I’m going to put there’” (Huband 2001, 32).19 Kiluanji Kia Henda was born in 1979, and until 2002 lived his entire life in a war-torn country. He learned his craft from photojournalists documenting the confict (Kia Henda 2011). He points out the unique difculties facing an artist working in a nascent national context:

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for me it’s a great challenge to be an artist in Angola. I was just born at that time, where the people were trying to do a new country, a new fag, [a] new anthem, a new system of education; everything was very experimental. So that’s a huge challenge—to be original—in a country where every[one] has to be creative to overcome many problems. It’s like improvisation as a way of living. (2010)

Te uncomfortable mixture of anger and hope in Kia Henda’s statements about Angola is refected in his work. Neto’s mausoleum was part of a larger attempt to build a Red Square in Luanda, “but as other projects failed so this one also is a failure,” Kia Henda declares (ibid). Turning Neto’s monument into a solar spaceship is a dual act: the annihilation of the past as represented by Agostinho Neto, and the promise of a future wherein the past can be rewritten as a prelude to national redemption, even international greatness. Kia Henda continues, “this project was important for me because it was this appropriation of buildings and monuments that were created by this myth of doing a Red Square, this myth of the Portuguese to live in Angola—like a province of Portugal.20 And so, this is the continuation of the myth that ends in this travel.” It is also telling that Kia Henda’s father was a communist politician in Neto’s government. One of the artist’s early works, a photograph of a giant, rusting, beached, sea-faring vessel named “Karl Marx Angola,” he ofered as a gift to his father. “I saw this ship as [having] a lot to do with him, and with his books that he has in these libraries covered with dust that no one wants to read again. It’s part of the past” (Kia Henda 2010). Angola’s present economic situation is like a bizarre, absurdist theater piece, echoing some of the most uncanny aspects of the civil war—a situation often referred to as the confusão, “confusion,” a term specifcally linked to government ineptitude. Due to the mixed political afliations of various actors in the Angolan Civil War, one “hall of mirrors” contradiction was that “Angola became the only place in the world where Cuban troops, supposedly sworn to the destruction of capitalism, were protecting US multinational oil companies against attacks from US-backed guerrillas” (Zoellner 2006, 180). Following the collapse of Angola’s socialist government in the 1980s, journalist Karl Maier noted that “ideology is being replaced by the bottom line, as security and selling expertise in weaponry have become very proftable business. With its wealth in oil and diamonds, Angola is like a big swollen carcass and the vultures are circling overhead” (Maier 1996, 157)—the “vultures” being multinational corporate interests. As Kia Henda explains, “You come to this point where you have been a target of such aggression, you are not talking about globalization through, let’s say, McDonald’s or Coca Cola, you are talking about

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globalization though guns and bombs” (Kia Henda 2012). Today, Angola is as much in business with China as with any private organization.21 Corruption is considered rampant, with an estimated one third of the state’s oil royalties allegedly siphoned of to the personal bank accounts of public ofcials (Zoellner 2006, 172; Onishi 2017). Security in the capital, Luanda, is improved, but expats, primarily working in the oil industry, live in a few heavily guarded compounds clustered in a strip of land at the edge of the harbor. Demand is such that land prices per square foot are higher in this zone of Luanda than anywhere else in the world, including Manhattan (Jones 2012). Distribution of food from farm to market is slow and unreliable, causing extreme infation in prices, further exaggerating the cost of living. Te only reasonably priced goods are fuel, cigarettes, and beer. Diamonds are still a source of violence in the country’s mining regions, putting the Kimberly Process—standard procedures imposed by the gem industry in 2001 after a critical UN report written in an efort to curb the trafc of blood diamonds—in question. “If somebody is cut open because he has a diamond in his belly, that’s a very bloody diamond,” explains human rights researcher Rafael Marques. “In some senses, it is even more bloody than a war diamond. It used to be one enemy attacking another. Now you have private security frms and government soldiers literally slaughtering people” (Zoellner 2006, 1973).22 It is important to note that Kia Henda views Spaceship Icarus 13 as a hopeful project. Unlike the mythical Icarus who fell to his death when his wax wings melted, Kia Henda’s astronauts actually reach the photosphere of the sun. Unlike the aborted Apollo 13 mission to the moon (named for the Greek god Apollo, whose chariot pulls the sun across the sky), Kia Henda’s mission proceeded as planned with no difculties, and everyone returned safely. Te artist has expressed surprise regarding negative reviews: Tere are people that wrote about this project in Madrid, for example, that said I was making a joke of my own people, and that is a preoccupation. People read the work through the myth of Icarus and his failure to get to the sun, but I also talk about why he failed in his attempt to go to the sun. So, it’s also a critique of Greek mythology itself, its heroes, Greece as the birth-place of the “Modern Western world,” where democracy and all these ideas were born. We live in an era when all these ideas are failures: this concept of democracy, all these things. I can be critical also of myself, here, because in the text that went along with Icarus 13, what I wrote was a successful travel. (2012, 120)23

Te critics in Madrid to which Kia Henda refers combined the project’s name with the impossibility of a solar mission to conclude, in a facile manner, that Kia Henda is furthering a colonial stereotype of African people as ignorant and particularly technologically backward—not able to be modern. In contrast, Kia Henda’s fantasy is meant to overlay and reinscribe the Icarus myth with a modern African story of cultural, technological triumph. He simultaneously points out, in the comments earlier, that Western cultural ideals are themselves myths and lies in relation to Western

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colonial imperialism, as questionable as classic Western historiography. Kia Henda’s intentions and his admissions speak to the nuances of Spaceship Icarus 13, and to the complexity of critiquing Angola’s history while simultaneously presenting a utopian future rising from the ashes of its past.

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THE SECOND LIFE OF SPACESHIP ICARUS 13 Kia Henda invokes both beer and diamonds in his description of Spaceship Icarus 13. Given Angola’s history to the present moment, these are not simply tongue-incheek, winking jokes about American-style consumerism but strident political critiques. Yet without fairly substantial knowledge of the Angolan Civil War these critiques will be missed and likely interpreted instead as part of the extravagance of Kia Henda’s fantasy: A diamond-encrusted spaceship! Spacesuits cooled with tanks of beer! Kia Henda’s playful style provides for and even encourages this surface reading. It is this openness to interpretation that, in part, has allowed Spaceship Icarus 13 to have a second life outside of Angola in the global biennale circuit. Te artwork has been appropriated and commoditized in the same manner as Agostinho Neto’s mausoleum in the piece itself. In the last paragraph of Kia Henda’s narrative for Spaceship Icarus 13, the artist writes, “Tis frst mission accomplished, we plan to launch the frst solar tourist fight within fve years; duly equipped with ultraviolet sun block and glasses that are dark enough.” Yet Kia Henda has publicly stated, “Tere are no tourists in history” (2010), which questions the purpose of this part of Icarus 13’s story. Frantz Fanon considered tourism despicable, a gateway to cultural and actual prostitution, furthering African economic dependence on outsiders. In regards to the art market, Caroline Jones, in her essay “Biennial Culture: A Longer History,” discusses the exhibition form’s persistent ties to tourism throughout its evolution. She writes that biennales have been used to attract “foreigners whose patronage might replace extraction-based economies with a future of tourism” (2010, 76). However appealing this might seem, the tourist industry has often been accused of hiding colonial (or neocolonial) realities behind a façade of false romantic imagery. Art tourism feeds of “the popular taste for exoticization” which prevents patrons from seeing “beyond ethnographic fantasy,” encourages “afrokitsch,” and amplifes the general “reluct[ance] to perceive African artists in the present, as part of the modern and contemporary world” (Enwezor and Okeke-Agulu 2009). Writing that his solar tourists will wear “glasses that are dark enough,” Kia Henda engages the quest for authenticity tied up in the idea of the other, which he here links specifcally to blackness. “Authenticity’s primary structure is the fction that reproduces it as the fgure of a unitary, homogeneous belief in the particularism of an African essence,” writes curator Okwui Enwezor (2003, 58). I fnd Kia Henda’s dark glasses similar to the subversiveness of architect David Adjaye’s black mirror, which can be read as a strident critique in spite of its defective marketing

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(Suqi 2012). David Adjaye, a much-feted, London-based, Ghanian designer, created a set of free-standing, full-length mirrors in 2012. One mirror features a typical clear refection, the other has a dark, coppery tint that refects only one’s silhouette— Adjaye calls it the “black mirror.” As Enwezor observes, searching for authenticity generally obscures the hybridity of contemporary African culture, which “has always been enmeshed in structures of colonial mediation” (2009, 20). Te globalization of biennales, “moving toward new transnational subjectivities that dislocate center and periphery” (Jones 2010, 70), still cannot stake any claim toward authenticity. Tis is because, as Jones writes, “the moment a work is inserted into a world’s fair or international biennial it should be understood as always already translated, yet only in order to speak of diference itself” (ibid). Diference is commoditized and corrupted at the same time. Kia Henda has proven himself particularly savvy as a creator by catering to what biennale art patrons want. By adding a science fction narrative to what would otherwise be a series of interesting yet routine documentary photographs, he transforms this piece into an example of Afrofuturism. Science fction allows for his entrance onto the global stage. Kia Henda’s Spaceship Icarus 13 was included in the Tird Triennial of Guangzhou, China, 2008,24 and the Twenty-Ninth Bienal de Sao Paolo, 2010, after being exhibited in galleries in Naples and Berlin. It continues to travel, to Savanna, GA, to Bristol, to the UK, and in 2014, to New York City. Kia Henda has successfully tapped into the mutually benefcial relationship Afrofuturism creates between artists and curators.25 As critic Holland Cotter remarks of Afrofuturism, “Tis foating, negotiable concept of identity is a boon to artists who otherwise feel painted into a corner by market-narrowed versions of American racial politics, or weighed down by the West’s relentlessly dystopian view of Africa itself” (2013). Afrofuturism allowed Kia Henda’s work to jump from shows in Luanda and Lisbon to the non-Portuguese-speaking world, and to be received not only as African art but as contemporary art.26 Even contemporary Ghanian artist El Anatsui’s metal textiles hang in the dark, somber African galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York alongside centuries-old ritual artifacts instead of shimmering in the sunlit, upper-foor contemporary galleries where they belong. Afrofuturism could also be seen as a refection of the recent tastes of biennale patrons, a specialized subsection of the cultural elite, rather than that of curators. Enwezor and Okeke-Agulu quote Pierre Bourdieu to reveal the power of the patron: Te feld of cultural production is the area par excellence of clashes between the dominant factions of the dominant class, sometimes in person but more often through producers oriented towards defending their “ideas” and satisfying their “tastes.” . . . Tis confict brings about the integration in a single feld of the various socially specialized sub-felds, particularly markets which are completely separate in social and even geographical space, in which the diferent factions of the dominant class can fnd products adjusted to their tastes, whether in the theatre, in painting, fashion, or decoration. (Bordieu 1993, 102; qtd. in Enwezor and Okeke-Agulu 2009, 11)

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Tis is a critical reading of taste as a pretext for displays of power. It seems to resonate with the reviews of Spaceship Icarus 13 written for Western audiences: in Art in America Mathieu Borysevicz called the project “humorous” (2008, 113), and in Art Review Brian Dillon called it “absurdist sci-f” (2012, 117). While Kia Henda allows for and profts by these surface readings, they seem willfully ignorant of the African context. A more nuanced reading was given by Omar Kholeif in Art Monthly: “Jarring modernist architecture is superimposed against the hopeful narrative of the ambitious (and seemingly impossible) mission” (2012, 34). A second argument for the power of taste is that Spaceship Icarus 13 is similar to the work of other popular biennale artists, such as Ilya Kabakov, specifcally his installation Te Man Who Flew to Space from his Apartment, 1985 (Bishop 2005, 14). Having grown up in socialist Angola, it is even possible Kia Henda was previously aware of Kabakov’s work. As an artist, Kia Henda’s own agency remains paramount. Te presence of a narrative alongside the Spaceship Icarus 13 project was not serendipity, as he revealed in 2011 to Lígia Afonso:

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At the moment I believe that I am undergoing a change of skin as an artist. I decided to intervene in what was supposedly a mere documentary image, which came to acquire another signifcance when it underwent this process of manipulation. Feeding people the same poison with which we were fed. Sensationalism, omission or disorientation can be good tools when used in the artistic context.

Te poison—the myths and lies of the colonial and postcolonial era, a global lusophone empire ruled from Portugal, a Red Square in Angola, globalization via guns and bombs during the hot “Cold War”—is refected back in a benign lie of Kia Henda’s own creation. In a 2012 interview Kia Henda states, “I’ve been traveling and I can see other roads, other things that art is. It keeps moving. I don’t want to close myself only to what my country made of me but also fnd a global way to position myself” (2012). Tis echoes a comment made to art historian Tomas McEvilley by Ivoirian artist Gerard Santoni at the 1992 Venice Biennale: “I don’t think it makes sense to have a specifcally African painting . . . I’m glad to see myself as part of a world tradition” (1993, 10). In a conversation with McEvilley that same week, Senegalese artist Tamessir Dia predicted, “the future holds new, more interesting identities for all” (11).

CONCLUSION Kiluanji Kia Henda began his talk at the Tate Modern in 2010 by saying, “the interest of my work is always around this huge capacity of human beings to overcome fction.” And yet, Kia Henda has embraced fction, even science fction, as part of his artistic process. While he is clearly conscious of his place as an artist on the world stage, I fnd the main focus to his work to be the remediation of Angolans’s psyche. As Kia Henda told Lígia Afonso, “Tere are two questions which are vital to the African context: the ability to write and know one’s own history, and the

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ability to plan one’s own future” (2011). Afrofuturism has provided Kia Henda a methodology for what he calls “the process of mental decolonization,” which, he states, “goes far beyond the political act of raising fags, holding parades in public squares and promoting discourses” (ibid.). Afrofuturism allows Kia Henda access to a past outside of time from which he promotes a vision of the future that far outpaces Angola’s current political, social, and economic situation. His goal is certainly not to discourage Angolans or ridicule their lack of progress toward a peaceful modernity but instead to encourage their creative capacities. Tis is, after all, the nation from which the carnivale originated, today a culture fooded with new forms of music and fashion, where half the population is under 18 years of age (CIA DI 2011). What other choice does Angola have then to dream a better tomorrow? Kia Henda’s Spaceship Icarus 13 is a step toward that tomorrow. Kia Henda is among a cadre of African artists whose work creates space as it could be—an oneiric architecture that enables its users’ creative capacity to dream new futures. Like the avant-gardist architectural models designed by Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez and assembled into imagined cities of the future, or the technofuturist urban landscapes (buzzing with robots) and attendant architectural models designed and painted by Nigerian Olaleken Jeyifous, Kia Henda’s photographs— Spaceship Icarus 13 and the more recent A City Called Mirage (2014–2017)—suggest the possibility of a future Africa that creates, builds, and dreams its own destiny. Can it be said that Kia Henda’s work ofers designers a path toward Afrofuturist architecture? To the extent that photographers are masters of the particular uncanny of the real made anew, they allow us to reinhabit the living world under new circumstances, even under liberating paradigms. Like Kenyan sculptor Cyrus Kiberu’s C-Stunners, an ongoing series of photographs of the artist wearing his futuristic eyeglasses and visors made of found materials, or South African photographer Mary Sibande’s fantastic self-portrait series A Terrible Beauty is Born (2013), showing the lush, saturated, mono-color imaginings of a liberated housecleaner on an adventure of her own design, these artists teach us how to see. As British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare has remarked, “I don’t have to produce things the way they are in the real world. I can produce things that don’t exist yet. All the rules can be broken and new fantasies can be created. In art, anything is possible” (Shonibare 2006, 27). Tis represents the hopeful qualities of contemporary African art but belies its more complex sociopolitical underpinnings. As Shonibare suggests, “when people see an artist of African origin, they think: oh, he is here to protest. Yes, okay, I am here to protest, but I am going to do it like a gentleman” (Guldemond and Mackert 2004, 41). His best-known works, sculptures of headless mannequins dressed in Vlisco Dutch Wax (the cloth of Africanity), are staged as dioramas recreating well-known, colonial-era Rococo paintings. Other artists’ work is more bleak, less gentlemanly. Fabrice Monteiro’s collaborative photographic series from Senegal, Te Prophesy (2015), is an insitu demonstration of fantastical trash-fashion, its impossibly tall models gesturing skyward, god-like, as they traverse wasted beaches, bleak grasslands, and congested urban interiors. Chad Roussouw’s Parklands (2013) overlays

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images of the dry outskirts of his native Cape Town with “photos” of crashed, rusted spacecraft, suggesting that the sci-f trope of the desert planet is really just a place here on Earth. Architectural space, built space, is a place of conditioning. An Afrofuturist architectural space is one that reconditions or allows for the reconditioning of identity vis à vis the future imagined self, as does Kia Henda’s Spaceship Icarus 13. In this way, Afrofuturist architectural space is a Foucauldian heterotopia, a heretical space of never-where and might-be. As Achille Mbembe asserts, [T]here can be no discourse on identity formation in contemporary Africa that fails to take into account the “heretical spirit” at the heart of the encounter between Africa and the world. It is this heretical spirit that enables the subject to inhabit several worlds and to place him- or herself on two sides of the image simultaneously. Tis heretical spirit operates by encasing the subject in the event, by splitting, dividing, multiplying and converting things into their opposite (or their fake), and by the excessive theatricality accompanying all manifestations of life. ([2008] 2014, 127)

In art and design, as in life, a heretical spirit is required to create and imagine new places and spaces that themselves further the imaginings of others. Tis is a call to Afrofuturism.

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NOTES 1. Te term “totalitarian kitsch” originates with author Milan Kundera in Te Unbearable Lightness of Being (Harper & Row 1984), but is used here in an aesthetic rather than sociopolitical context. 2. Karen Rosenberg recently remarked of Afrofuturism: “If you’ve been following artists like Wangechi Mutu, Sanford Biggers or Robert Pruitt, you probably already know that it’s driving a lot of contemporary art” (2013). 3. Kodwo Eshun’s chronopolitical critique lays the intellectual groundwork for futurist explorations of the past. 4. Reynaldo Anderson argues that such atomic divisions in nomenclature obscure the larger emergence of a Black Speculative Arts Movement, a title he calls “a loose umbrella term” that unifes various aesthetic and intellectual positions on Afrofuturism (2016, 234). 5. Delany’s remarks are more clear in light of Temple University’s high minority enrollment, which hovers around 40 percent. See http:​//new​s.tem​ple.e​du/ne​ws/Di​verse​-maga​zine-​ ranks​-Temp​le-in​-top-​10-fo​r-Afr​ican-​Ameri​can-g​radua​tes, accessed November 10, 2014. 6. Tese terms were coined by Reynaldo Anderson (2015) and Rasheedah Phillips (2015), respectively. 7. For more about Sun Ra, note his album Te Nubians of Plutonia, 1966, as well as John Coney’s 1974 documentary, Space is the Place. 8. Te title District 9 is a play on the name of one of the most notorious Bantustans, the razed “District 6” in Cape Town. 9. Discovery News and the Lukasa Times were the frst to retell the story (Discovery News 2010; Lukasa Times 2011). Other media outlets disseminated it, including CNN, Te Examiner, and Te Daily Mail.

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10. Butler’s novel was the frst book listed for the reading group which accompanied the show Te Shadows Took Shape at Te Studio Museum in Harlem; the last is Ellison’s Invisible Man. 11. Such was the installation of Spaceship Icarus 13 at the Guangzhou Triennial (2008) and at Galleria Fonti in Naples (2009), but not at all venues. 12. Te hemisphere is a sci-f “tell,” recalling early sci-f pulp novel cover illustrations as well as the 1960 architectural collage, Dome Over Manhattan, by R. Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao. 13. Rozanov worked alongside architects B. Wectonanov, E. Noise, and B. Krichevsky, and engineers I. Lentochnikov and N. M. Korobov (Łuksasz Stanek, email to author, October 17, 2013). 14. I learned of this moniker from a conversation with South African photo-journalist Greg Marinovich, Harvard Nieman Fellow, at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, December 3, 2013. 15. Perhaps a useful biographical similarity in regards to Neto’s friendship with Fidel Castro. 16. Numbers vary widely as few records were kept during the war. 17. Initially during the Angolan confict extant wildlife diminished, killed and eaten by starving, displaced people. 18. Only in the early-2000s were the remaining road mines cleared from roads leading into and out of Luanda. 19. Tis joke was recounted by Angolan human rights activist João Neto. 20. In a conciliatory move, integrated into Portugal’s vision of the Estado Novo (New State), Portugal’s totalitarian Prime Minister António Oliveira Salazar granted the colonies r epresentational seats in parliament, juridically establishing the colonies as additional Portuguese provinces. Agostinho Neto feared that Angola’s Portuguese citizens would reject such inclusion, following instead the example of neighboring Rhodesia, and declare an independent settler state. 21. Angola is China’s largest oil supplier, ergo China has a vested interest in maintaining Angola’s infrastructure—as far as it relates to oil (Power 2012). 22. Since the Angolan Civil War ended, Angolan diamonds have been certifed as “clean” regardless of the conditions to which its workers are exposed. Miners who fnd particularly large diamonds will sometimes swallow them so as to hide them from soldiers, with devastating consequences. 23. Tis quote suggests Kia Henda is aware of the theories put forward by Martin Bernal in Black Athena: Te Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (Te Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785–1985) (Newark, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991). First published in 1987, the book argues in part that myths attributed to Greece actually originate from ancient Egypt. 24. In his lecture at the Tate Modern in 2010, Kia Henda noted, “I must say that it was really hard to explain in China that this travel didn’t happen, actually.” 25. Several of the works exhibited in Te Shadows Took Shape at the Studio Museum in Harlem , for example, were commissioned from artists not yet familiar with Afrofuturism (Keith, Whitley, Nelson, and Miller 2013). Nevertheless, their afective quality of the artwork produced, and the readiness of artists to embrace the moniker point to the genre’s mutability and appropriateness. 26. Kiluanji Kia Henda’s work was exhibited, for example, in the African Pavilion at the Fifty-Second Venice Biennale in 2007, where it occupied both categories—African and contemporary—simultaneously.

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REFERENCES Anderson, Reynaldo. 2016. “Afrofuturism 2.0 & the Black Speculative Arts Movement: Notes on a Manifesto.” Obsidian 42(1/2): 230–38. Anderson, Reynaldo, and Charles E. Jones, eds. 2015. Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of AstroBlackness. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Bishop, Claire. 2005. Installation Art: A Critical History. New York: Routledge. Borysevicz, Mathieu. 2008. “Guangzhou Triennial.” Art in America 96(11): 112–13. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1993. Te Field of Cultural Production. New York: Columbia University Press. Bristow, Tegan. 2013. “We Want the Funk: What is Afrofuturism to Africa?” In Te Shadows Took Shape, edited by Naima J. Keith and Zoé Whitley, 81–89. New York: Te Studio Museum in Harlem. Butler, Octavia. (1979) 2004. Kindred. New York: Beacon Press. CIA Directorate of Intelligence (DI). 2011. “Africa: Angola.” In Te World Fact Book, 21–24. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency. Cotter, Holland. 2013. “Going Beyond Blackness, Into the Starry Skies: ‘Te Shadows Took Shape,’ at the Studio Museum.” New York Times, November 14, 2013. http:​//www​.nyti​ mes.c​om/20​13/11​/15/a​rts/d​esign​/the-​shado​ws-to​ok-sh​ape-a​t-the​-stud​io-mu​seum.​ Delany, Samuel. 2013. “Plexus Nexus: Samuel R. Delany’s Pataphysics.” Interview with Paul D. Miller. In Te Shadows Took Shape, edited by Naima J. Keith and Zoé Whitley, 47–57. New York: Te Studio Museum in Harlem. ———. (1978) 2013. “Te Necessity of Tomorrow(s).” In Te Shadows Took Shape, edited by Naima J. Keith and Zoé Whitley, 105–116. New York: Te Studio Museum in Harlem. Dery, Mark. 1994. “Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate and Tricia Rose.” In Flame Wars: Te Discourse of Cyberculture, edited by Mark Dery, 179–222. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Dillon, Brian. 2012. “Present Future.” Art Review (Summer): 114–17. Discovery News. 2010. “To Mars: Zambia’s Forgotten Space Program.” Accessed October 10, 2014. http:​//new​s.dis​cover​y.com​/spac​e/pri​vate-​space​figh​t/to-​mars-​zambi​as-fo​rgott ​ en-sp​ace-p​rogra​m.htm​. Enwezor, Okwui. 2003. “Te Production of Social Space as Artwork.” In A Fiction of Authenticity: Contemporary Africa Abroad, edited by Shannon Fitzgerald and Tumelo Mosaka. St. Louis: Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name. Enwezor, Okwui and Chika Okeke-Agulu. 2009. Contemporary African Art Since 1980. Bologna: Damiani. Eshun, Kodwo. 2003. “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism.” CR: Te New Centennial Review 3(2): 287–302. Guldemond, Jaap, and Gabriele Mackert. 2004. “To Entertain and Provoke: Western infuences in the work of Yinka Shonibare.” In Yinka Shonibare: Double Dutch, edited by Jaap Guldemond, Gabriele Mackert, and Barbera van Kooij. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers. Te Herald. 2013. “Stray lions from Botswana descend on Beitbridge.” March 28, 2013. http:​ //www​.hera​ld.co​.zw/s​tray-​lions​-from​-bots​wana-​desce​nd-on​-beit​bridg​e/. Huband, Mark. 2001. Te Skull Beneath the Skin: Africa After the Cold War. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. IAAM (International Academy of Architecture Moscow). 2015. “MAAM.” Last modifed June 1, 2015. http://iaam.ru/about/?language=eng.

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Jones, Barbara. 2012. “Hamburgers cost £32 and a one-bed fats go for £7,500 a month... this boy lives in the most expensive city in the world [.  .  . ].” Te Daily Mail, August 4, 2012. http:​//www​.dail​ymail​.co.u​k/new​s/art​icle-​21836​16/Lu​anda-​Te-c​apita​l-Ang​ola-e​ xpens​ive-c​ity-w​orld.​html.​ Jones, Caroline A. 2010. “Biennial Culture: A Longer History.” In Te Biennial Reader: An Anthology on Large-Scale Perennial Exhibitions of Contemporary Art, edited by Elena Flipovic, Marieke Van Hal, and Solveig Øvstebø, 66–87. Bergen: Bergen Kunsthal. Keith, Naima J. 2013. “Looking for the Invisible.” In Te Shadows Took Shape, edited by Naima J. Keith and Zoé Whitley, 13–18. New York: Te Studio Museum in Harlem. Keith, Naima J. and Zoé Whitley, eds. 2013. Te Shadows Took Shape. New York: Te Studio Museum in Harlem. Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name, shown at Te Studio Museum in Harlem. Keith, Naima J., Zoé Whitley, Alondra Nelson, and Paul D. Miller. 2013. “Te Shadows Took Shape Panel Discussion.” Lecture. Te Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, November 21, 2013. Kholeif, Omar. 2012. “Superpower: Africa in Science Fiction.” Art Monthly 357: 34. Kia Henda, Kiluanji. 2012. “Imaginary Histories, Imaginary Process: A Conversation with Kiluanji Kia Henda.” Interview with Rachel Nelson. Savvy: Journal of Contemporary African Art 4: 120–25. ———. 2011. “Kiluanji Kia Henda to Me.” Interview with Lígia Afonso. Buala, April 8, 2011. Translated by Kennis Translations. http:​//www​.bual​a.org​/en/f​ace-t​o-fac​e/kil​uanji​ -kia-​henda​-to-m​e. ———. 2010. “Part 4: Kiluanji Kia Henda.” Lecture. After Post-Colonialism: Transnationalism or Essentialism? Tate Modern, London, England, May 8, 2010. http:​//www​.tate​.org.​uk/ co​ntext​-comm​ent/v​ideo/​after​-post​-colo​niali​sm-tr​ansna​tiona​lism-​or-es​senti​alism​-vide​o-rec​ ordin​gs. Lukasa Times. 2011. “Zambia’s Forgotten Space Program.” January 28, 2011. http:​//www​ .lusa​katim​es.co​m/201​1/01/​28/sp​ace-p​rogra​m/. Maier, Karl. 1996. Angola: Promises and Lies. London: Serif. Mbembe, Achille. 2013. “Twenty Years After Apartheid: South Africa as an Idea.” Lecture. African Studies Workshop at Harvard, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, September 9, 2013. ———. (2008) 2014. “Experience, Uncertainty, and the Power of the False.” In Yinka Shonibare MBE, edited by Rachel Kent. Revised catalog for an exhibition of the same name at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. Munich: Prestel Verlag. McEvilley, Tomas. 1993. Fusion: West African Artists at the Venice Biennale. New York: Museum for African Art. Minter, William. 1994. Apartheid’s Contras: An Inquiry into the Roots of War in Angola and Mozambique. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press. Nelson, Rachel. 2012. “Kiluanji Kia Henda: Art Beyond the Local and the Global.” Savvy: Journal of Contemporary African Art 4: 84–87. Onishi, Norimitsu. 2017. “Portugal Dominated Angola for Centuries. Now the Roles are Reversed.” Te New York Times, August 22, 2017. https​://ww​w.nyt​imes.​com/2​017/0​8/22/​ world​/euro​pe/an​gola-​portu​gal-m​oney-​laund​ering​. Phillips, Rasheedah, ed. 2015. Black Quantum Futurism: Teory & Practice. NP. Philadelphia, PA: Afrofuturist Afair. Power, Marcus. 2012. “Angola 2025: Te Future of the ‘World’s Richest Poor Country’ as Seen through a Chinese Rear-View Mirror.” Antipode 44(3): 993–1014.

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Roberts, Adam. 2006. Science Fiction: Te New Critical Idiom, second edition. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis. Kindle. Rosenberg, Karen. 2013. “Te Future is African.” Te New York Times, November 8, 2013. http:​//www​.nyti​mes.c​om/20​13/11​/10/a​rts/d​esign​/the-​futur​e-is-​afric​an. Shonibare, Yinka. 2006. “In Art, Anything is Possible: A Conversation with Yinka Shonibare.” Interview by Jan Garden Castro. Sculpture 25(6) (July/August): 22–27. Shubin, Vladimir. 2008. Te Hot Cold War: Te USSR in Southern Africa. London: Pluto Press. Suqi, Rema. 2012. “Mirror, Mirror: David Adjaye.” Te New York Times Style Magazine, June 12, 2012. http:​//tma​gazin​e.blo​gs.ny​times​.com/​2012/​06/12​/mirr​or-mi​rror-​david​-adja​ ye/?_​r=1. Szwed, John. 1998. Space is the Place: Te Lives and Times of Sun Ra. New York: Da Capo Press. Tolkien, J. J. R. (1947) 2008. On Fairy Stories. Edited by Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson. London: HarperCollins. White, Matthew. 2012. “Twentieth Century Atlas – Death Tolls and Casualty Statistics for Wars, Dictatorships and Genocides.” Last modifed March 17, 2012. http:​//nec​romet​rics.​ com/2​0c300​k.htm​#Ang7​5. Whitted, Qiana. 2015. “‘To Be African is to Merge Technology and Magic’: An Interview with Nnedi Okorafor.” In Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of Astro-Blackness, edited by Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones, 201–14. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Whitley, Zoé. 2013. “Te Place is Space: Afrofuturism’s Transnational Geographies.” In Te Shadows Took Shape, edited by Naima J. Keith and Zoé Whitley, 19–25. New York: Te Studio Museum in Harlem. Yaszek, Lisa. 2005. “Afrofuturism and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.” Abstract. Rethinking History: Te Journal of Teory and Practice 9.2(3) (June/September): 297–313. Zoellner, Tom. 2006. Te Heartless Stone: A Journey Trough the World of Diamonds, Deceit, and Desire. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

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12 Metropolis 2.0 Janelle Monáe’s Recycling of Fritz Lang

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Erik Steinskog

With the 2010 album Te ArchAndroid, Janelle Monáe became known for a larger audience and her star has been rising ever since, even if, since the 2013 album Te Electric Lady there has been little new music. Her work is multifaceted, musically and artistically but with clear use of tropes from both science fction and African American culture, thus lending itself well to discuss in connection with Afrofuturism. In this chapter, I will discuss Monáe in relation to Afrofuturism, with a particular focus upon Fritz Lang’s 1927 movie Metropolis. Her work could also be approached by way of cultural studies, gender studies, and Black studies, but an Afrofuturist critique brings out dimensions that would then be lost.1 Monáe seems consciously to relate to an Afrofuturist framework herself, both in the music she references and in her videos. Take the “Tightrope” video (from Te ArchAndroid), which contains a couple of interesting characters. It is never really clear to what degree the people in the video actually see them.2 In the very beginning, we only get a glimpse of them, but at 0:45 we get them in plain sight. Wearing black capes, it is when we see their faces—or rather non-faces—where a memory, or echo, is inscribed as well. Instead of faces, we see mirrors and it is hard not to see this as a visual quote of the same fgure in the opening of Sun Ra’s 1974 flm, Space is the Place (directed by John Coney).3 It is not, then, that Monáe’s video points to any obvious sci-f imagery, at least not in comparison with Sun Ra’s flm, but the reference to Sun Ra inscribes “Tightrope” into the context of Afrofuturism in an unmistakable way. Te mirrors also, as N. K. Jemisin writes, inscribe us as viewers into the video: “the bad guys aren’t white; Monáe isn’t interested in clichés. Instead, they have mirrors for face. Tey are us” (2013, 110). Tis, then, is just one obvious reference to Afrofuturism in her work, demonstrating how her overall story is given visual form. Monáe’s self-refective Afrofuturism also questions dimensions of the Afrofuturist framework, not least related to musical dimensions. In More Brilliant than the 173

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Sun, Kodwo Eshun singles out disco as “the moment when Black Music falls from the grace of gospel tradition into the metronomic assembly line,” thus pointing to the moment when two opposing tendencies, which he calls “the Soulful and the Postsoul,” seemingly crash (Eshun 1998, -006). In Eshun’s argument, it seems to be the case that Afrofuturism is about leaving “soul” behind, but even when thinking “post-soul” as coming after soul (the literal sense of the term), there are dimensions of “soul” in Monáe’s music and in her adaptation of the Metropolis-story.4 In the liner notes to Metropolis: Suite I (Te Chase) from 2007, we read about a “rebellious new form of pop music known as cybersoul,” a term where the two strands Eshun discusses coexist.5 Still, her musical landscape is closer to mainstream R&B and soul, and further away from many of the avant-garde practices having dominated the discourse on Afrofuturism. Notions of “mainstream” and “avant-garde” are imprecise, but, as Marlo David argues, in “Afrofuturism and Post-Soul Possibility in Black Popular Music,” there has been a tendency within Afrofuturist discourse— her example is Eshun—to “explore black Atlantic experience and, by extension, a number of radical black music styles—electronic music and experimental jazz, for example” with the result that it “typically leaves mainstream black music behind” (2007, 696). Understanding Afrofuturism as an avant-garde practice, even while relating to more mainstream popular music, reinscribes a logic of high and low—or art and popular culture—into the discourse. And, fnally, there are diferences for the interpretation of Afrofuturism based on gender that become important in dealing with Monáe. For this discourse on gender, I want to follow a somewhat diferent thread in this chapter, by way of her use of the trope of Metropolis. My focus on Metropolis has three diferent sources. Te frst of these sources is obviously Monáe’s albums and the whole concept surrounding them (of which much more following). Te second comes from Mark Dery’s “Black to the Future,” the article coining the term “Afrofuturism.” Tere he defnes Afrofuturism as “speculative fction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth-century technoculture,” thus highlighting the relation to technology (1994, 180). Noticing “a troubling antinomy” in the very notion leads him to ask the question: “can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures?” Tere is already “unreal estate of the future,” he claims, “owned by the technocrats, futurologists, streamliners, and set designers—white to the man.” Among the examples he gives is Lang’s Metropolis. Monáe’s updated adaptation of Metropolis, however, shows how the ownership of the future can be changed. Using previously imagined futures as source material her Afrofuturism resembles other forms of science fction and fantasy. For example, steam-punk takes cyber-punk aesthetics and moves it back in time to other technologies, where the question of temporality are extended beyond the contemporary, thus additionally challenging the relation to technology. Te technoculture of Metropolis, the movie, is diferent than in the context of Monáe’s “Metropolis,” but she also inserts other dimensions to the project, not least, the question of race. Born in

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1985, Monáe has furthermore grown up in a time where Afrofuturism has been a more explicit framework (cf. Gipson 2015). Tis is the case both with her musical references, as well as in an emerging visibility in science fction of black characters, and a growing awareness of black authors and musicians employing science fction in their art. Her point of departure, then, is diferent than previous generations of musicians.6 My third source of inspiration comes from Robin James’s article “‘Robo-Diva R&B’: Aesthetics, Politics, and Black Female Robots in Contemporary Popular Music,” where she discusses the black female R&B singer as a robot in contemporary popular music. Her framing deserves to be quoted in full:

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From Beyoncé’s Metropolis-suit at the 2007 BET Awards to critic Tom Breihan’s identifcation of a subgenre of “robo-diva” R&B performers, even all the way back to Donna Summer and Grace Jones, it is clear that there are a number of black female R&B singers who present themselves—intentionally or unintentionally—as non-“human.” In his 1998 More Brilliant than the Sun, Kodwo Eshun elaborates why and how various black artists have embraced posthumanism and cyborg theory. While Eshun’s work helps us locate these female artists in the Afro-Futurist tradition, it is nearly entirely silent about this tradition’s gender politics. Almost the inverse of Eshun, Andreas Huyssen’s reading of Lang’s Metropolis as a narrative identifying society’s fears of technology with its fears of female sexuality can help us identify the gender politics of these performances, but it does nothing to address race. (2008, 403)

Te combination of Kodwo Eshun and Andreas Huyssen is a good point of departure for these African American resignifcations of Metropolis. Te dimensions James takes from these writers parallel discussions of the avant-garde versus mainstream when it comes to musical genres. Addressing Monáe requires an expansion compared to the reading of Beyoncé and Rihanna, due to how Monáe relates to Afrofuturism. She is challenging, arguably altering, Afrofuturism in the Deryian sense due to how contemporary technoculture is changing. Whereas all Afrofuturist music since Sun Ra can be said to relate to the intersection of music and technology, Monáe also uses social media as an extension of her whole Metropolis project. Characters on her albums have individual Twitter accounts; she uses Tumblr to inform about dimensions of Cindi’s story not happening explicitly on the albums, but being an extension of the liner notes, and these diferent platforms all contribute to the overall story. In this sense, she is in accordance with Ytasha L. Womack’s discussion of how social media have changed the foundation of Afrofuturist practices (Womack 2013, 47f.). And she can also be seen as exemplifying important dimensions of what Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones refer to as “Afrofuturism 2.0.” Te upgrading to Afrofuturism 2.0 is also a twenty-frst-century perspective in focusing upon changes related to media—the 2.0 of social media, not least—but is also a broadening of perspectives to include more than what the authors see as the “classical” Afrofuturism “limited largely to music, art, the digital divide, the public sphere and speculative literature” (Anderson and Jones 2015, viii). While music is crucial in the performance of Janelle Monáe, in this chapter I will also show how she utilizes social

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media and thus upgrade the technoculture related to her work. In this she may be seen as a 2.0 Afrofuturist, while still to a large extent having continuities back to the twentieth century musical culture.

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METROPOLIS 2719 Te year is 2719 and we meet Cindi Mayweather, otherwise known as Android No. 57821. Her kind is mass-produced in this society. She has fallen in love with Anthony Greendown, who is human, and human/android relationships are forbidden in the city of Metropolis. She is, however, sent back in time to free citizens of Metropolis from Te Great Divide, “a secret society using time-travel to suppress freedom and love throughout the ages.”7 Monáe’s albums—beginning with Metropolis: Suite I (Te Chase) in 2007, continuing with Te ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) in 2010, and with 2013’s Te Electric Lady, so far having reached the frst fve of the projected seven suites—consistently refer to Metropolis. In fact, already on her unreleased album, Te Audition, from 2003, Metropolis is referenced, and Cindi is introduced, and from there, throughout her production, Monáe’s works are all part of one big story. At a conceptual level, the songs, both music and lyrics, the album artwork, and diferent websites are all interrelated, telling a story that moves in several directions at once. Te liner notes to her three albums establish the framework. As an urban space in the future, the Metropolis reference at the same time obviously refers to Lang’s movie. As such, possible connections between classical Weimar science fction and today’s Afrofuturism are established. One important similarity is the presence of female robots: Maria in Lang’s movie and Cindi Mayweather in Monáe’s project. We see this presence clearly in the video to “Many Moons” (from Metropolis).8 In this video, two diferent actions are taking place simultaneously: an auction of androids and a musical performance. Te performer is Cindi Mayweather, described as “Te Alpha Platinum 9000,” introduced in the video as a white metallic female body, transformed, after some tics, to a black-skinned singer (at 0:35). What happens brings to mind the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, directed by John Cameron), even if there are diferences. Here it is not the liquid, shapeshifting abilities that are highlighted, but it is as if the robot gets a black skin before going on stage. As such, the racialization of the android becomes extremely explicit, and the understanding of skin as something covering the metallic body challenges the understanding of the android’s individuation. Opposed to this, when the song proper begins, we see the background singers all looking alike, all looking like clones of Monáe, thus both adding to the story and confusing us as audience.9 Te catwalk is an exhibition place for the auction of androids; fashion is not the main dimension, the clothes are there to diferentiate between the diferent models of androids. Tey are, in one sense, interchangeable; in another sense they are humanoids for sale, inscribed in a commercial logic of the highest bidder, rather than having any value in themselves. Cindi’s performance, as a soundtrack to

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the auction, establishes connections between the models and the musicians, while simultaneously blurring diferent levels of commercial trafc, as well as performances. At the same time, and as tobias c. van Veen remarks, in “Vessels of Transfer: Allegories of Afrofuturism in Jef Mills and Janelle Monáe,” there are references to African American performers, foremost among them Michael Jackson, where Cindi moonwalks—forward and backward—thus both quoting one of Monáe’s predecessors and underlining the “moon” in the song’s title (2013, 38).10 Toward the end of the video there are tics, as if the robot is short-circuiting or going into a spasmodic bodily performance, ending with her fying or foating in midair, before hitting the foor, seemingly dead. Te performances in the video, both of the song and the auction of female androids (cyborgs, robots, fembots), open up for negotiations between the human and the android.11 Te singer resembles Monáe but is clearly an android, and one could ask whether there are any “humans” in this video at all. Te performances at the same time also echo a long history of female robots. Here too, then, Monáe’s video both relates to and challenges Lang’s flm.

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METROPOLIS, 1927 References to Lang’s movie within twentieth- and twenty-frst-century culture should not come as any surprise, as the reception of this movie, across diferent forms of cultural expressions, has been a constant. In his book, Te Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity, Tom Gunning writes about how the movie is constantly cited, in “pop culture (Madonna’s video, “Express Yourself,” a London musical, the flm Bodyguard) as well as in highly regarded cultural sources (Rotwang’s mechanical hand in Dr. Strangelove, the machine room explosion in Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach, the references in Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow)” (Gunning 2000, 53). It is worth noticing how Gunning here repeats the classical division of “pop culture” and “highly regarded cultural sources,” that is to say, a division between high and low. Why should this division be used to diferentiate between citations of the movie? It seems to be a misunderstanding for many dimensions of citation/recycling of these topics to hold on to this dichotomy. Why, one could ask, could not both Madonna and Pynchon inspire an artist? Or, to ask a somewhat better question, in interpreting today’s recycling of Lang’s movie, why should we not, as scholars, have available possibilities of interpreting beyond that great divide? Lang’s flm is a milestone in the history of flm, but this does not exclude it from being a flm that has divided the critics as to its content, not the least in relation to politics. Tere are several dimensions in the flm worthy of further discussion, and among the most important arguably two: the question of class and the question of gender (or, more exactly, of woman). Tese are the same topics Huyssen singles out in his discussion, leading up to the woman-robot as the central fgure in the whole movie, but where many other dimensions relate to this fgure. Te flm’s “social and

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ideological imaginary,” he argues, is found in “the doubling of Maria, the use of religions symbolism, the embodiment of technology in a woman-robot and Freder’s complex relationship to women and machines, sexuality and technology” (Huyssen 1986, 66). Tese last relations, between women and machines or sexuality and technology, are found combined in the female robot. Te “machine-human” (Machinenmensch) is a woman-machine. Constructing a female robot to replace the human workers is in one sense paradoxical. One would, arguably, much rather think of the robots in Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. (1920), the novel where the term “robot”—meaning “slave” or “worker”—was coined, and then more precisely construct a diferent kind of worker.12 But as Huyssen argues: Precisely the fact that Fritz Lang does not feel the need to explain the female features of Rotwang’s robot shows that a pattern, a long standing tradition is being recycled here, a tradition which is not at all hard to detect, and in which the Machinenmensch, more often than not, is presented as woman. (1986, 69)

But this is also a result of the function of the robot. In the movie, we never see her as a worker. Instead she becomes a performer, and performs for the male gaze. Tus, as robot, she seems to be put into her place as an object of male desire much more than anything else.

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WOMAN-MACHINES Te female android or robot is inherently diferent than the male version, but this diference still needs to be worked out. Tere are several possible points of origin for working out this diference, one of these being the very origin, the Genesis, in the biblical sense. In the second story of creation, Eve is made from Adam’s rib, and this opens up for a number of dimensions. “Man”—as in “human being”—is the male version, Adam, whereas the female companion is a derivative (cf. Bloch 1987, 10). Understanding the diference in such a perspective can simultaneously be used to argue that the man is closer to God, being created in His image, thus establishing a hierarchy. Te derivative nature of the feminine, as well as her being made from his rib, opens up for understandings both of belatedness, as well as of being a copy. Woman is, then, within such a reading, a nonidentical copy of man. Constructing female “copies,” however, is not solely a way of establishing gender-hierarchies in a more mythical sense; it is also found later within European cultural history. Whereas in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), the “artifcial man” is male, around the same time, in E. T. A. Hofmann’s Der Sandman (1817), later a central reference for Sigmund Freud in his essay “Das Unheimliche” (“Te Uncanny,” 1919), an “artifcial woman” is found. Olympia, a female singing robot (to use a somewhat anachronistic vocabulary) is a key fgure, later found in Jacques Ofenbach’s opera Les Contes d’Hofmann (1881), and in a tradition including Eve, from August Villiers d’Isle-Adam’s L’Eve Future (1886), and Rachel in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) as later incarnations.

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Tese contextual dimensions speak to the overall Metropolis-context. As Robin James argues, following Huyssen, in Lang’s movie, technology and woman are both localized as other. In addition, Maria, the robot, is a product of a male scientist. Tis, one could argue, follows, not only a classic modernist scenario but also the general Man/Machine interaction of popular music, as discussed, in a very diferent context, by Susan McClary in her Feminine Endings, in relation to Laurie Anderson (McClary 1991, 137f.). What McClary underlines is what happens when the scenario is repeated with the diference of a Woman/Machine interaction. In the case of Anderson, she is in control of the technology, thus challenging the heteronormative, masculinist narrative of technological mastery.

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MEDIATORS Te android, Cindi Mayweather, has fallen in love with a human being and is punished by being sent back in time from the future to our present time. She is, Monáe tells us, a mediator between the hand and the mind, between the material and the imaginary, the future and the present, the machine and the human being. She clearly resembles how Donna Haraway describes the cyborg. Tis role of the mediator, however, is also found throughout Lang’s movie. When Monáe describes Cindi Mayweather as being a mediator between hand and mind, it is not difcult to hear this as a variant of the hand and brain in Metropolis. Te mediating dimension is the heart, and it is quite apparent that these diferent words here work as metaphors as well, and thus need interpretation. Tis is not least the case with the potential fascism found in Metropolis, as, for example, argued by Siegfried Kracauer in his From Caligari to Hitler (from 1947). Here, in the history of Weimar flm, and where Nazi-Germany, in a sense, becomes a continuation of cinema by other means (and this taken, of course, also in all seriousness, not as any denigration of the diference between “fction” and “fact”), Kracauer compares Lang and Goebbles, by way of Lang’s own story of his meeting with Goebbles and the possibilities of Lang making Nazi movies (2004, 164). Kracauer and Huyssen both see potential for an antimodernism in Metropolis, and it is not least the metaphoricity of hand, mind, and heart that becomes crucial. Tis also relates back to Gunning’s discussion of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” video (from 1989, directed by David Fincher), of which he writes: “the very element that caused most critics to abjure it, the naive resolution of the heart mediating between head and hand, was ofered as the fnal words of wisdom in Madonna’s “Express Yourself” video” (Gunning 2000, 53). Troughout Metropolis, this resolution is hinted at, and it is stated very clearly at the end of the flm. Gunning’s take, though, is that “Everyone hates this ending” (78). While this resolution might be naive, it is still of interest. Firstly, there is the question “who is the mediator?” where in Monáe’s work, it seems that this is she, herself, as well as her alter ego, Cindi. Tis makes quite a diference, arguably due to a female agency behind this other Metropolis. Even though Lang’s flm is based on Tea von Harbou’s novel (from 1926), and thus has a female agency or artist

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behind it, the flm is still read as being mainly Lang’s work. And the discussion of gender in the flm, the fact that Maria and the robot, in a sense, are doubles of each other, the gendered stereotypes, the fear of women, all of these dimensions become diferent in Monáe’s story. In interviews in March 2011, Monáe, several times, pointed out that, like her alter ego, Cindi, she too was a mediator.13 She connected that to a kind of science fction framework claiming that in the near future androids and humans will coexist and we will have to fgure out how to handle such a coexistence. In other words, Monáe and her alter ego seem to coexist; they mirror each other, and Monáe can here be seen as applying pseudonyms in manners similar to several other artists within Afrofuturism—George Clinton and Dr. Funkenstein; Kool Keith and Dr. Octagon come to mind, as well. But this is not simply science fction, she claims. Te aspect of science fction points toward possibilities; science fction is not something nonreal. In other words, the futural dimension is inscribed in the present—or in some kind of present—as pointing toward a possible future. Tis can be easily read within the Afrofuturist framework, where outer space is not a limit but one of the logical places to strive toward. In the system of one of the foremost representatives of what has come to be known as Afrofuturism—Sun Ra, in his MythScience—this future is comparable to a past found in Ancient Egypt. Pharaoh, as Sun Ra claimed, was African, and the technology used to construct the pyramids testifes to an invention of technology in Africa. Sun Ra’s discourse here resembles the one found in George James’s 1954 book Stolen Legacy: Te Greeks were not the authors of Greek Philosophy, but the people of North Africa commonly called the Egyptian. In other words, Greek “civilization” is a misunderstanding. Greek thinking is derived or stolen from Africa. With this point of origin, however, the futural dimension of Sun Ra is equally important, and it consists in colonizing outer space, establishing a black civilization in space. Sun Ra claimed to have been born on Saturn and transferred to earth—Birmingham, Alabama. He further claimed to have been abducted and that the “space brothers” told him about a plan for the black race (cf. Lock 1999, 16f.; Szwed 1998, 71). Here the story of Cindi Mayweather resembles Sun Ra; even if she is from the future and not as explicitly from another planet. Time and space seemingly become fuid within these stories or myths. In her “A Manifesto for Cyborgs,” Donna Haraway argues for understanding the category “women of color” as a “cyborg identity.” Tis is partly tricky, in that there are—as many authors have commented upon—certain blindnesses within cyber theory, foremost among them related to women and “non-whites.”14 In How We Became Posthuman, N. Katherine Hayles reminds her readers that in relation to the Turing test, it was not only important to make distinctions between a thinking human and a thinking machine but to be able to distinguish between a man and a woman as well (cf. Hayles 1999, xii). Here, then, gender-diference is at stake in one of the scenes of origin for contemporary cyberculture. From a somewhat diferent perspective, Alexander G. Weheliye, in “‘Feenin’,” and Tomas Foster, in Te Souls of Cyberfolks, argue against the “literal and virtual whiteness of cyber-theory”

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(2002, 21). In these intersections, however, between the cyborg/robot, its gendered and racialized status there emerges a complexity of reading. As Weheliye makes clear, following Eshun’s discussions, in interpreting “black posthumanism” the very notion of “human” is contested. But Weheliye’s boundaries between musical genres are less categorical than Eshun: “If we consider the history of black American popular music, we can see both forces, the humanist and posthumanist, at work” (30). With this argument R&B and soul become more important for Weheliye’s argument than these genres are for Eshun, simultaneously opening up for what could be termed a more mainstream posthumanism. Still, his examples impinge, to a large extent, upon the uses of vocoders and other voice-altering technologies, something not heard in Monáe’s music. Te race-blindness of cyber theory must also be doubled, as there arguably are diferences between race and gender/sexuality here, so that the efects for men of color and women of color are diferent. To be somewhat more specifc, it matters, when dealing with cyborgs—or representations of cyborgs—whether or not they are black or white, and whether they are male and female, as well as when these two binaries are combined in diferent ways. In the case of reading Monáe in relation to Maria from Metropolis, we thus see a diferentiation between a white female robot and a black female robot, where some of the same cultural predispositions toward the female robot might be said to follow along, even if the racial identity changes. Rather than Madonna, however, it seems to be Beyoncé that is Monáe’s immediate predecessor when it comes to the Metropolis-theme. From her robotic costume at the 2007 BET-Awards, where she performed “Get Me Bodied” (from B’Day, 2006) to the robotic hand, resembling Rotwang’s hand in the video, to “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” (from I Am . . . Sasha Fierce, 2008), topics citing Metropolis abound in her work. As such Beyoncé explicates an African American retelling of Metropolis, and as such brings out the racial dimension of the story (cf. James 2008). And it is this perspective Monáe continues. Tus not only is “woman” and “technology” understood as otherness, racial otherness becomes a part of the discourse too. Monáe also expands upon the understanding of otherness, not least in the frst video to Te Electric Lady, “Q.U.E.E.N.”15 Te title, she has revealed, is an acronym: “She says the ‘Q’ represents the queer community, the ‘U’ for the untouchables, the ‘E’ for emigrants, the second ‘E’ for the excommunicated and the ‘N’ for those labeled as negroid.”16 Understanding the title as an acronym also brings out a dimension of her use of the fgure of the android: Cindi is, in a profound sense, a metaphor for otherness. At the same time this understanding expands upon this metaphor in directions coherent with an Afrofuturist framework. Firstly, the android represents a future other, and in the case of Monáe’s framework, also an android from the future. She argues that the African American experience might be a kind of model—and warning—for how androids will be treated in the near future when they will cohabitate the earth with human beings. In addition, this understanding of the android as other also corresponds to quite some degree with Haraway’s description of the cyborg. Here, too, there are, so to speak, leaky boundaries between the cyborg and otherness or diferent versions of excluded human beings.

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Cyborg writing is about the power to survive, not on the basis of original innocence , but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other. Te tools are often stories, retold stories, versions that reverse and displace the hierarchical dualisms of naturalized identities. (Haraway 2004, 33)

My argument in this chapter is that Monáe retells or recycles the Metropolisstory, and in this retelling inscribes important diferences. It is not so much about intertextuality as it is about discussing “the same” stories from other perspectives. One key dimension within the new story being told is a form of time-travel, where, perhaps, Fritz Lang meets Octavia Butler. Even if we are led to believe that Cindi Mayweather is Monáe’s alter ego, the relation between the two of them is still challenged, perhaps nowhere as clear as in the opening of the video to “Q.U.E.E.N.” Te video opens with a monologue coming frst from a voice-over and then from a video-screen:

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It’s hard to stop rebels that time travel, but we at the time council pride ourselves on doing just that. Welcome to the living museum, where legendary rebels from throughout history have been frozen in suspended animation. Here in this particular exhibit you’ll fnd members of Wondaland and their notorious leader Janelle Monáe along with her dangerous accomplice Badoula Oblongata. Together they launched project Q.U.E.E.N., a musical weapon program in the twenty-frst century. Researchers are still deciphering the nature of this program and hunting the various freedom movements that Wondaland disguised as songs, emotion pictures, and works of art.17

Te underlying sound track to this monologue is from the second movement of Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C-Major, a work composed around 1761–1765 at a kind of height for the Enlightenment. When the monologue ends, a record is placed on a strange-looking gramophone, and Monáe comes alive, her eyes twinkling, and the music becomes an animating medium. Tere are a number of interesting references already in the monologue. Te name of the “dangerous accomplice”—who is Erykah Badu—is Badoula Oblongata, not hard to relate to the medulla oblongata, a part of the brain (leading to the spine) containing the cardiac, respiratory, vomiting and vasomotor centers, and therefore dealing with the autonomic functions of breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure (cf. Bascomb 2016, 62). Tis medical reference is also of interest related to the term “suspended animation,” a term used about zombies by Zora Neale Hurston in reference to her book Tell My Horse (1938).18 Te zombies she saw and photographed in Haiti, were not dead, she argued but in “suspended animation.” And them coming back is not, thus, necessarily mystic but challenges ordinary borders between life and death. In later theories, suspended animation is used in cryonic research, where bodies are frozen or, more exactly, where life processes are slowed down or stopped but without terminating life. Interestingly, suspended animation has been suggested as a way for space travelers on interstellar or intergalactic journeys and as such is obviously also a part of popular culture. Here, then, fact and fction is blurred, as

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what Neale Hurston was exploring in Haiti was part of her ethnographic work, not only dealing with zombies but with voodoo, rituals, beliefs—and thus knowledge, technology, etc.—in the Afro-diasporic cultures of the Caribbean. Te fact that zombies challenge the border between life and death is clear, as testifed by the phrase suspended animation. Movement or life is slowed down without reaching death; the suspension is exactly freezing something in-between. And as can be seen in Monáe’s video, the same is at stake here, where the rebels have been frozen in suspended animation but where music, from an idiosyncratic gramophone-player, brings them back to life. Tis seems also to be a way of showing the power of music hinted at in the monolog, where we hear that: “Researchers are still deciphering the nature of this program,” “a musical weapon program” deeply related to “rebels” but also to “freedom fghters.” Final reference, and remember we have not heard a single tone of Monáe’s music, nor lyrics yet. All we have heard is Haydn and the museum-curator’s voice-over text, but we also get the reference to the acronym QUEEN. To get the full explanation of this acronym, we are dependent upon Monáe’s statements in interviews, thus another way of blurring the borders between art and life.

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TECHNOCULTURE When Dery defnes Afrofuturism in the intersection of African American themes and concerns “in the context of twentieth-century technoculture” (1994, 180), it is quite likely that he anticipated that this technoculture would change soon enough. Entering the twenty-frst century, the arguably most important changes are due to the Internet.19 A key dimension in Monáe’s project, too, is related to the Internet. With the release of the video-trailer to Te ArchAndroid she pointed to this importance,20 and it was only made more explicit in the material surrounding Te Electric Lady. With this latter album, she showed her mastery, not least, of the social media. On Tumblr, she released short videos leading up to the album release, videos simultaneously released on YouTube.21 But even before the videos, she released the cover images, known as “Concerning Cindi and Her Sisters and the Skull of Night Trashings”22 and “Concerning Cindi and the Glow of the Drogon’s Eyes.”23 Both images are, it is written, painted by “the Good Citizen Samuel Spratt” in the autumn of 2717 and in the spring of 2719 respectively. Here the story, or mythology, of Metropolis is expanded, and it leads up to the part of the story being told on Te Electric Lady. Te video, “Ministry of the Droid,”24 has a robotic voice telling us about the frst images of the fugitive Cindi Mayweather, and is recorded as if it’s for internal police use, giving instructions to capture her. Upon the album’s release, there were also a number of Twitter accounts involved, foremost of them the one from DJ Crash Crash,25 the DJ at 105.5 WDRD who is heard at several instances on Te Electric Lady. In addition to these mythological dimensions, the YouTube account responsible for the videos, as well as Janelle Monáe’s own Twitter account,26

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were involved; thus establishing relations between Monáe the performer, and the characters in the story. Today, of course, many musicians employ social media as part of their performance. While Monáe is doing something similar, she in addition makes social media part of the overall concept. Her albums, her videos, as well as these dimensions of social media, all contribute to the story, thus showing her mastery of contemporary technoculture to the uttermost degree. Tere is, however, an even more important dimension to this overall story. Even though Monáe is part of the Wondaland Arts Society27 and thus, part of a collective, in her own work, she still comes forward as the mastermind, of her albums as well as of the overall concepts. Simultaneously, she performs the leaky boundary between herself and Cindi, and to such a degree that in performances, it is hard to see when she is “Janelle Monáe” and when she is “Cindi Mayweather.” She lives, so to speak, her myth.28 Here she resembles Sun Ra, who was also a part of a collective, the Arkestra but at the same time, always the leader. In his case too, the MythScience was not simply “stories,” it was life. Monáe challenges common sense, as well as our understandings of the present and the future. She intervenes in the contemporary but always also from a point of departure in the twenty-eighth century. Tis intervention she does both on behalf of the other, and as the other, in an explicit way diferent from much of contemporary popular music. Tere are many points in common between Robin James’s reading of Beyoncé and Rihanna on the one hand and the practices of Monáe on the other, but the diferences are more important. From her “uniform”—black and white, tux and pompadour—to her android ticks, she performs gender diferently than both Beyoncé and Rihanna (and this even if I agree with James that there are potentials for reading the two latter related to cyberculture too), and with her famous statement to Rolling Stone that she only dates androids, another kind of gendered relation becomes part of the discourse too.29 And fnally, and this is not least clear in the video to “Q.U.E.E.N.” her performance opens up for being read as queer, understood as both nonconventional and nonconclusive. Tis possibility, however, is at the same time challenged by her performance, in the sense that her performance of gender moves between her tuxedo-clad, pompadour self on the one hand and a much more “girl-like” performance on the other (as was seen in the discussion of her hair with the release of the video to “Dance Apocalyptic,” as the song itself). Here, then, is ultimately the huge diference between Lang’s Metropolis and Monáe’s Metropolis, in an updated historicity, and thus a changed technoculture. Te image of the future found in Metropolis might well have been important for the continuous imagery of said future but only in negotiation with new attempts to picture the future, including Blade Runner (with Rachel, the female replicant), Matrix (with a mainstream presence of black people in sci-f) and beyond. What Monáe adds, in her retelling of Metropolis, is a more clear-cut presence of gendered and racialized dimensions, and this despite Rachel and Morpheus. Her insistence simultaneously puts the other— the ostracized and marginalized, the queer and the sans-papier—in play, challenging the ghouls with mirror-faces, that is, us, to look again.

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NOTES 1. Cf. how Francesca T. Royster reads her work in relation to a post-soul performance (Royster 2013, 186f.). 2. Janelle Monáe, “Tightrope,” http:​//www​.yout​ube.c​om/wa​tch?v​=pwne​fUaKC​bc. 3. Sun Ra, Space is the Place, cf. 1:19 http:​//www​.yout​ube.c​om/wa​tch?v​=NwNt​xFH6I​ jU Te same fgures are also found in Maya Deren’s short flm Meshes of the Afternoon from 1943, thus establishing a relation to classical American avant-garde as well. 4. For more on Afrofuturism and post-soul, see Steinskog 2017. 5. http:​//fan​droid​smona​e.wee​bly.c​om/57​821.h​tml. 6. Tis argument is related as well to why Daylanne K. English and Alvin Kim use the notion of “neo-Afrofuturism” in relation to Monáe (English and Kin 2013). 7. http:​//www​.blue​sands​oul.c​om/fe​ature​/554/​janel​le_mo​nae_f​unky_​sensa​tion/​. 8. Janelle Monáe, “Many Moons,” http:​//www​.yout​ube.c​om/wa​tch?v​=LHgb​zNHVg​0c. 9. Part of this confusion becomes even clearer within Monáe’s oeuvre, where comparing the face of these clones with the vulnerable face in the video to “Cold War” (from Te ArchAndroid), raises the question of us empathizing with the androids and/or with Monáe. Are there any diferences here? In what sense can we, as audience, empathize with androids? Tese questions seem clearly to be on Monáe’s mind, and her videos challenges us to think through them. For more on “Cold War,” see Redmond 2011. 10. One could even argue for a possible reference relating the T-1000 and Michael Jackson in the notion of morphing (cf. Bukatman 1993, 2003), a possibility I explore in Steinskog 2015. 11. For a reading arguing for diferentiations between “cyborgs, fembots and posthumans,” see Susane Loza 2001, 349f. 12. See Eshun’s More Brilliant Tan Te Sun, where he argues for similarities between robots, slaves, and aliens (Eshun 1998, 113). 13. See, for example, the interview in Canadian Studio Q, at http:​//www​.yout​ube.c​om/ wa​tch?v​=KMxQ​EIGmD​ww (cf. van Veen 2013, 13). 14. For criticism of Haraway related to questions of race, see Barber 2015, Hobson 2008 and 2012. 15. Janelle Monáe, “Q.U.E.E.N.,” http:​//www​.yout​ube.c​om/wa​tch?v​=tEdd​ixS-U​oU. 16. http:​//www​.fuse​.tv/v​ideos​/2013​/09/j​anell​e-mon​ae-qu​een-i​nterv​iew. 17. https​://ww​w.you​tube.​com/w​atch?​v=tEd​dixS-​UoU. 18. Zora Neale Hurston uses the phrase “suspended animation” in describing zombies in a radio interview from 1943 https​://ww​w.you​tube.​com/w​atch?​v=YmK​Pjh5R​X6c. 19. Tis is not meant to suggest that the Internet was unimportant when Dery wrote his article, and it became important for the dissemination of Afrofuturism by Alondra Nelson and others (cf. Weheliye 2002, 29; Womack 2013, 18). 20. http:​//www​.yout​ube.c​om/wa​tch?v​=_lHH​XeCm2​ew. 21. http://57821.tumblr.com/, http:​//www​.yout​ube.c​om/us​er/ja​nelle​monae​. 22. http:​//578​21.tu​mblr.​c om/p​o st/5​8 1768​60243​/conc​ernin​g-cin​di-an​d-her​-sist​ers-a​ nd-th​e-sku​ll-of​. 23. http:​//578​21.tu​mblr.​com/p​ost/5​81768​34351​/conc​ernin​g-cin​di-an​d-the​-glow​-of-t​ he-dr​ogons​. 24. http:​//www​.yout​ube.c​om/wa​tch?v​=FaHR​UyyVE​Ds. 25. https://twitter.com/DJCrashCrash.

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26. https://twitter.com/JanelleMonae. 27. http://www.wondaland.com/. 28. Tis has become an argument somewhat more difcult to uphold since I began writing this article, and in the hiatus since the release of Te Electric Lady. 29. http : ​//www​.roll​ingst​one.c​om/mu​sic/n​ews/a​rtist​-of-t​he-we​ek-ja​nelle​-mona​e-201​ 00630​.

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REFERENCES Anderson, Reynaldo & Charles E. Jones, eds. 2015. Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of AstroBlackness. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Barber, Tifany E. 2015. “Cyborg Grammar?: Reading Wangechi Mutu’s Non je ne regret rien through Kindred.” In Reynaldo Anderson & Charles E. Jones (eds.), Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of Astro-Blackness. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 3–26. Bascomb, Lia T. 2016. “Freakifying History: Remixing Royalty.” African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal 9(1): 57–69. Benjamin, Jef. 2013. “Janelle Monae Says ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ is for the ‘Ostracized & Marginalized.’” Fuse, September 18, 2013. http:​//www​.fuse​.tv/v​ideos​/2013​/09/j​anell​e-mon​ae-qu​ een-i​nterv​iew. Bloch, R. Howard. 1987. “Medieval Misogyny.” Representations 20: 1–24. Bukatman, Scott. 1993. Terminal Identity: Te Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ———. 2003. Matters of Gravity: Special Efects and Supermen in the 20th Century. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. David, Marlo. 2007. “Afrofuturism and Post-Soul Possibilities in Black Popular Music.” African American Review 41(4): 695–707. Dery, Mark. 1994. “Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose.” In Mark Dery (ed.), Flame Wars: Te Discourse on Cyberculture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 179–222. English, Daylanne K. & Alvin Kim. 2013. “Now We Want Our Funk Cut: Janelle Monáe’s Neo-Afrofuturism.” American Studies 52(4): 217–230. Eshun, Kodwo. 1998. More Brilliant Tan Te Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction. London: Quartet Books. ———. 2003. “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism.” CR: Te New Centennial Review 3(2): 287–302. Fandroids. 2010. “57821.” http:​//fan​droid​smona​e.wee​bly.c​om/57​821.h​tml. Foster, Tomas. 2005. Te Souls of Cyberfolk: Posthumanism as Vernacular Teory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Gipson, Grace D. 2015. “Afrofuturism’s Musical Princess Janelle Monáe: Psychedelic Soul Message Music Infused with a Sci-Fi Twist.” In Reynaldo Anderson & Charles E. Jones (eds.), Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of Astro-Blackness. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 91–108. Gunning, Tom. 2000. Te Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity. London: BFI. Haraway, Donna. 2004. Te Haraway Reader. New York: Routledge.

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Hayles, N. Katherine. 1999. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: Te University of Chicago Press. Hoard, Christian. 2010. “Artist of the Week: Janelle Monáe.” Rolling Stone, June 30, 2010. http:​//www​.roll​ingst​one.c​om/mu​sic/n​ews/a​rtist​-of-t​he-we​ek-ja​nelle​-mona​e-201​00630​. Hobson, Janell. 2008. “Digital Whiteness, Primitive Blackness.” Feminist Media Studies 8(2): 111–26. ———. 2012. Body as Evidence: Mediating Race, Globalizing Gender. Albany: State University of New York Press. Horse, Kandia Crazy. 2009. “Janelle, Erykah, and Santogold Are the Afro-Techno Revolution.” Village Voice, January 20, 2009. http:​//www​.vill​agevo​ice.c​om/20​09-01​-21/m​usic/​ janel​le-er​ykah-​and-s​antog​old-a​re-th​e-afr​o-tec​hno-r​evolu​tion/​. Hurston, Zora Neale. 2009. Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica. New York: Harper Collins. Huyssen, Andreas. 1986. After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, and Postmodernism. London: Macmillan. James, Robin. 2008. “‘Robo-Diva R&B’: Aesthetics, Politics, and Black Female Robots in Contemporary Popular Music.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 20(4): 402–23. Jemisin, N. K. 2013. “How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? Te Toxins of Speculative Fiction, and the Antidote that is Janelle Monáe.” In Jonathan Wright (ed.), Adventure Rocketship! Let’s All Go to the Science Fiction Disco. Bristol: Tanget Books, 105–13. Kracauer, Siegfried. 2004/1947. From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Lewis, Pete. 2010. “Janelle Monae: Funky Sensation.” Blues and Soul. http:​//www​.blue​sands​ oul.c​om/fe​ature​/554/​janel​le_mo​nae_f​unky_​sensa​tion/​. Lock, Graham. 1999. Blutopia: Visions of the Future and Revisions of the Past in the Work of Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, and Anthony Braxton. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Loza, Susana. 2001. “Sampling (Hetero)Sexuality: Diva-Ness and Discipline in Electronic Dance Music.” Popular Music 20(3): 349–57. McClary, Susan. 1991. Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Redmond, Shana. 2011. “Tis Safer Space: Janelle Monáe’s ‘Cold War’.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 23(4): 393–411. Royster, Francesca T. 2013. Sounding Like a No-No: Queer Sounds and Eccentric Acts in the Post-Soul Era. Ann Arbor: Te University of Michigan Press. Steinskog, Erik. 2015. “Michael Jackson and Afrofuturism: HIStory’s Adaptation of Past, Present, and Future.” In Dan Hassler-Forest and Pascal Nicklas (eds.), Te Politics of Adaptation: Media Convergence and Ideology. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 126–40. ———. 2017. “Performing Race and Gender: Erykah Badu between Post-soul and Afrofuturism.” In Stan Hawkins (ed.), Te Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music and Gender. Abingdon: Routledge, 242–52. Studio Q. 2011. “Archandroid Janelle Monáe in Studio Q.” YouTube. https​://ww​w.you​tube.​ com/w​atch?​v=KMx​QEIGm​Dww. Szwed, John F. 1998. Space is the Place: Te Lives and Times of Sun Ra. New York: Da Capo Press.

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van Veen, tobias c. 2013. “Vessels of Transfer: Allegories of Afrofuturism in Jef Mills and Janelle Monáe.” Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 5(2): 7–41. Weheliye, Alexander G. 2002. “‘Feenin’: Posthuman Voices in Contemporary Black Popular Culture.” Social Text 71 20(2) (Summer): 21–47. Womack, Ytasha L. 2013. Afrofuturism: Te World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books. Zuberi, Nabeel. 2007. “Is Tis Te Future? Black Music and Technology Discourse.” Science Fiction Studies 34(2): 283–300.

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13 Designing Love Reimagining Technology and Intimacy

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Ebony A. Utley

Technology has irrevocably altered intimacy. Defned as “a feeling of closeness and connectedness that develops through communication between partners,” intimacy is a “fundamental human motivation” (Laurenceau, Barrett, and Rovine 2005, 314). Electronically mediated communication (EMC), including but not limited to email, text, social media, and video messages, create and sustain connections in ways unimaginable prior to the technological interventions we now take for granted. Despite technology’s domestication into United States culture, extremely cautionary technological determinists remain wary and believe new technologies are “causal agents, entering societies as active forces of change that humans have little power to resist” (Baym 2010, 24). Queries about Google making us stupid and texting decreasing face-to-face communication aptitude (as well as the ability to spell properly) echo past critics of Plato and Socrates who decried the alphabet’s deleterious efects on memory, Toreau who questioned the necessity of the telegraph, and the Knights of Columbus who predicted that the telephone would ruin home life (Fiefer 2014, 28). Interpersonal communication research that both supports and counters dystopian assessments of technology’s impact on intimacy is developing rapidly. Its missing component, however, are specifc investigations of how technology afects intimacy between African Americans, especially those in romantic relationships. Tis chapter flls the gap by initiating a conversation about African Americans, intimacy, and technology. After a brief discussion of African Americans’ historical relationships to technology, I describe how technology impacts three persistent relational issues among African American couples. I explain how the romantic relationship experiences of African Americans inspired the development and design of Love Lines, a technological solution to improve intimacy. Finally, I conclude with my personal 189

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refections on being a black woman creator of intimacy technology in a society where technology is rapidly changing intimacy.

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AFRICAN AMERICANS AND TECHNOLOGY Historically, African Americans maintain a unique relationship with futurism and technology. Mark Dery describes African Americans as “descendants of alien abductees” inhabiting a “sci-f nightmare” where technology was “too often brought to bear on black bodies (branding, forced sterilization, the Tuskegee experiment and tasers…)” (1994, 180). As slaves, African Americans functioned similarly to Google, forced to respond to the whims of white masters who demanded knowledge, productivity, and subservience without remuneration. Enslaved black bodies were essentially electronic power tools—capable of superhuman (i.e., nonwhite) feats, useful while in the best condition, and sold or discarded once peak productivity had passed. Everett compares the “current scramble for domination and domestication of the Internet” to the colonization of Africa by the West (2002, 137). Beginning in the mid-1990s conversations about blacks and technology frequently focused on the digital divide and obscured attention to “black technolust and early technology adoption and mastery” (127). Contemporary attention to black technology continues to be rife with racist assumptions. For example, Black Twitter highlights this fraught and complicated relationship. Black Twitter “describe[s] a large network of black Twitter users and their loosely coordinated interactions, many of which accumulate into trending topics due to the network’s size, interconnectedness, and unique activity” (Ramsey 2015). At the University of Southern California, three white men initiated the “Black Twitter Project,” which aims to study the phenomenon. After public outcry by Black Twitter and others over the white authorship, Dayna Chatman, a black woman graduate student, was identifed as the originator of the study. Chatman claimed to not know how the project description was released prematurely without attributing her and expressed frustration with the misrepresentation “because this is indicative of the very same problems—erasure of Black people and their contributions—that my project is about” (Chatman 2014). Tis lack of clarity presents two possibilities: Chatman’s omission was an oversight by her white male advisor or her addition to the team masked the embarrassment of her white male advisor. Either option is unacceptable. “Black Twitter Project” was further critiqued as an invasive COINTELPRO-type surveillance because the study’s authors failed to acquire passive or active consent from the community as they collected their tweets and metadata (Newitz 2014). Additionally, members of Black Twitter were angry that the researchers initially identifed Black Twitter as a community that came together to engage the television show Scandal instead of a community of political activists. Beyond the scope of the shortcomings of “Black Twitter Project,” most focus on African American technology use now centers comfortably on Twitter as if other avenues are less worthy of investigation. When, in fact, according to a Pew Research

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Center 2014 report, 80 percent of blacks are internet users, 62 percent of blacks have some sort of broadband connection at home, 92 percent of black adults are cell phone owners, and 56 percent own a smartphone of some kind. Additionally, the study found: Some 86 percent of African Americans ages 18–29 are home broadband adopters, as are 88 percent of black college graduates and 91 percent of African Americans with an annual household income of $75,000 or more per year. Tese fgures are all well above the national average for broadband adoption, and are identical to whites of similar ages, incomes, and education levels. (Smith 2014)

In light of this data, Nielson and other corporations are brainstorming how to proft from online African American activity (Koh 2014). In the interim, progressive, nonracist, nonmarket research on the specifc ways technology impacts intimacy within black romantic relationships is long overdue.

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AFRICAN AMERICANS INTIMACY AND TECHNOLOGY Confict is inevitable, especially in love relationships. When at least two interdependent people vie for resources, maintain incompatible goals, and/or experience interference from the other person while achieving their specifc goals, confict will ensue (Hocker and Wilmot 2014, 13). Conficts occur when partners disagree or, at least, when they think they disagree. Perception is a key component of understanding confict as “an interaction process where partners disagree about goals, rules, roles, culture, and/or patterns of communication” (Turner and West 2013, 248). All romantic relationships experience confict; relationship success is contingent upon how couples address their confict. African American romantic relationships are unique because in addition to the interpersonal confict that occurs in all relationships, they also unduly experience social confict. For example, racism, income inequality, and compromised conditions for longevity including but not limited to violent crime, disparities in (preventative) health care, environmental racism, food insecurity, increasingly punitive criminal justice policies, as well as police brutality and violence further complicate their interactions. African American romantic relationships must simultaneously calibrate to internal and external pressures by reconciling not only interpersonal and social but also technological confict. Within this in mind, this section considers how technology impacts black intimacy in conjunction with three persistent relational issues among African American couples: economic insecurity, an imbalanced sex ratio, and infdelity. Partnerships experiencing economic insecurity are precarious because of perpetual conficts about scarce resources. Shifts in the US economy due to technological advancements impact African American relationships negatively when the conditions for employment become based on unattainable education, specialized skillsets,

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or collaboration with afuent partners. Forty-eight percent of the experts surveyed in a 2014 Pew study about the future of jobs “envision a future in which robots and digital agents have displaced signifcant numbers of both blue-and-white-collar workers—with many expressing concern that this will lead to vast increases in income inequality, masses of people who are efectively unemployable, and breakdowns in the social order” (Smith and Anderson 2014). Meanwhile, Silicon Valley thrives not just with unicorns (companies worth $1 billion) but decacorns (companies worth $10 billion or more), many of which may be building early iterations of the aforementioned Artifcial Intelligence. Accessing this wealth remains a challenge for African Americans who must prepare to provide for their families in the future without the comparable resources of whites. Programs like Black Girls Code and Code 2040 emphasize coding as a skillset of the future but Atwood asserts that learning to code is like training to become a car mechanic (2015). Equal emphasis must be placed on the critical and computational thinking necessary to design the technologies that will need to be coded. Eglash cautions that even with education and funding, technology entrepreneurship opportunities require “collaborations through a sort of nerd network” that is predominantly white (2002, 50). Jobs provide fnancial stability but they also bufer self-esteem and infuence relational satisfaction. Aborampah explains, “Te security derived from one’s employment has a bearing on one’s sexual behavior. Te extent to which a relationship can be satisfactory depends, in part, on the extent to which one enters the relationship without having to worry about economic support” (1989, 324). How will romantic relationships be afected if African Americans are intellectually, fnancially, and socially unprepared for the worst case digital economy scenario? Just as scarce economic resources contribute to romantic relationship confict, so does scarce partner availability. Te black community’s infamous sex ratio imbalance indicates that single black women outnumber single black men within the ages of greatest marriageability. Te imbalance was documented as early as 1850 ostensibly commensurate with the increasing lynchings of black men (Aborampah 1989). Te actual numbers of marriageable black women available to marriageable black men have fuctuated throughout African American relational history and are contingent upon demographics. Te disproportionate numbers of black men in prison, probation, or parole as a consequence of the war on drugs contribute greatly to the actual imbalance as well as create the persistent perception that black men are unavailable even when not necessarily the case (Dauria et al. 2015). Media from Nightline to Being Mary Jane perpetuate the notion that a single black woman cannot attract a man of her own. In fction and reality, competition is ferce among black women who desire a black husband. Teir (perceived) numerical disadvantage decreases their negotiating power with men who are less likely to commit to one black woman if they believe there are a plethora of alternatives; it also increases the level of acceptable sexual promiscuity as women must do more to beguile a man (Aborampah 1989). Reality television thrives on representations of black women who act as if they feel compelled to

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behave in lascivious, possessive, and potentially violent ways to garner and sustain the attention of eligible black men. With the advent of online dating (and mobile swiping), Slater observes men in general who are disinterested in relationship confict resolution and disinterested in commitment because the gendered power diferential works in their favor (2013). On the other hand, the numbers of African Americans who are online dating is steadily increasing. One of the original online dating sites, BlackPlanet launched in 2001 and had 20 million registered users by the time of its sale in 2008 (Frommer 2008). It has since been followed by Black People Meet and Black Christian People Meet (both owned by People Media; the same company that owns Match.com). Soul Swipe, Meld, and Bae are notable mobile dating apps designed by and for African Americans to counter the macroaggressions and outright racism frequently experienced when online dating within racially nonspecifc communities. Research on interracial online dating within the United States reports that races generally prefer to date within their race although black men express greater willingness to outdate than black women which may further contribute to the sex ratio imbalance (Hwang 2013). Online/mobile dating creates opportunities to seek partners both within and beyond one’s ethnic and geographical boundaries. Minimizing geographical boundaries, however, demands answers to questions about partnerships across continents within the African diaspora. Will traditional laments of the sex ratio imbalance shift when US black men and women are willing to look for romantic partners globally? Even while online dating, the black community’s sex ratio imbalance creates confict over incompatible relational goals like commitment, and it may also create confict over monogamy. As a result of the numbers game, there is more acknowledged man sharing among black women, more unsanctioned infdelity within black couples, and higher rates of STI infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “the rate of new HIV infections among black women in 2010 was 20 times that of white women and nearly 5 times that of Hispanic women” (CDC 2012). Although rates are still higher than all other ethnicities “from 2005 to 2014, the number of new HIV diagnoses among African American women fell 42 percent” (CDC 2016). Unfortunately, African American rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are also notably higher than those of whites (CDC 2014). While the imbalanced sex ratio is a contributing factor, additional reasons for the STI disparity include limited access to high-quality health care and HIV prevention education, discrimination by and mistrust of the medical community, fear, and stigma (CDC 2014). As online/mobile dating becomes a more acceptable way to meet potential partners, using various technologies becomes a more acceptable way to sustain electronically mediated relationships. With dating online there is greater possibility for sexual experimentation and sexual identity exploration without STI consequences. Social presence describes experiencing a mediated interaction as if it were synchronous. Hapitc devices create social presence by simulating (sexual) touch. For example, Fundawear “allows physical touch to be transferred wirelessly between couples and

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recreated on their skin. It sends real touch from one smartphone to another and from there to mini sensors inside the Fundawear garments, so couples can tease, tickle and tantalise—even when they are apart” (Fundawear). Kiiroo and HighJoy manufacture teledildonics or haptic sex toys for mediated synchronous sex that allow partners to remotely control each other’s pleasure. Fleshlight’s Vstroker is a sex system where penetrating an artifcial vagina is simulated on virtual pornography. Tenga creates products for virtual 3D sex via Oculus Rift (Merchant 2014). In fact, Levy predicts a future beyond online interactive sex where robot sex and marriage are normalized (Levy 2008). Te Swedish science fction television show Real Humans depicts robot sex as reality. Te show was so popular a British-American version was created. Sullins proposes that roboticized sex could eventually be accompanied by loveotics—love between humans and robots with afective emotions (Sullins 2012, 405). Certainly, sexual exploration through technology has the potential to reduce STI transmission, but research has yet to determine whether it will be afordable, accessible, or desirable to the African American community. Teledildonic marketing materials almost exclusively feature white bodies. Furthermore, an increase in haptic or robot sex raises questions about what counts as infdelity. Social media and online dating have already redefned couple confict over infdelity, increased opportunities to cheat, and increased possibilities for getting caught. Refecting on this new terrain, I coined “digital indiscretions” to describe “infdelities aided by technology.” In my study, the technologies used to commit or discover infdelity included:

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phones (texts, pictures, calls, call history, etc.), websites, email, Facebook, and other social media. Te most popular sites that revealed digital indiscretion were dating websites. Te most frequently mentioned email providers were Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail. In addition to Facebook, the mentioned social media sites were MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. Other technologies used to cheat or to discover cheating included Mapquest, PayPal, Skype, the iPhone, iPad, and Xbox. (Utley 2015, 156)

Digital indiscretions are attractive because they are comprised of hyperpersonal relationships which are initiated online yet the participants feel closer to each other than to their nonmediated relationships because of the absence of nonverbal cues, selective self-presentation and partner idealization (Walther 1996). Infdelity online is about more than which technologies are used. Studying it must also consider the psychology between how and why people digitally connect. My aforementioned study’s sample was majority African American. More research must consider the prevalence, justifcations, and consequences of digital indiscretions. Te cloak of anonymity online increases opportunities for conficts caused by digital deception including selective self-presentation—misrepresenting oneself online, nonconsensual nonmonogamy—one person sustaining multiple relationships with unsuspecting partners, cyberstalking—premeditatedly wielding technology in a way that makes someone feel unsafe, catfshing—creating a fake identity online with the intention of interacting with another person, and revenge porn—posting nonconsensual sexually explicit pictures of a (former) partner online.

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Future visions of black romantic life must account for all of these previously identifed intimacy and technology possibilities and subsequent challenges. Inspired by the technological terrain of African American relationships, I pose not only questions for further study but a practical technology solution for learning to improve romantic relationship communication and mediate romantic relationship confict.

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LOVE LINES DEVELOPMENT Love Lines is a web-based educational game (lovelinesonline.com) developed to improve intimacy by requiring players to practice analyzing communication and resolving confict in romantic relationships. Love Lines is an eponymous title named for actual lines of text quoted from my interviews with Americans about relationships, particularly infdelity and early sexual experiences. After each interview, as part of my feld notes, I entered the most poignant quotes into an Excel spreadsheet. Initially, I had no idea what I would do with this document, but ultimately it became the basis for the love lines which are the central focus of play. I selected approximately 70 quotes from the combined data set of over 128 hours of conversation with 135 individuals to create Love Lines. Te infdelity data came from 110 American women who described themselves as having been cheated on, done the cheating, or been the other woman. Participants were asked to defne love and infdelity, share their experience(s) with infdelity, ofer advice to other women based on their experiences, and explain their motivation for participating in the study. Interviewees told me empowering stories about how infdelity contributed to their personal growth (Utley 2016). Tey also told me devastating stories about infdelity’s coexistence with social, economic, emotional, psychological, sexual, and physical abuse (Utley 2017). Nearly every participant shared her story in hopes of helping someone else. Te love lines are also drawn from interviews with twenty-fve African American men over age eighteen who remembered sexual experiences that occurred at eighteen years old or younger. I asked them to defne a sexual experience, describe their early sexual experiences, and discuss how those sexual experiences impacted them as adults. Tere were quaint stories about consensual lost virginity in high school. Tere were also harrowing memories of childhood sexual violations as young as between three and four years old and profound explanations about how those violations impacted their adulthood. From the development of sexual fetishes to porn addictions, to rampant promiscuity and pimping, the men explained how being sexually violated by adults and other children shaped their manhood. Te male interviewees said they participated because they wanted to contextualize black male sexuality and help others with their stories. Taken together, the samples’ ages ranged from nineteen to sixty-seven with an average age of thirty-eight and a half. Sixty-one percent identifed as black, 28 percent identifed as white, 5 percent identifed as Latina, 3 percent identifed as biracial, and 2 percent identifed as Asian. Nearly 80 percent identifed as heterosexual

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and approximately 92 percent had some or more college education. Since each set of participants were recruited via social media snowball samples, the high numbers of African Americans and higher education levels are refective of my personal network and my desire for a majority black sample. Tese demographics refect a diversity that is unmatched in traditional research that is too often a predominately white convenience sample of undergraduates evaluating hypothetical situations. African American human subject research is desperately needed, but academic press editorial departments make it difcult to publish and Institutional Review Boards (IRB) make it woefully difcult to conduct. My infdelity study was initially exclusively about black women (Utley 2011), but publisher rejections to my book proposal within the realm of “while we fnd your project very interesting, we fear the topic is too niche for our list and won’t ofer abroad enough appeal” spurred me to expand the sample while consciously recruiting African American women. Similarly, the CSULB IRB queried why I was uninterested in interviewing all men about their sexual experiences instead of just black men. Despite seven prior IRB-approved research projects, they suggested I consider partnering with a man or conduct online surveys in lieu of interviews. When I demanded that the sample population and project design remain unchanged, they required me to include the following statement in the consent form “Te researcher is mandated to report illegal (sexual or other) behaviors and abuse” irrespective of their state’s statute of limitations or interviewee desire. Te unreasonable criminalization of participants prior to the actual interview may have accounted for a signifcant number of potential participants who were initially interested and failed to follow through. IRB also demanded I include a list of crisis hotline numbers and online resources for interviewees. Because of the paucity of research about black men’s sexual violations, most of those resources target white women and would be perceived as inefectual at best and ofensive at worst to the population I was trying to make comfortable with me as a researcher. Qualitative research on sensitive topics like sex, trauma, and (potentially) shame is already difcult to conduct and even more so with the institutionalized racism of impractical IRB interventions. Nonetheless, listening to women and men disclose what were often their most devastating intimate experiences in order to help strangers inspired me to maximize the potential reach for their narratives beyond traditional publication outlets and research institutions. I thought about how many other individuals secretly shared parallel experiences and could use the social support of confrmation that they were not alone as well as communication strategies for dealing with these situations. I thought of family members who could use these narratives to help them support loved ones who had experienced infdelity, abuse, or sexual victimization. Some of the narratives were so emotionally stirring that I knew I needed to reach an audience beyond the academic pay wall of scholarly journals. Furthermore, prioritizing African Americans is important because placing majority African American voices at the center of a new technology to address couple communication and confict resolution emphasizes how social forces can shape romantic relationships for all couples. Focusing on African American relational problems focuses on the problems.

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Te Love Lines tag “Real Love. Real Lines. Real People” was inspired by an undergraduate during a focus group. Demographics and detailed relational context are intentionally omitted within the game to encourage imagination and aid players in envisioning themselves in relationship to the love lines, which refect both positive and problematic communication. Even though the lines are decontextualized, the sentiments are very real, very impassioned, and very likely to have been felt by others. Once I identifed the game’s content, I was ready to decide on its design. At this point, it will be useful to understand how Love Lines is played.

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LOVE LINES DESIGN Initially conceptualized as an alternative to traditional textbooks in relational, interpersonal, and/or family communication undergraduate courses, Love Lines was galvanized by new digital learning environments also called cloud-based learning solutions like Cengage’s MindTap, Macmillian’s LaunchPad, and McGraw Hill’s Connect. Love Lines engages students by being conveniently accessible while connecting to their lived experiences. Te fve procedural levels of Love Lines mirror a relationship’s stages. Te relationship is blissful in level 1: “Honeymoon,” where players imagine a relationship, associate their emotions with that relationship’s communication, and identify the correct relational communication vocabulary that characterizes that relationship’s positive communication. Te relationship experiences confict and challenges in level 2: “Disturbances,” where play is identical to level 1 except players are asked to identify what might be problematic about the relationship’s communication. Te “Discovery,” level 3, requires players to practice problem-solving by becoming the primary communicator in a relationship with a chatbot. In level 4: “Decision Time,” players solve problems and resolve confict in real time with other players online and ultimately make decisions about the fate of the relationship. Te fnal level 5: “Personal Refection,” assesses player self-awareness about romantic relationship communication. Players begin at level 1: “Honeymoon” by inputting the names of two people in a romantic relationship. Choosing the names allows players to depersonalize the game by entering imaginary names or personalize the game by inputting their name and the name of a former, current, or potential opposite sex or same sex partner. After entering names, players are shown a randomly generated positive love line and informed who says the love line to whom in order to set the perspective. Players are initially asked to choose an emoji attached to an emotion word and emotion color that represents how they feel about the love line. Tis step domesticates their experience with the technology because most undergraduates have either previously used or received an emoji in their EMC. Emotion emojis, words, and colors further appeal to the target audience of undergraduates so that if they have difculty identifying an emotion word, they can still connect with a familiar emoji and/or color. Ten they are asked to choose one of three relational communication rationales, for example, social support, empathy, or reframing, to determine which

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one represents what is positive about the communication. If an incorrect rationale is chosen, the screen darkens; the screen lightens when the correct rationale is chosen. Immediate response pages reiterate player choice and explain the correct answer. Players see a heart meter that flls when they are correct and drains when they are incorrect. Players cannot move to the next level until they have achieved a predetermined number of consecutively correct answers. Positive love lines continue to be randomized and may repeat. Because multiple rationales apply to each line, players may see the same love line with a new set of rationales, only one of which is always correct. Once the goal for level 1 has been met, a results screen for the level shows which positive rationales are most easily identifable by the player and which ones are more difcult. Level 2: “Disturbances” marks the start of confict in the relationship. Players are told who says a problematic love line to whom, are again asked to choose an emoji that represents how they feel about the love line, and are instructed to identify one of three relational communication rationales, for example, communicative aggression, perpetual conficts, or relational uncertainty that describe what is problematic about the love line. Identifying emotions remains important because oftentimes individuals feel as if something is not right in their relationships but cannot articulate exactly what is wrong. Successful interactions with the game will begin to link player emotional intelligence with relational intelligence. Increasing unfamiliar relational communication vocabulary is made easier when linked to existing emotions. Salovey and Mayer defne emotional intelligence as “the recognition and use of one’s own and others’ emotional states to solve problems and regulate behavior” (1990, 189). Emotional intelligence is an essential skill for confict resolution which is necessary in the upcoming levels. Levels 1 and 2 both ofer the player “cheat sheets.” At any point during play, selecting cheat sheet opens a pop up with a defnition of the rationale and a demonstrative dialogue between fctional characters. Cheat sheets are intentionally diverse encompassing varied ethnic names, relationship types, and sexual orientations. Designed by the Love Lines pedagogical curator, Dr. Rachel N. Hastings, who not only has years of experience teaching interpersonal communication but also holds a PhD in performance studies, the cheat sheets epitomize edutainment while remaining committed to heterogeneity. Level 3: “Discovery” requires players to practice problem-solving by becoming the primary communicator in a relationship with a chatbot. Players are presented with a love line and the perspective in terms of who says what to whom. Ten players are instructed to use their knowledge from levels 1 and 2’s relationship rationales and type responses in the text box to address the relationship confict. Te game is programmed to respond to input until the player decides the confict has been resolved and they would like to move on, the confict cannot be resolved and they would like to move on, or the confict cannot be resolved and they would like to break up. Moving on presents new love lines and other issues that must be addressed until the player has successfully resolved a predetermined number of interactions. Ending the relationship progresses to level 4.

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In level 4: “Decision Time,” players apply their knowledge to real time communication between romantic partners. Upon entering a username and selecting chat, players are randomly paired with another player. Similar to level 3, players receive a love line with the perspective of who says what to whom. Ten they attempt to resolve a relationship confict with another player who has also completed the previous levels and is concurrently online. Level 4 includes the same move on and breakup options as level 3. Moving on and breaking up present new love lines and other issues that must be addressed until the player has successfully resolved a predetermined number of interactions. Profanity is restricted, and instructors can access student chat histories to prohibit malfeasance. Te fnal level 5: “Personal Refection” asks players to make personal assessments about their communication in relationships and how their communication may be improved. Based on their responses, players are directed to third-party websites with curated content for relational maintenance success. While Love Lines’s content comes from qualitative research, its design participates in the Afrofuturist tradition of techno-vernacular creativity. Gaskins argues that techno-vernacular creativity includes art and technology produced from the African diaspora that “accepts technological meaning is culturally and historically grounded” and identifes its three methods as reappropriation, improvisation, and reinvention (2016, 31). Reappropriation requires reclaiming cultural artifacts, and while no aspect of Love Lines has to be specifcally taken back, it does appropriate the traditions of literary hypertext, interactive fction, chatbots, and games. Love Lines incorporates the literary hypertext tradition of a non-sequential narrative when clicking on hyperlinks to determine the game’s progression akin to Juhana Leinonen’s exemplary literary hypertext Ex Nihilo where player choice of feelings about exploring an unfamiliar environment determines the fate of that world. It also appropriates the interactive fction (IF) model of a simulated world that provides reader-players with an immersive role-playing game experience where the goal is creative problem-solving and not necessarily winning. Similar to Mimesis, an inspirational interactive narrative game that raises awareness about microaggressions, the Love Lines goal is to achieve mastery at identifying new concepts (Harrell et al. 2014). Furthermore, Love Lines appropriates gaming tradition’s simulation of the real world in order to accelerate learning in a safe space where players are free to fail and learn from their mistakes without dire consequences. Additionally, players are free to succeed and feel a sense of accomplishment having overcome a challenge and/or solved a particular problem. Game mechanics incorporated into Love Lines include levels, level completion badges, a status bar, a heart meter to support progression, confict to create tension and demand problem-solving, replay to encourage failure, feedback for self-refection, and cheat sheets that extend play by keeping players from getting stuck or quitting. In the spirit of improvisation, “creating, problem-solving, or reacting in the moment to one’s environment and inner feelings” (Gaskins 2016, 30), Love Lines marries the mastery of IF with game mechanics to create something new. Moreover, improvisation continues through the incorporation of the chatterbot, colloquially

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known as a chatbot “where the computer takes a proactive role in shaping the narrative” (De Angeli 2005). Chatbots can be found in toys like Hello Barbie, voice recognition programs on smartphones like Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, and Alexa, social media like Facebook, and myriad online customer service representatives. Te chatbot experience is popular not only because of its ubiquity but also because chatbot small talk flls a basic human need to connect and is perceived as a novel, intriguing, and enjoyable pastime because one is curious about how the nonhuman chatbot will respond to human attempts to communicate. In a relationship simulation where players are tasked to resolve confict with a chatbot who does not always understand and is (at this point) incapable of accessing emotions, requires introspection about the best ways to negotiate confict with a recalcitrant or furious (face-to-face or electronically mediated) partner who refuses to listen or appropriately respond. Te frustration that develops while trying to resolve an issue with someone who is limited either by emotional maturity or by his or her technology is very real. It also requires players to practice knowing when to end a confict that cannot be resolved. Improvisation plays an even more important role in the human-to-human chat level 4. Players have no idea with whom they will be matched and must immediately improvise replies. Because the system will time out after too many minutes of inactivity, being expeditious is an additional improvisational requirement. Te fnal techno-vernacular component is reinvention. Love Lines creates room for reinvention through the personal refection level 5 where even if players chose not to use their names in game play, they are asked about their personal romantic relationship communication patterns and provided with opportunities for social support. One of the greatest benefts of the internet is its social support communities where individuals can privately access resources and community. Love Lines is techno-vernacular creativity. Love Lines is a game. But primarily Love Lines is educational technology for interpersonal communication. Each level of play is accompanied by assessments including tutorials, discussion forums, quizzes, and surveys. Instructors who adopt Love Lines (in whole or part) receive access to an administrator view that displays the results of each player’s session to determine how well pedagogical outcomes have been achieved and whether any inappropriate content has been used during the chat sessions. Te instructional manual includes lecture outlines, activities, writing assignments, and discussion prompts to be used alongside gameplay. All assignments are designed to be self-refective as well as measure the following Love Lines outcomes: (1) emotional intelligence integration, (2) improved relational communication, (3) confict resolution competence, and (4) relationship termination aptitude.

REFLECTIONS Discussing the future of Love Lines requires a refective look back to my personal history. In 2014, I was frustrated by conventional pedagogical approaches

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yet increasingly interested in technology. Te more I read about innovation and careers of the future, the more I feared my students were not learning applicable skills. For the next semesters, no matter what I was assigned to teach, I taught about technology. Popular culture and communication became pop culture and communication technologies. Gender and family research became intimacy and technology. Te graduate seminar on communication in popular culture became a seminar on futurism. I wanted to push my majority students of color to see themselves as innovators on par with the popular images of Silicon Valley’s white male “tech guys.” Final projects were to conceptualize communication technologies with specifc attention to race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethics, sustainability, and accessibility. Instead of a fnal exam, my colleagues from the tech community came to class to evaluate student work. Te courses are challenging for students who do not perceive themselves as technologically savvy innovators, but by semester’s end, student responses as well my tech colleagues’ evaluations have been tremendously motivating. I knew that I could not ask my students to commit to this activity if I were not willing to do so myself. Trough my process, I fully embody the internal confict that comes with bringing an idea to fruition in front of an unfamiliar audience. While writing, I’ve wondered, will readers of this chapter fnd my ideas crudely unsophisticated? Will I fnd these ideas crudely unsophisticated by the time I hold this book in my hands? Will Love Lines receive enough funding to be in existence a year post this publication? Am I the best person to bring Love Lines to fruition? If not, how do I fnd the right person, and more importantly, how do I aford to pay her or him? What if someone reads my idea and brings it to market faster and better? Te future of Love Lines and the future of innovative technological design reside with those willing to risk reputation, fnances, competition, and whatever else lies in the eerily intimidating unknown of developing something new. Te technology world is oft comprised of white men because of the attendant privileges of white masculinity that minimize the risks of innovation. When white masculinity is all the representation one needs to be accepted and perceived as competent, when friends and family rounds are easily in the high hundreds of thousands, when mentors are willing to pay to be on the team, and when competition can be stalled by expensive attorneys, the risks are signifcantly reduced. On the other hand, a less networked, less privileged person of color entering the tech world must weigh whether risking anything is viable when one’s livelihood and family depend on her for everything. As an African American woman creating technology, my intrapersonal conficts are informed by social conficts rooted in race and economy. Traditionally, there are too few models and mentors of black female techno-vernacular creativity. However, as Afrofuturism moves toward a more applied, transdisciplinary, and technocultural movement, black membership in technoscape increases. Love Lines works to redefne technology not as a source of confict for African Americans but as a source of reconciliation and possibility not just for couple communication and confict resolution but for more research on intimacy and technology as well as more technology-based tools to address relational and social problems while fostering self-refection.

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Dery writes that through Afrofuturism, “African American voices have other stories to tell about culture, technology, and things to come” (1994, 182). Love Lines is my story. It is a story of my past and present. It is a story about our collective futures. Afrofuturism reminds us that improving intimacy within the African American community is an act of love. Communicating with romantic partners is among the most important interactions humans undertake, and yet, most romantic partners receive little to no training on how to efectively do so especially when mired in the relational conficts of economic insecurity, imbalanced sex ratios, and infdelity. I designed Love Lines to address this problem. I design with the intention of answering fundamental questions about the human experience with intimacy and technology by focusing on the African American experience. I design out of love and respect for the strangers who trusted me with not just their stories but oftentimes their secrets. I design out of love for a community of students who need to learn in tech-savvy ways. I design alongside an Afrofuturist techno-vernacular tradition of black people who understand that technology design with the African diaspora in mind is a labor of love.

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REFERENCES Aborampah, Osei-Mensah. 1989. “Black Male-Female Relationships: Some Observations.” Journal of Black Studies 19(3): 320–42. Atwood, Jef. 2015. “Learning to Code Is Overrated: An Accomplished Programmer Would Rather His Kids Learn to Read and Reason.” New York Daily News, September 27, 2015. http:​//www​.nyda​ilyne​ws.co​m/opi​nion/​jef-​atwoo​d-lea​rning​-code​-over​rated​-arti​cle-1​.2374​ 772. Baym, Nancy K. 2010. Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge: Polity Press. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2012. “New HIV Infections in the United States.” December 2012. http:​//www​.cdc.​gov/n​chhst​p/new​sroom​/docs​/2012​/HIV-​Infec​ tions​-2007​-2010​.pdf.​ ———. 2014. “Health Disparities in HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STDs, and TB.” March 20, 2014. http:​//www​.cdc.​gov/n​chhst​p/hea​lthdi​spari​ties/​Afric​anAme​rican​s.htm​l. ———. 2016. “HIV Among African Americans.” August 16, 2016. http:​//www​.cdc.​gov/h​iv/ gr​oup/r​acial​ethni​c/afr​icana​meric​ans/i​ndex.​html.​ Chatman, Dayna E. 2014. “In Reply: My Refections on Comments about Our Research on Black Twitter.” Last modifed September 4, 2014. https​://dc​hatma​n3.wo​rdpre​ss.co​m/201​ 4/09/​04/in​-repl​y-my-​refe​ction​s-on-​comme​nts-a​bout-​our-r​esear​ch-on​-blac​k-twi​tter/​. Dauria, Emily F., Lisa Oakley, Kimberly Jacob Arriola, Kirk Elifson, Gina Wingood, and Hannah, L. F. Cooper. 2015. “Collateral Consequences: Implications of Male Incarceration Rates, Imbalanced Sex Ratios and Partner Availability for Heterosexual Black Women.” Culture, Health and Sexuality 17(10): 1190–206. De Angeli, Antonella. 2005. “To the Rescue of a Lost Identity: Social Perception in HumanChatterbot Interaction” (presentation, Joint Symposium on Virtual Agents, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfeld, UK), April 12–15, 2005. http:​//ais​b.org​.uk/p​ublic​ation​s/pro​ceedi​ ngs/a​isb20​05/10​_Virt​_Fina​l.pdf​#page​=20.

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Dery, Mark. 1994. “Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose.” In Flame Wars, edited by Mark Dery, 179–222. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Eglash, Ron. 2002. “Race, Sex, and Nerds: From Black Geeks to Asian American Hipsters.” Social Text 20(2): 49–64. Everett, Anna. 2002. “Te Revolution Will Be Digitized: Afrocentricity and the Digital Public Sphere.” Social Text 20(2): 125–46. Feifer, Jason. 2014. “Fear and Loathing of Silicon Valley.” Fast Company, November, 25–28. Frommer, Dan. 2008. “BlackPlanet Parent Community Connect Sells to Radio One for $38 Million.” Business Insider: Tech, April 11, 2008. http:​//www​.busi​nessi​nside​r.com​/2008​/4/bl​ ackpl​anet-​paren​t-com​munit​y-con​nect-​sells​-to-r​adio-​one-f​or-38​-mill​ion#i​xzz1I​5Pmhh​Dv. Fundawear. 2016. “Te Future of Foreplay.” Accessed September 10, 2016. http:​//wea​rable​ exper​iment​s.com​/fund​awear​/. Gaskins, Nettrice R. 2016. “Afrofuturism on Web 3.0: Vernacular Cartography and Augmented Space.” In Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of Astro-Blackness, edited by Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones, 27–44. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Harrell, D. Fox, Chong-U Lim, Jia Zhang, Sonny Sidhu, Jason Lipshin, and Ayse Gursoy. 2014. “Playing Mimesis: Engendering Understanding Via Experience of Social Discrimination with an Interactive Narrative Game.” Electronic Book Review, November 2, 2014. http:​ //www​.elec​troni​cbook​revie​w.com​/thre​ad/el​ectro​poeti​cs/mi​mesis​. Hocker, Joyce L., and William W. Wilmot. 2014. Interpersonal Confict. New York: McGraw Hill. Hwang, Wei-Chin. 2013. “Who are People Willing to Date? Ethnic and Gender Patterns in Online Dating.” Race and Social Problems 5(1): 28–40. Koh, Yoree. 2014. “Twitter Users’ Diversity Becomes an Ad Selling Point; Microblogging Social-Media Site Trying to Capitalize on Its Demographics.” Wall Street Journal (online), January 20, 2014. Laurenceau, Jean-Philippe, Lisa Feldman Barrett, and Michael J. Rovine. 2005. “Te Interpersonal Process Model of Intimacy in Marriage: A Daily-Diary and Multilevel Modeling Approach.” Journal of Family Psychology 19(2): 314–23. Leinonen, Juhana. n.d. “Ex Nihilo.” Accessed September 10, 2016. http://nitku.net/if/ exnihilo/. Levy, David. 2008. Love + Sex with Robots: Te Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships. New York: HarperCollins. Merchant, Brian. 2014. “Te Robot that Makes Virtual Sex Feel Real.” Motherboard, ­February 14, 2014. http:​//mot​herbo​ard.v​ice.c​om/bl​og/re​al-se​x-vir​tual-​reali​ty-oc​ulus-​rift-​tenga​. Newitz, Annalee. 2014. “What Happens When Scientists Study “Black Twitter?” Gizmodo, September 4, 2014. http:​//io9​.gizm​odo.c​om/wh​at-ha​ppens​-when​-scie​ntist​s-stu​dy-bl​ackt​witte​r-163​05405​15. Ramsey, Donovan X. 2015. “Te Truth about Black Twitter.” Te Atlantic, April 10, 2015. http:​//www​.thea​tlant​ic.co​m/tec​hnolo​gy/ar​chive​/2015​/04/t​he-tr​uth-a​bout-​black​-twit​ter/ 3​90120​/. Salovey, Peter, and John D. Mayer. 1990. “Emotional Intelligence.” Imagination, Cognition and Personality 9(3): 185–211. Slater, Dan. 2013. Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating. New York: Penguin.

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Smith, Aaron. 2014. “African Americans and Technology Use: A Demographic Portrait.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science, and Tech, January 6, 2014. http:​//www​.pewi​ntern​et.or​ g/201​4/01/​06/af​rican​-amer​icans​-and-​techn​ology​-use/​. Smith, Aaron, and Janna Anderson. 2014. “AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science, and Tech, August 6, 2014. http:​//www​.pewi​ntern​et.or​ g/201​4/08/​06/fu​ture-​of-jo​bs/. Sullins, John P. 2012. “Robots, Love, and Sex: Te Ethics of Building a Love Machine.” IEEE Transactions on Afective Computing 3(4): 398–409. Turner, Lynn H., and Richard West. 2013. Perspectives on Family Communication. New York: McGraw Hill. Utley, Ebony A. 2011. “When Better Becomes Worse: Black Wives Describe Teir Experiences with Infdelity.” Black Women, Gender, and Families 5(1): 66–89. ———. 2015. “Digital Indiscretions: Infdelity in the Age of Technology.” In Gender, Sex, and Politics: In the Streets and Between the Sheets in the 21st Century, edited by Shira Tarrant, 155–68. New York: Routledge. ———. 2016. “Rethinking the Other Woman: Exploring Power in Intimate Heterosexual Triangular Relationships.” Women’s Studies in Communication 39(2): 177–92. ———. 2017. “Infdelity’s Coexistence with Intimate Partner Abuse: An Interpretive Description of Women Who Experienced Multiple Hurtful Communications from a Partner’s Afair.” Western Journal of Communication 81(4): 426–45. Walther, Joseph B. 1996. “Computer-Mediated Communication: Impersonal, Interpersonal, and Hyperpersonal Interaction.” Communication Research 23(1): 3–43.

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14 Performing Black Imagination The Critical Embodiment of Transfuturism

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Amber Johnson

Black gyrls, womyn, and bois carry the weight of the world’s oppression in our skin, hair, breath, and gait. Our mere existence is an act of invisible labor in a world that treats us as hyperinvisible—where the stereotypes attached to our bodies are so powerful that they inform how others treat us. In a world full of canonical exception—or the rules determined by whiteness that dictate which minorities get to be included versus excluded, or deserve justice, love, and humanity, versus violence, hatred, and death—we struggle to transgress these stereotypes while loving ourselves, caring for ourselves, and caring for the world that does not care for us. If loving ourselves is a constant struggle, then imagining the body into a future without domination is an even larger one. Afrofuturism is the antidote to the canonical exception and hyperinvisibility bequeathed upon the black body that makes imagining futures a revolutionary act. However, I want to take it a step further, and look at the embodiment of transidentities as antidotes that push the boundaries of Afrofuturism. Tis chapter begins with two theoretical frameworks, hyperinvisibility and canonical exception. Ten using Afrofuturism as a departure point, I tease out the aesthetic and social constructions of gender and race through Transfuturism—an aesthetic antidote to systemic oppression. Because as Sun-Ra reminds us, “Te possible has been tried and failed. Now it’s time to try the impossible.”

HYPERINVISIBILITY To render something visible is to give our sense of sight an experience (Brighenti 2010). But seeing is only a part of the equation, for how we see, what we see, and the frequency with which we see something matter. It is hard to imagine a time before the internet when we had to share physical space to see others, or “see the 205

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other” (Tompson 2005, 31). We live in a world of mediated seeing, where historical, cultural, political, and personal assumptions chaperone how we understand texts, people, and context (Tompson 2005, 32). Who we see, how we see them, and how often we see them guide what we decode when we experience an artifact, leading to invisibility, visibility, and hyperinvisibility. Invisibility occurs when there is a lack of mediated representation. Bodies are missing from narratives en masse, or represented in singular ways that deny human complexity (Johnson and Boylorn 2015, 20). Visibility occurs when bodies are represented in media in ways that lead to a fuller understanding of the human experience (20). Representation occurs with a high frequency and complexity, resulting in the less likelihood that narratives lead to stereotypes. Hyperinvisibility starts with hypervisibility, or stereotyping the body so much that the stereotypes become more visible, and thus believable (Petermon 2014). When a mediated image becomes hypervisible, that image begins to represent an entire group of people in mediated space or large forums where people do not have time to interact with others at the personal level. However, when we do interact with diferent others at the personal level, we can forgo these mass-mediated images and see them as complex individuals. Tis is not the case for those who buy into hypervisible images at the interpersonal level (23). Bodies that are diferent become invisible in interpersonal interactions too, resulting in hyperinvisibility. After 9/11, stereotypes of Muslims became so hypervisible that Americans began treating Muslims, Arabs, or people who could potentially be identifed as Muslims in discriminatory ways (Yomtoob 2013). American media failed to depict Muslims as anything other than terrorists, resulting in systemic oppression, dehumanization, and exclusion. Another example exists in the folds of the Ferguson uprising. Much like Darren Wilson seeing only a superhuman, dangerous thug. Michael Brown’s body was both present (in the fesh) and absent, due to mediated representations of black masculinity, resulting in Wilson only seeing the stereotype (Johnson 2017, 4). Instead of a human with complex emotions, behaviors, needs, and desires within a system of power, Michael Brown became hyperinvisible, and Darren Wilson felt justifed in shooting a villainous monster. When bodies are marked absent and present simultaneously, it results in hyperinvisibility, or a space where bodies are marked generic and nonhuman (Johnson 2017, 7). When the single story renders bodies both hypervisible (we see the body all the time in its stereotyped form) and invisible (we fail to see the complex human standing before us), it creates a space of hyperinvisibility where the stereotyped body is so visible that we fail to see complexity. Te real is replaced with fction, and the fction is so powerful it does not allow the real to exist. Hyperinvisibility can explain the skewed representations of hypersexualized or angry black women’s bodies in media, as well as overly aggressive, toxic images of black men that result in police brutality and murder (Byrd and Guy-Sheftall 2001; Collins 2000), and the explicit connection between stereotypes of transpeople and the desire for mass publics to use fear of pedophilia and sexual assault to justify discriminatory bathroom legislature. Once bodies are marked hyperinvisible, consumers tend to see those identities as

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not only true but normal, viable, and expected, resulting in violent mediated and interpersonal interactions.

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CANONICAL EXCEPTION Canonical exception also stems from rigorous stereotyping and is informed by canonical prejudice. Román (1998) defnes canonical prejudice as an “overinvestment in the cultural forms of the elite” (xxvi) that erases nonnormative experience and cultural production from canonical archives. While several scholars use the term “canonical prejudice” to look at the ways in which texts become marginalized and erased because they stray from normal conventions in literature, music, or other art genres, Daileader (2005) specifcally addresses how white supremacy, racism, and female subordination serve as points of erasure for black literature that could be considered canonical texts. Canonical prejudice illuminates the ways in which systemic oppression consistently denies bodies of color the right to live their lives, produce artifacts about those lives, and archive them into the fabric of American history. Instead, canonical prejudice ensures that we are erased, dismissed, and read via very particular modes of framing. Jefrey McCune (2015), in his working manuscript Read!: An Experiment in Seeing Black discusses “canonical ways of reading/seeing Blackness that further produce canonical prejudices, which fundamentally sediment a practice of framing Black bodies in nonproductive ways” (173–76). Canons function at the core of institutions as designators of value, which legitimize the institution and the process of erasure. If canonical prejudice is rooted in erasure, negative framing, and devalued the lives of marginalized communities, we might consider the term canonical exception as a critically useful term that pinpoints the ideological system that perpetuates canonical prejudice (Johnson 2017, 6). Canonical exception serves as a point of departure for interrogating the exceptional bodies that are accepted. Ideological systems like respectability politics grant entry to particular kinds of bodies in dominant spaces, and further ostracize bodies that don’t make the cut, due to embodying stereotypes, and instead are deemed deserving of erasure (6). Canonical prejudice and canonical exception then work concomitantly by creating the criteria for inclusion and erasure. Providing particular kinds of exceptions directly correlate to demonizing other bodies, resulting in a vicious cycle of aesthetic cleansing. Canonical exception is more than just being accepting of exceptional black excellence, it is also a frame of accepting the negative stories tied to marginalized groups, as if they are always warranted, always right, and always on time. Te perpetual sharing of negative narratives creates an unsafe space that breeds more canonical prejudice and spite. Te way the media frames protesters, racially charged incidents, and peaceful demonstrations mimic exactly what we have come to expect, which is why it is a canon of exception. We expect and accept that everything is the protesters’ fault. We accept that protesters are a disgrace as they perceivably go against the very will of the parents of the deceased who call for peace. We expect and accept protesters to disregard President Barack Obama calling for calm and peaceful protests.

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We accept that protesters are opportunistic looters, capable of burning their own cities. We expect that black on black violence is a qualifer for disregarding police brutality until we “respect ourselves enough to not kill ourselves” because that just makes logical sense. Canonical exception is the root of post-racial nonsense that pretends we live in a racially equitable world. We do not. Canonical exception is as much about black excellence as it is about black demonization. We accept those exceptional black people. We accept the demonization of those thuggish, uncivilized blacks. Tus, Canonical exception is the foundation for post-racial discourse. Because some marginalized people have access to enter certain spaces, like my body, an attractive, lighter skinned, articulate, respectable black professor, others deem those spaces as accepting, inclusive, and without issue. Barack Obama is an exception, which means we live in a post-racial America. Te fourteen black actors who have won Academy awards are exceptions, which means the Academy awards aren’t racist. Black professors, doctors, lawyers, athletes, and entertainers are ALL exceptions. And as we faunt our exceptions in our career pathways, we watch our Brothers and Sisters dying in the streets, their lives deemed worth little value, their pain obsolete. “Tey” are the norm. “Tey” ft into the canon of prejudice that deems their bodies DO NOT MATTER. “Teir” bodies are forgotten, erased, undeserving, tragic. Unfortunately, even for those who are granted access, canonical exception has limits. Our exceptions expire in certain spaces. Tere is an invisible line that extends along the borders of good and welcome Negro versus bad and dehumanized Negro. For those of us who can traverse that border as it bleeds, because we are at once on both sides, in any given situation, we know how it feels to be respected, adored, and honored in one space, like this space, where I have your eyes, ears, and hopefully listening hearts, But then arrested, beaten, silenced, raped, and/or shattered in the next. I think of Imani Perry’s recent incident with the police at Princeton University where she was handcufed to a table over an unpaid parking ticket (Svlurga 2015). I think of Henry Louis Gates arrested outside of his own home as he tried to force his front door open when his key failed to work (Tompson 2009). I think of all the black folks killed in the streets and how they were doing mundane things like walking, waiting for a tow truck, or selling cigarettes. What happens when the bodies represent the mediated frame of black bodies “asking for it” by being black and in any space? What happens when my body is stripped of its accolades, and being pulled over by a police ofcer on University Drive in Prairie View, Texas, my former institution? I could have been Sandra Bland, as I drove that same street every day on my way to work, and resigned a month before she was arrested. Parts of me are always death-bound while other parts of me are celebrated, resulting in a constant pushing and pulling of the limbs until they break and bleed, adding more red stains to the borders. Trying to reveal the dissonance between those parts is a painful work of labor. It is no wonder that so many of our leaders, artists, entertainers, professors, teachers, and truth seekers sufer from depression. To be loved by them but not them because they don’t know what we can do yet is a painfully sobering thought. Canonical prejudice, canonical exception, and hyperinvisibility work together to erase black bodies and generate a culture “deserving” of physical and discursive violence. So what is the answer? How do we clap back in a world that consistently and

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constantly tells us we are not worthy of justice, love, celebration, and humanization? One such answer begins with Afrofuturism.

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AFROFUTURISM Birthed from a nexus of social movement, technology, transnational capital, and artistic expression, Afrofuturism is an aesthetic manifestation of storytelling critically aware of possibility (Anderson and Jennings 2014, 35). Designed to project the mind and body into a future free from colonialism, Afrofuturistic artist, activists and scholars look toward the critical embodiment of Afrocentric imagination in art forms such as flm, music, visual art, fashion, and literature as a means of replacing presumed whiteness as authority. Afrocentric in practice, “Afrofuturism emerged as a means to understand the transformation of African peoples as they dealt with the oppressive forces of discrimination, and the complexities of modern urban life and postmodernity” (35). “Astroblackness is an Afrofuturistic concept in which a person’s black state of consciousness, released from the confning and crippling slave or colonial mentality, becomes aware of the multitude and varied possibilities and probabilities within the universe” (Rollins 2015, 127). Te precise moment of imagined possibilities wherein the black body seeks a future that centers its blackness instead of whiteness is Afrofuturism. While the language of Afrofuturism creates a level of unifcation that renders the critical imagination of blackness visible, the ways in which androgyny has been employed as a technological future create tensions that I want to tease. Genderless and androgynous android narratives create a particular kind of gender freedom, or freedom from gender in futuristic imaginings, but not all bodies want to be genderless, and not all bodies can transgress into genderless embodiment due to various aesthetic, genetic, capitalistic, and/or cultural reasons. What I want to ofer up as a lived and critical performance of futurism exists in the lived body. Te body that is alive in the fesh, and transitions across, between, within, and beyond binaries, or the transbody. Using photography, oral history storytelling and Afrofuturistic art as methodology, my goals are to render the lives of black transfolk complex and visible. I photograph the bodies and record the narratives and lived experiences of trans and gender nonconforming people who are gracious enough to tell their stories and allow me to capture their critical embodiment of future, imagination, and how transgression leads to new forms of identity challenges. Ten, working alongside Afrofuturistic artist, I use the photographs as a starting point to create digital, artistic renderings of my informants that push the boundaries of what we know and where we are going. Tis is Transfuturism.

TRANFUTURISM Transbodies have embraced the critical embodiment of imagination as pushback, refusing to accept cis-gender performances as normal, natural, and preferred. Not just

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in art but also in the fesh. Te linguistic revelation of trans renders the lived identities more visible, and creates discursive and physical space to live and breathe in the critical body, or the body whose mere presence acts as a form of resistance in a culture predicated on assimilation to and simulation of gender standards. As Kei Williams, a gender nonbinary participant in this project, states, “When it comes to trans and GNC folks, most folks are looking for you to pass in some type of way. And if you don’t pass, you are a considered a threat. Being able to stand in truth in one self is bravery.” As a black body, we are already at once predisposed to a culture of simulation: “Te ‘culture of simulation’ is no diferent from ‘the culture’ for people of color in this country, who have been ‘inventing’ themselves, their multiple selves as they go along, and ‘constructing the world, too’” (Tal 1996). Tis is testament to our survival as a mode of invention. Eb Brown, another non-binary participant in this project follows this sentiment: Te thing that makes me feel liberated is the fact that I can actually morph my body into diferent shapes depending what I am feeling for the day. It makes me feel like I am deconstructing and reconstructing gender on a daily basis. I think it challenges my idea of liberation because in that deconstruction and reconstruction, it makes me think about my self in relationship to the world and others everyday.

Brown continues:

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A liberated future looks like one where people can stand fully in themselves in every moment of the day. Te interstellar future is the interlocking of my orbit and your orbit. So all that you are inhabiting and all that I am inhabiting circulate around each other all the time and vibing with each other and learning from each other. But there is no competition because you are fully you and I am fully me. I don’t need to be you and you don’t need to be me. And that is what liberation truly is.

Unfortunately, transgender embodiment has not been centered enough in the work of Afrofuturist scholars. Te art forms have taken up nonconformity beautifully. For examples, we can visit the work of Octavia Butler, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, and other artists who cross gender norms in their own work and/or personal lives. As Reynaldo Anderson (2013) reminds us, “Te Black queer futuristic performance of Sylvester James not only demonstrated the ability of the artist to reimagine and infuence popular culture and the political sphere, impacting internal and external communities, but simultaneously created new discursive spaces” (n.p.). Ayai Nikos, a transwoman participant in this project, speaks volumes when she says, “My pro-black, femme body is a testament to Octavia Butler’s theorizing about a new sun when she writes, “Tere is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.” We can look to the transbody as a “new sun” or site of new discursive and physical space. In their recent article, Karen Jaime (2017) interrogates “Chasing Rainbows” by Black Cracker to locate the convergence of transgender identity and Afrofuturism (208–18). Tey argue for Trans Afrofurity as a site of lyrical, visual and sonic possibility that pushes for inclusivity with the use of the word we in a repetitious loop that signals a lack of arrival. Tey write, “Ultimately, Glenn as Black Cracker presents transness as unsettling to confgurations

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of Afrofuturism as a politics of arrival: Te future is not about arrival. Te future operates as an outside, an elsewhere” (216). It is this new discursive and liminal space that I am interested in exploring, specifcally as it relates to gender transitions and gender performances in black communities. Black transbodies signify a critical resistance toward colonialism and gender-confning rhetoric. Jae Shephard, a participant in this project, speaks of authenticity and the ruptures of social constructs when they said, “Being my authentic self is liberating because I am able to exist beyond the confnes of socially constructed gender binaries.” Black transbodies use skin as a semi-structured, blank canvas, embarking on a journey of rescripting the body as an act of critical imagination. Black transbodies use voice, hair, fashion, walk, sway, swag, and presence to resurrect possibility. Te black transbody imagines a future self with the aid of external and internal resources without a preexisting model for existence. Everybody that transitions becomes their own entity, not a duplication of a transbody that has already transitioned or is transitioning. Terefore, with every iteration, the transbody becomes a new body, or a new sun, thus relying on critical imagination to begin the process, in whatever iteration that may take. Te new body, then, becomes a performative signifer of manifestation. Kai Green and Treva Ellison (2014) speak to this notion of manifestation. Tey call the black transbody a tranifesting body. “Tranifesting (transformative manifesting) calls attention to the epistemologies, sites of struggle, rituals, and modes of consciousness, representation, and embodiment that summon into being fexible collectivities… capable of operating across normativizing and volatile confgurations of race, gender, class, sex, and sexuality” (222). “Tranifesting is a form of radical political and intellectual production that takes place at the crossroads of trauma, injury, and the potential for material transformation and healing” (223). Tranifesting is a futuristic and critical performance of embodied social identity that creates strategic space for transformation. Transbodies are like transformers for social justice. Te very act of disrupting the static gender continuum is an act of critical transformation that creates space for disrupting various normativities pertaining to a multitude of social identities, including being black, queer, and/or gender nonconforming. Shifting from ALL disciplinarian regimes requires a summoning of manifested power and imagination. Te black transbody is more than a black body, it is more than a gendered body, it is more than a transbody. It is a body that meets at specifc, fuid, always-changing intersections. It is a body that has to constantly navigate those intersections with precise care and critical attention because it is a body that is not always welcome, appreciated, or loved. It is a body that has to reinvent itself over and over again at the sites of critical embodiment. And it is in the fesh of critical embodiment that transbodies extend beyond the current scope of Afrofuturism. If Afrofuturism is about the speculation of future and possibility in cultural artistic production, then Tranfuturism is the critical, lived embodiment of that production. Te black transbody becomes a physical and live disruptor and builder of social change with regard to intersectional oppression. Black transbodies live physically in the world artistically crafted by Afrofuturist. And as Kali Tal (1996) poignantly posits, “We need, as a culture, to pay attention to the theory and literature of those among us who have long been wrestling with multiplicity” (n.p.).

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Several scholars have wrestled with technology, gender, and multiplicity as a form of theorizing. Ras Mashramani (2013) discusses the power of the internet to create safe spaces and live beyond the watchful eyes of those who control, violate, and bruise our bodies. In these safe spaces, we are able to experiment with our identities and grow beyond our binaries in a hypermodal setting where we are constantly folding over and into ourselves and others. “We are living in a science-fction reality, and if science fction has taught as anything, it’s that a mastery of technology is integral to survival in a plugged-in world . . . our identities hinge on our ability to create and manipulate data in the cybersphere to afect change in real life” (6). Te internet literally becomes a space “for us freaks and outcasts, whose existences are politicized by overpowering mainstream media that tries it’s best to distract the masses” (6). Haraway (1991) ofers a diferent account that utilizes the cyborg as a gender-less analogy (149–82). “Haraway embraces technology as a way of moving away from humanism built on normative binaries and dualisms in order to create a regenerated world without gender” (Barber 2015, 5). Te cyborg uses technology to negate binary systems much like transbodies use technology to alter the physical characteristics of the body, resulting in a new identity that disrupts binaries. While moving along the continuum might reinforce the binary, the mere ability to move along the continuum serves as a disruptor of the binary too. If our hope is for a monstrous world without gender, then transbodies are the growing seedlings of that vision. And while Haraway’s cyborg vision has been met with warranted critique regarding the “reinscriptions, not regenerations, of the same old meanings of race and gender in cyborg imaginary” (Hobson 2012, 95), transidentities have been met with criticism regarding the perpetuation of the gender binary. However, we must remember that “We remake and even exceed language, but we do not escape it” (Enke 2014, 242). As Riley Snorton (2014) postulates, “as a genre, science fction ofers an important opportunity to account for the past of the future, to reconsider the complex and often contradictory relationships between technology, scientifc thought, and ways of life” (29–36). And like the cyborg, Maggie Eighteen (2013) reminds us, science fction is not a simple process of joining science with fction or humanity and technology; it is extremely fuid, complex, and often contradictory (5). Nestled within the contradictions, however limiting or creative, is the fact that to attempt to shift across rigid binaries, however reifying, still points to the possibility for disruption. “Gender becomes legible through acts of translation that betray disciplinary success and failure simultaneously” (Enke 2014, 242). One of those failures lies in the inability to escape the language that binds our bodies to binary performances. “Transgender highlights the labors of translation, inhering an implied ‘before’ and ‘from which.’ Te present moment does not tell the story, only that there is one worth telling” (243). And there is a story worth telling here. One replete with future possibility. I ofer the term “Transfuturism” as a theoretical disruption of critical gender binaries within black communities, while simultaneously disrupting postcolonial and neoliberal thought predicated on identity binaries, denomination, and dehumanization. Te term generates visibility for black transbodies that separates unique struggles from other bodies that don’t carry the weight of these specifc intersections, while also highlighting the possibility in critical imagination. Te term also renders

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visible the multiple ways in which transbodies have begun laying the groundwork for enfeshed possibilities, or the possibility of performing futurism in the now body, free from speculative fctitious accounts and into lived reality. In thinking about Tansfuturism, transbodies have the ability to transcend gender binaries in multiple ways that inform freedom from gender in the body. To begin engaging the idea of Transfuturism, or the present, critical embodiment of future at the intersections of race and gender, I began collaborating with an Afrofuturist artist to merge transidentity with Afrofuturism. Te collaborative design invokes the twoness of our identities as critical embodiment. Each carefully rendered line speaks to the feminine and masculine residing in the single body but also the act of transgressing beyond rigid binaries. Te eyes and face of the subject turn to look forward into the future, and away from the privileged gaze that demands to see our bodies, “know” who and what we are, and reduce our identity to genetic and scientifc biological function. What I hope to extend beyond this shorter conversation is more engagement with Transfuturism as an aesthetic of possibility but also an explicit valuing of the work transbodies do in the fesh. Tere is freedom in the body that breaks the binary. Tere is freedom in transgression. Tere is freedom in transcendence. Tere is freedom in trans.

Sutton, Aaron of Visual Goodies. Transfuturism, 2017.

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REFERENCES Anderson, Reynaldo. 2013. “Fabulous: Sylvester James, Black Queer Afrofuturism and the Blackfantastic.” Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 5(2): n.p. Anderson, Reynaldo and John Jennings. 2014. “Afrofuturism: Te Digital Turn and the Visual Art of Kanye West.” In Te Cultural Impact of Kanye West, edited by Julius Bailey, 35. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Barber, Tifany. 2015. “Cyborg Grammar? Reading Wangechi Mutu’s Non je ne regretted rein through Kindred.” In Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of Astro-Blackness, edited by Reynaldo Anderson and Charles Jones, 5. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Brighenti, Andrea M. 2010. Visibility in Social Teory and Social Research. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. Byrd, Rudolph P. and Beverly Guy-Sheftall. 2001. Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Collins, Patricia Hill. 2000. Black Feminist Tought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge. Daileader, Celia R. 2005. Racism, Misogyny, and the Othello Myth: Inter-racial Couples from Shakespeare to Spike Lee. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Eighteen, Maggie. 2013. “Science Fiction, Te Political, Metropolarity Crew.” Journal of Speculative Vision & Critical Liberation Technologies: Future Now Edition 1(1): 5. Enke, A. F. 2014. “Translation.” Transgender Studies Quarterly 1(1–2): 242. Green, Kaiand and Treva Ellison. 2014. “Tranifest.” Transgender Studies Quarterly 1(1–2): 222. Haraway, Donna J. 1991. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” In Simians, Cyborgs and Women: Te Reinvention of Nature, edited by Donna Haraway, 149–82. Abingon, UK: Routledge. Hobson, Janell. 2012. Body as Evidence: Mediating Race, Globalizing Gender. New York: SUNY Press. Jaime, Karen. 2017. “Chasing Rainbows: Black Cracker and Queer, Trans Afrofuturity.” Transgender Studies Quarterly 4(2): 208–18. Johnson, Amber. 2017. “From Academe, to the Teatre, to the Streets: My Autocritography of Canonical Exception and Aesthetic Cleansing in the Wake of Ferguson.” Qualitative Inquiry 24(2): 88–100. Johnson, Amber, and Robin Boylorn. 2015. “Digital Media and the Politics of Intersectional Queer Hyper/In/Visibility in Between Women.” Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies 11(1): 1–26. Mashramani, Ras. 2013. “Science Fiction, Te Political, Metropolarity Crew.” Journal of Speculative Vision & Critical Liberation Technologies: Future Now Edition 1(1): 6. McCune, Jefrey. “Te Queerness of Blackness.” QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmarking 2: 173–76. Petermon, Jade D. 2014. “Hyper (in)Visibility: Reading Race and Representation in the Neoliberal Era.” PhD diss., University of Santa Barbara. Rollins, Andrew. 2015. “Afrofuturism and Our Old Ship of Zion: Te Black Church in Post Modernity.” In Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of AStro-Blackness, edited by Reynaldo Anderson and Charles Jones, 127. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Román, David. 1998. Acts of Intervention: Performance, Gay Culture, and AIDS. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

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Snorton, Riley C. 2014. “An Ambiguous Heterotopia: On the Past of Black Studies’ Future.” Te Black Scholar 44(2): 29–36. Svlurga, Susan. 2015. “A Black Princeton Professor Says She was Handcufed to a Table for her Unpaid Parking Ticket.” Te Washington Post. Last modifed November 20, 2015. https​://ww​w.was​hingt​onpos​t.com​/news​/grad​e-poi​nt/wp​/2015​/11/1​9/pri​nceto​n-pre​ siden​t-and​-prot​ester​s-rea​ch-ag​reeme​nt-an​d-uni​versi​ty-wa​rns-o​f-a-b​omb-t​hreat​/?utm​_term​ =.dd2​7a44b​2edd.​ Tal, Kali. 1996. “Te Unbearable Whiteness of Being: African American Critical Teory and Cyberculture.” Wired Magazine, October 1996. Tompson, John B. 2005. “Te New Visibility.” Teory, Culture & Society 22(6): 31–51. Tompson, Krissah. 2009. “Harvard Scholar Henry Louis Gates Arrested.” Te Washington Post. Last modifed July 21, 2009. http:​//www​.wash​ingto​npost​.com/​wp-dy​n/con​tent/​artic​ le/20​09/07​/20/A​R2009​07200​1358.​html.​ Yomtoob, Desiree. 2013. “Caught In Code: Arab American Identity, Image, And Lived Reality.” In Critical Autoethnography: Intersecting Cultural Identities in Everyday Life, edited by Robin Boylorn and Mark Orbe, 144–58. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

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15 Fabulous Camps of the Black Fantastic Sylvester James, Queer Afrofuturism, and Black Vernacular Becomings

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Although in some circles disco singers like Donna Summer or Gloria Gaynor would be remembered as the “Queens of Disco,” these views obscure the impact of the “Queen of Falsetto,” Sylvester James.1 Born in 1947 in the Los Angeles community of Watts, Sylvester James emerged in the wake of a confuence of forces that would shape popular music and culture for the remainder of the twentieth century—and well into the twenty-frst. Known as the Fabulous Sylvester, an openly gay black man throughout his career, his infuence on disco and present-day electronic dance music is incalculable. In the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement, the emerging women’s movement, and gay liberation movement, Sylvester harnessed the musical depths of the African American blues, the vocal energy of black gospel, the fashion of the hippie movement, and the black and queer subcultures of drag queens, crossdressing, and transgender performance, inventing a persona whose gestures and poses produced a sophisticated and sleek image of black gay identity. Sylvester’s hits such as “Dance (Disco Heat)” (1978), “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” (1978) and “Do You Wanna Funk” (1982), became anthems of disco afcionados for a generation, frst as dancefoor favorites in underground venues such as David Mancuso’s private New York club, Te Loft, before becoming chart-topping dance singles of the era (Lawrence 2003). Sylvester’s infuence was not just limited to disco but shaped what was to come with electronic dance music, particularly the evolution of disco into house and its present-day variants. Te infuence of Sylvester’s falsetto voice and camp-gay persona can be seen in twenty-frst-century genres such as electroclash, just as his collaboration with Patrick Cowley, who introduced a rhythmic swirl of synthesizer arpeggiators to disco music—much like Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk—infuenced the electronic music to come (Lawrence 2003, 328). Diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, Sylvester spoke publicly about the fact that he 217

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was dying of the disease, emphasizing its devastating efects on the African American community until his death on December 16, 1988, at the age of forty-one (Gamson 2005, 259).

THE FABULOUS BLACK FANTASTIC Sylvester personifed the excesses of the 1970s and the experimentation that characterized changing social norms. However, what is less understood is how Sylvester, his androgynous lifestyle, and his publicly gay identity contributed to the notion and formation of what Richard Iton calls “the black fantastic,” those:

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Minor-key sensibilities generated from the experiences of the underground, the vagabond, and those constituencies marked as deviant—notions of being that are inevitably aligned within, in conversation with, against, and articulated beyond the boundaries of the modern. (2008, 16)

In this chapter, we turn to the queer constituencies of the black fantastic, that which we name after Sylvester “the fabulous,” thinking their intersectionality—the “multiple dimensions and modalities of social relationships and subject formations” frst inaugurated by feminists of color (McCall 2005, 1771, 1780)—through the matrix of Afrofuturism (see Anderson and Jones 2015). By “black queer” performance we reassert sexualities and nonconforming gender performances that refuse, upend, or subvert Western notions of heterosexual expression—and in their Afrofuturist variants leave planetary, if not humanist expressions behind. Afrofuturist queerness implicitly rejects binary assumptions concerning gendered-identity metanarratives that are primarily composed of desire for the opposite sex, as encoded in heteronormative gender performances and sexed bodies (Butler 1989; Wilchins 2004). Iton introduces a genealogy of black fantastic constituencies that are embedded within the lineage of modernity, yet outcast from its privilege, recognition, and status so that they perforate its boundaries of white privilege. Such constituencies, from artists to intellectuals, athletes to revolutionaries, tend toward Afrofuturistic praxes of reinventing new temporalities and ways of becoming. By becoming we mean transformations of self-as-other that exceed identity and allegory, opening onto alternate humanisms, if not their rejection entirely (see van Veen 2013). Denied the white futures of modernity, we argue that excluded and racialized constituencies must reinvent the self just as they unearth the past to infltrate new futures into the present. By using science fctional, diasporic, and heterotopian aesthetic practices to do so, such constituencies undertake a praxis that Kodwo Eshun names chronopolitics (1999), and that John Jennings calls sankofarration (in Brooks et al. 2017). Te Ghanian term sankofa is loosely translated as to “go back and fetch what you forgot” (in Brooks et  al. 2017, 238), suggesting the retrieval of lost futures from the lacunae of ancestral history (see Tomas 2018). Brooks, McGee, and Schoellman expand upon Jennings’s coining of the term “sankofarration,” which creatively

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confates Sankofa and narration, to further suggest a “cosmological episteme that centers the act of claiming the future as well as the past. . . . In sankofarration, time is cyclical” (2017, 238). Such cyclical, spiraling, and vertiginous temporality—the African diasporic experience of which Valorie Tomas calls “diasporic vertigo” (2003)—confronts the linear progressive narratives of modernity, and perhaps even the embrace of its antithesis in fragmentary postmodernity, proliferating instead a cosmos of imaginative returns that open the way for the retrieval, and reinvention, of lost futures. Outcast twice, then, from white modernity are the fabulous queer camps of the black fantastic. Tinking the fabulous in the fantastic, the queer in the black heteronormative, calls to attention the black body politic of the deviant and vagabond, from which we derive the constituent synonyms—and the fabulous sensibilities—of the nomadic and queer. Richard Iton’s concept of the black fantastic is advantageous as a genealogical tool in that it names the creative and sensible permutations of radical black ontology that combat the stereotype of structural racism and heteronormative gender patterning. Such black fantastic ontology is neither straight nor static, but always exorbitant to the straightjacket of being. By thinking Iton’s genealogy of black sensibilities as one of shifting ontologies—picking up on his “notions of being,” or what Rinaldo Walcott emphasizes after Sylvia Wynter as “new modes of being human” (2016, 10)—we can expand and deepen Iton’s focus and scope towards a genealogy of the black fabulous camp. Camp, of course, plays a double sensibility, signifying that which is outcast from heteronormative constituencies but also the sensibilities of queer camp style. Sylvester’s style of camp drew from both masculine and feminine tropes so that “gender was an everyday choice” (Gamson 2005, 159). Te fabulous sensibilities of Sylvester appear through his impeccable yet androgynous fashion, drawn from early cross-dressing experiments in South Central Los Angeles with his frst group, the Disquotays, during the 1960s (37), to the way in which his style of singing “makes the point most obviously about falsetto as a gender-bending device” (François 1995, 446). By blending and bending gender camps, Sylvester introduces a nomadic series of black, gay, vernacular becomings—potential pathways for queering ways of being. Seeking to elude the concept of identity as a fxed category, radical black ontology looks to how blackness is ever becoming, adapting to, and challenging the white and straight ontologies of (post)modernity. What Iton crucially points out is how these articulations of blackness do not act alone but connect through constituencies. Tis follows a point made by Paul Gilroy, who retitled the 2004 edition of Against Race as Between Camps—such in-between constituencies transgress national boundaries, having been distributed through the transatlantic slave trade, colonization, and migration but also remade and reimagined through spectral media, technology, and communication. Tus, the music, culture, and art of the Afrodiaspora—the globalizing media of the black vernacular—produce what Gilroy memorably calls the collective imaginaries and identifcations of “the black Atlantic” (1993). What is fantastical, fabulous, and radical about black ontology is how it is ever shape-shifting,

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moving in-and-out of high-and-low, as its constituencies forge novel becomings through the spark of the vernacular, and with the tendency to become camp. Such ontology is not strictly ontology at all, but a strategic movement away from white Enlightenment ntotheology towards other modes of being and belonging. To this constellation we will further add what is Afrofuturist, as the fabulous implicitly contains its history of futurity, of escapes, exits, and imaginary topias, and vice versa. Tus, it is crucial to point out that we think black “ontology” as process, mutability, and metamorphosis—hence its radicality. However, we are drawn to point out that “radical black ontology” contains a theoretical tension, between the Latin root of “radical” as radix, the root itself, representing as arboreal metaphor the hierarchy of essence, and a radical black xenogenesis that is radical precisely because it unearths its roots. What this tension suggests is that the roots remain as part of the process, and that what is radical about radical black ontology is that it continually revisions its roots. Indeed, it is in the roots of its genealogy that radical black ontology speaks to the buried dreams and outcast desires of what remains to come in the perpetual reinvention of its Afrofutures—and futurisms. Such futurisms, of note, are not constrained to their ethnicities. Nor should nonwhite ethnicity be viewed as a constraint. Tat this has to be pointed out signals the constraint of the current condition. Rather, the point is to decenter the default whiteness of the futures industry, “white to a man—who have engineered our collective fantasies” (Dery 1994, 180), and as Walcott writes, see “the language of ethnicity as a central element for how we approach a collective politics of the possible and thus a post-colonial to come” (2016, 60). It is not surprising then that radical black ontology is an implicit thesis—as is Afrofuturism—in Gilroy’s work on the black vernacular in Between Camps. Gilroy emphasizes how such “protean, shape-shifting, and multiple” ontogeneses of blackness articulates to “technologies of the free black self” that “help to snif out an escape route from the current impasse in thinking about racialized identity” (2000, 203, 205). In short, black vernacular becomings seek inventive exits from the imprisonments of given identities. With Sylvester, we see a free black queer self modeled in the articulation to music technologies of disco performance—his falsetto signaling a bending of gender—that participates in the camp of the fabulous black fantastic and contributes to its collective queer imaginary of shape-shifting sensibilities. To this end the black fantastic contests the systemic exclusion of blackness—from the teleological progress narratives of white, European modernity; from the category of the human under white Enlightenment philosophies (see Wynter 2003)—by emphasizing the collective invention of worldviews, temporalities, and black vernacular becomings.2 Te fabulous camp emphasizes the double exclusion, black and queer, of what transgresses white heteronormative gender and sexuality. An integral element of Sylvester, then, is his Afrofuturist camp. To this end, we reiterate how Iton’s concept of the black fantastic is integral to the study of Afrofuturism, the latter conceived as an ever-evolving concept that names diverse Afrodiasporic practices of radical blackness that dismantle and displace white narratives—past, present, and future—of the subject and its history. Indeed, Afrofuturism emancipates precisely

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that which is deemed the racialized object. Such an approach complements Afrofuturism’s cultural practices, such as when Ytasha Womack writes that “Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation” that redefnes “culture and notions of blackness for today and the future” (2013, 9). To that we add the reinvention of the past as the very condition of its ethicopolitical force. Once again, notions of blackness and being—and being black/becoming black— are seen as open to redefnition, perhaps because in Afrofuturism one encounters “a total reenvisioning of the past and speculation about the future rife with cultural critiques” (Womack 2013, 9). But Iton’s black fantastic is also integral to thinking Afrofuturism through queer theory, insofar as the former calls into question the heteronormative principles and bourgeois founding myths of the modern subject, suggesting, as Judith Jack Halberstam writes, the aesthetic and cultural fgures of queerness as “transmodern” (2005). What we wish to underscore in this queerblack-camp of the future postcolonial commons is a prevalent critique of modernity that calls to attention constituencies that elude its grasp, and not only because they have been historically excluded from its privileges but because modernity is not the only historical narrative of the futures to-come.

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QUEERING THE FUTURES OF AFROFUTURISM Sylvester’s silky black disco falsetto self stands at the intersection of the black fantastic and Afrofuturism, black queer politics and disco. Tis essay reads Sylvester as inhabiting, performing, and furthering the black vernacular becomings of the fabulous black fantastic. By doing so, Sylvester calls to attention the necessity of attending to the queerness in, and of, Afrofuturism. As Gilroy points out, such powerful metamorphoses of black identity force us to confront their refexive capacities (2000, 203). Te refexive capacity of becoming already suggests how queerness operates on multiple levels of perception and being, precisely by bending that which is perceived as straight—we see the radical black ontology of Afrofuturism as bending straight white perspectives, suggesting the intersection of queer blacknesses with a queering of phenomenology (see Ahmed 2006). Queerness does not just designate the place of queer identity in Afrofuturism, even as it recognizes the foundational, essential contribution that queer, gender nonconforming, and LGBT* practitioners have had to its aesthetics, politics, and praxes. Queerness is, as Ahmed’s queer phenomenology suggests, a shape-shifting of heteronormative perspective that opens onto the question, and perception, of other worldings, identities, and timelines. José Esteban Muñoz produces this intersection of queerness and Afrofuturism by resituating Amiri Baraka’s 1964 play Te Toilet—written as LeRoi Jones, and later disavowed—as “a critique of a limited and problematic straight time” that also signals the need for Baraka to reconcile, despite homophobic vernacular throughout his work, with his queer past (2009, 83). It was around this time that Baraka’s life and work intersected that of pivotal Afrofuturist jazz composer and Arkestra bandleader Sun Ra. Ra was likewise busy undoing straight time with queer time signatures.

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Baraka was an early and ardent supporter of Sun Ra, inviting the Arkestra to perform at the opening of the Black Arts Repetory Teatre/School in 1965, and writing an introduction to Ra’s poetry in later years (Baraka 2011). Tough a singular connection, it suggests the shared worldings in which Afrofuturism, queerness, and black political forces circulate. Queerness isn’t just a facet of Afrofuturism, or of its history but designates how it departs from white (post)modernity. Queerness connects Afrofuturism’s time-traveling imaginary to the queering of bodies and desires to take us there. Queerness is already at work in Sun Ra’s Saturnalian spaceship that is powered on interstellar jazz music. Cruising along in the “Outer Darkness,” its Arkestra performers appear decked out in glittering and shiny alien regalia that—signaling Afrocentric historical revisionism made into futurist fesh—draws from the Kemetic past to shape-shift gay drag into the cosmic attire of alien pharaohs (see Stüttgen 2014). At work in the intersection of Afrofuturism and queerness is the strategic temporal operation of sankofarration—a process we can describe here as revisioning anew the past-that-was to reinvent futures to-come by undoing the present-that-is. Sankofarration signals the queering of the past–future–present matrix in the search for an-other space-time—that space is the place of what Muñoz calls queer utopia (2009). Te history of utopia is an archeology of lost futures, each utopian desire buried beneath the repressive mechanisms of racial and class supremacy, patriarchy, and denial, forced into exile as the detritus of speculative thought supposedly gone awry. Tis is a point made respectively by Fredric Jameson—who turns to science fction to recover a genealogy of lost utopias, precisely for the future of anticapitalist revolutionary struggle (2005)—and Kodwo Eshun, who imagines a team of African archeologists from the future digging up the relics of contemporary Afrofuturists (2003). Buried in such utopias are fabulous ones: Muñoz similarly points out that the desire for an-other future shapes the potential of queer utopias (2009). Queerness operates as a mode of the utopian that critiques what is and what has been, suggesting a queerness to-come that, like the language of ethnicity, is not a constraint but an opening onto alternative, planetary, re-conceptions of what it means to be human (including abandoning its schema entirely). From the opening of Cruising Utopia: Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. We have never been queer, yet queerness exists as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. Te future is queerness’ domain. Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present. (Muñoz 2009, 1)

To desire an-other future, to desire otherness as futurity unbound from its straight, white, hegemony, to create fantastical desiring machines for futures otherwise that upend structural racism, that transform our lives through collective projects of radical dreaming made real—these are the vectors through which Afrofuturism and queerness intersect. Tus we suggest not just a queer history of Afrofuturism but

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also the queerness of any ethnic, radical, diasporic, utopian project that reinvents the elsewhere/elsewhen from the abandoned archives of the past. Muñoz’s opening already describes what Eshun names as chronopolitics, in the distillation of the past to imagine queer futures. Queer and Afrofuturist temporal agency, and the perceptions thereof—their phenomenology—already intersect, even as they inhabit diferent discourses (and that should not be collapsed, or assumed, as identical). For thinking in, and through, the intersection of queerness and Afrofuturism, we recognize the prescient work of the late Tim Stüttgen, who in his unfnished In a Qu*A*re Time and Place connects Muñoz’s queer temporality to the “productive ensemble of images and transformations” of Afrofuturism (2014, 21). Stüttgen saw the science-fctional motifs of Afrofuturism as seeking “to overturn yet mobilize the traumatic images of slavery,” writing that “the slaveship is mirrored through the spaceship and the notion of the non-human, captivated body is refected through identifcation with the alien” (2014, 21). Stüttgen picks up on Eshun’s discussion of how becoming Afrofuturist—which we suggest demands a queering of perspective, self, body—requires using “extraterrestriality as a hyperbolic trope to explore the historical terms, the everyday implications of forcibly imposed dislocation” by which African/diasporic subjectivities “are constituted from slave to negro to colored to black to African to African American” (and Afro-Latin to Afro-Caribbean or AfroEuropean) (Eshun 1999, 298–99). Tinking queerness, the black fantastic, and Afrofuturism on multiple levels of temporality and ontogenesis, we seek to conjoin an Afrofuturist chronopolitics to queer theories of embodiment, phenomenology, and temporality. As Sylvester sashés down the stairs in the music video for “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” wearing black leather pants, jacket, and silver-spurred cowboy boots, his movement at once graceful and powerful, he embodies the “powerful fantasy” of what Judith Jack Halberstam describes as “the potentiality of the body to morph, shift, change, and become fuid,” in which Sylvester, in all his androgynous ambiguity, performs, if not becomes, a “liquid-mercury type of slinkiness” (2005, 76). Tus, by initiating a chronopolitical return to the disco era, we unearth queer, slinky and mercurial black fantastic futures of the past, precisely to up-end our conceptions of the history, present, and futures to-come of Afrofuturism. Our perspective is informed by queer theory so as to examine the aesthetic sensibilities and political signifcance of Sylvester James, speaking to but also beyond the relation to the rise and decline of disco as emblematic of certain tropes of blackness and queerness in popular culture.

DIVING INTO DISCO: TOWARD AN AFROFUTURIST STUDIES (IN REVERSE) Disco’s emergence as a popular music was the result of a convergence of historical currents within American popular culture that would later go global after the civil unrest and discontent of the 1960s. Disco’s prehistory originates with the sounds of Motown, the African American blues, jazz, and R ‘n’ B, emerging alongside the funk

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music of the 1970s. Early disk jockeys, such as Walter Gibbons, Ken Collier, Kool Herc, Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, and others—including gay white DJs David Mancuso and Nicky Siano—revolutionized the use of then-contemporary technology, sound systems, and turntables to infuence the energy and erotic expression of dancers in nightclubs and block parties that ofered a safe space for queer African Americans, Latinos, and others (Lawrence 2008). Sylvester’s early infuence in music was the black Pentecostal church along with his participation in gospel choirs—leading to his signature falsetto—although he would leave due to homophobic bias and ultimately relocate to San Francisco (Gamson 2005). San Francisco’s countercultural community was fertile ground for Sylvester’s lifestyle due to its high concentration of members of the gay community, experimental secular movements like vegan and ecological based organizations, intellectual or literary institutions, and faith traditions ranging from Asian infuences such as Zen and Hare Krishna to spiritual organizations devoted to Satanism (Glock, Bellah, and Alfred 1976). Moreover, radical organizations for gay liberation were headquartered in the Bay Area, along with political movements such as the Black Panther Party, whose leader Huey Newton mandated recognition of gay rights. Soon after his arrival, Sylvester joined avant-garde performance art group Te Cockettes, and participated in performances in the Palace Teatre performing parodies of popular culture (Gamson 2005). Sylvester would later form the group Te Hot Band and the Four As, both of which had limited commercial success. It was with his formation of the group Two Tons of Fun, with singers Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes, that he would gain widespread acclaim and commercial success during the mid-to-late 1970s, especially with the hit song “You Make Me Feel.” According to the popular narrative, the popularity of disco was well on the decline by the time of the Reagan and Tatcher administrations of the 1980s, even as its sound became transformed into the electronic studio-driven genres of electro, house, and techno music. Te rise of the New Right, the austerity economics of neoliberalism, and social neoconservatism, in reaction to the liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s, sought to reassert patriarchal norms of white heterosexual cultural “values,” opposing the too black, too gay, too queer, too feminine culture of disco that culminated with the anti-disco movement launched by rock DJ Steve Dahl (Lawrence 2003). By the end of the 1970s, African American youth culture was already moving away from disco and its perceived white pop makeover, as illustrated in the movie Saturday Night Fever (1977), despite the fact that most of disco’s top acts were black performers such as Sylvester, Chic, Donna Summer, and many others (Lawrence 2003). Moreover, the New Right’s fxation with disco as representative of the corruption of (“otherwise pure”) capitalism, coupled with the institutional Left’s ignorance of the relation between politics, the body, and pleasure, and the genre’s seeming disengagement with class stratifcation, all contributed to the music’s decline in popularity (Lawrence 2003). Yet it was the AIDS epidemic that was initially articulated as the “gay” disease that closed the fnal chapter on disco’s demise in the late 1980s. Disco did not so much collapse as transform into other forms such as

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house, techno, electro, and hip-hop music—all of which resample disco, funk, and jazz (see Chang 2005; Reynolds 1999). It was during this period that the seeds were sown for the Afrofuturist movement of the 1990s—characterized by the Afrofuturism.net listserv, and members/ moderators Alondra Nelson and Paul D. Miller (Nelson 2002). Taking its name from Dery’s 1994 essay “Black to the Future,” the frst iteration of Afrofuturism, as a collectively named black arts assemblage, turned to remix culture and electronic music in relation to the “digital turn” in global communications and culture that was refected in the growing infuence of network software, database logics, deep remixability, and neurosciences, and that began to emerge in the 1970s and 1980s (Manovich 2013; Negroponte 1995; Pisters 2012). Te discipline of subcultural studies was perhaps the frst to analyze dance culture. However, as Angela McRobbie (1990) has noted, the study of dance culture was primarily undertaken from the vantage of the heroic-tragic frame of analysis, and tended to support the predominantly heterosexual, white, male, and working-class models of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Also, the tendency by some scholars, regardless of discipline, to criticize utopian frameworks as escapist, arguing that such escapism is ultimately restrictive of individual freedom, or leading to totalitarian governance, ignores the need and desire for peoples to share states of alternative being and belonging, in forms of interchange and expression that seek to recover an impulse or longing in various cultural forms (Brown 2010). It also ignores the platform which dance cultures provide as models of queer dreamspaces, heterotopias of desire, and spaces of radical intermixture, all of which thrive through the production of alternative socioeconomic networks—in which festivals, night clubs, travelers, events, and music-making combine with experiential slips in shape-shifting temporality, movement, dance, embodiment, and identity to produce multiple forms of worlding, or exodus, from consumer capitalism (van Veen 2010). Tus, the kinds of queer disco utopias that Sylvester speaks to can be seen in what emerged out of disco, or rather, in the cultural dispersion of disco into black electronic music, particularly Detroit techno, Chicago and New York house, the UK “hardcore continuum” of jungle, drum ‘n’ bass, and the Bristol sound (Reynolds 1999; Silcott 1999) that proliferated through rave culture’s global reach from the late 1980s into the early 2000s. Such twentieth-century forms of rave culture have since transformed into the widespread festival and club cultures of today (see St. John 2016), providing an analogous trajectory to the struggle for mainstream acceptance of queer, gender nonconforming, and LGBT* rights. Tis is not a coincidence but rather shows how the utopic dance space of queer rave culture, fueled by its queer disco roots, has shifted from a marginal and liminal cultural positioning to, like gay marriage, one of ambivalent though contested acceptance (of which its permanence must be continuously struggled for—so far). Music culture remains a utopic space of queer becoming, dreamspace, and alternative modes of becoming and nonconforming identity formation (see van Veen 2013a). Performers like Sylvester and other disco artists frequently articulated and experienced what could be referred to as an emotional experience similar to that of

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religion in their performances, and this behavior would be replicated a generation later with the ritualistic events of rave culture (Gamson 2005; Gauthier 2005). Tus, we wish to underscore in this brief historical overview that within the framework of the Black Fantastic, radical black ontology, and Black studies, there is need for more analysis of the relationship between queerness, race, sexuality, gender, technology, and the utopian impulses of those individuals marked as “deviant” pertaining to cultural artifacts or performances that correspond to what is now understood as Afrofuturism. To this end, such an intersectional approach, as well as encompassing sociopolitical, cultural, and aesthetic movements, technology, and economics in the diaspora, appears necessary in the movement toward Afrofuturist Studies. What is presently called Afrofuturism can be positioned in broader historical terms. In the grip of Cold War paranoia over invasions of the alien other (as seen in numerous science fction flms of the era), Afrofuturism can be thought of embracing, in the exodus from white humanism, precisely such an alien embodiment, as evidenced in the 1950s aesthetics, fyers, and poetic writings of Sun Ra (see Ra 2006; Szwed 1998). Beginning our analysis after the Second World War—which is not to ignore the earlier black science fction of W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Ellison, and others (see Yaszek 2006) but rather to situate its cultural praxes in the aftermath of Auschwitz, at the start of struggles for decolonization—Afrofuturism can be thought as a black vernacular technopoetics engaged in a heterodox form of cultural production originating in spatiotemporal cultural practices of the Afrodiaspora. In the twenty-frst century, expressions of Afrofuturism are emerging in multiple forms of popular culture, with increasing global and celebrity visibility, on the one channel, and currents of speculative philosophy and speculative race theory, political theory, and philosophy of science, on the other (see Anderson and Jones 2015; Eglash 2002; Gaskins 2011). Such contemporary forms also suggest a return to Afrofuturism’s Cold War past. During the 1950s, Sun Ra and Saturn Records partner Alton Abraham engaged in a critical urban utopianism via the vehicle of black avant-garde jazz music, drawing upon a distinct black cosmology and “traditionally black afliated musical forms (such as spirituals and the blues) to instrumental choices that combine[d] African folk percussion and electronic sounds . . . directed both backward and forward to suggest a radical break from the tyranny of an oppressive present” (Sites 2012, 576). Although performers like Alice and John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, and Albert Ayler would further develop such cosmic and interstellar tendencies in jazz music, it was Ra’s critical, heterodox, yet speculative form of extraterrestrial utopianism that set the course. As a whole, such cosmic, queer jazz would aesthetically infuence groups such as Earth, Wind, and Fire and Parliament/Funkadelic in the 1970s. Such queer, cosmic black music would likewise be the aesthetic inspiration, along with George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” (1982), to the rise of black electronic music in the 1980s, from Cybotron and the early Detroit techno of Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, and Derrick May, to Phuture’s invention of Chicago acid house with “Acid Tracks” (1987). One can fnd a symbolic convergence of these strains in the robotic electro of the Te Jonzun Crew—precisely because the latter whom name-check Sun Ra’s

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Outerspace Visual Communicator (“OVC”), a giant hexagonal “light organ” that Ra would play on stage, on their 1983 hit “Pack Jam” (see Tompkins 2010).

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CONCLUSION: DISCO’S QUEER AFROFUTURIST REVENGE Afrofuturism has largely identifed with black speculative and science fction, Afrodiasporic and futurist music traditions, and utopian or dystopian impulses (Zuberi 2004). However, what is less understood is how Afrofuturism is related to the cultural production of disco music. Ken McLeod writes that “music, in general, connects listeners to fantasy, pleasure and an ever elusive future. . . . Music takes us outside of our bodies and place while simultaneously reminding us of our location and what it means to live there” (2003, 337). Further, Afrofuturist scholarship thus far lacks analyses on black queer performance and queer theory in general. Although there is signifcant analysis of the speculative, queer, and fantasy (non)fction of Samuel R. Delany, there is a dearth of Afrofuturist scholarship in relation to black queer performance in disco or electronic dance music culture, in particular analyzing the former as a response to the socioeconomic processes of technogenesis, at the intersection of critical posthumanism and race, in the aftermath of the twentieth century’s metanarratives of technological, economic, and social upheaval of decolonization, Civil Rights, global warfare, and globalization, in a politically contested public sphere. Sylvester appropriated contemporary music technology and theatrical production techniques, initially reinventing his persona via jazz and blues, and later adopting parodies of noted personalities like Coretta Scott King. Signifying the Afrofuturist yet queer return to the reinvention of a Kemetic past, Sylvester appeared as an Egyptian Princess on the cover of his 1982 album All I Need. Sylvester’s campy Kemetic personas speak to similar Kemetic motifs of pyramids and pharoahs from the album cover art of Earth, Wind & Fire, Parliament/Funkadelic, Sun Ra, and John and Alice Coltrane. Yet, like George Clinton, and to an extent Ra himself, Sylvester demonstrates, with both humor and critique, the potential of queering the otherwise black masculinist history of Afrocentrism. Just as George Clinton appears in a campy, revealing space suit complete with silver high-heels and red, arm-length gloves, his bare legs suggestively spread as he pops out of a silver UFO on the album cover of Mothership Connection (1975), Sylvester mixes black drag with fabulous dreams of becoming an Egyptian princess. Sylvester’s ability to reimagine or reinvent himself extended to the range of his voice, which he could perform in falsetto or baritone, inhabiting shifts in apparent sonic gender (much like Michael Jackson). His vocal dexterity allowed Sylvester to move away from disco, partnering with Jeanie Tracy and Maurice Long as the C.O.G.I.C. singers to record ballads, soul, and gospel-infuenced music. Sylvester’s friendship with San Francisco’s frst openly gay (and white) elected ofcial, Harvey Milk, suggests that he saw the political force of radical black queerness as capable

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of overcoming racialized barriers so as to coalesce around new multiracial political constituencies of gender and sexuality. By participating in such deterritorializations of political and cultural arenas (see Deleuze and Guattari 2000), Sylvester disrupted and blurred the distinction between segregation and integration, not just of race but of gender and sex, anticipating the post-civil rights black public sphere by defying assumptions of the heteronormative, black or white, male gaze. Or sound, or thing, or being: the black queer futuristic performances of Sylvester James not only demonstrate the ability of an artist to reimagine and infuence popular culture and the political sphere, impacting internal and external communities but also to create new discursive spaces that, even if now archived to the past, remain to be unearthed for future, speculative strategies. In celebrating the fabulous Sylvester, we draw attention to the need for further research into queer(ing) Afrofuturism. Yet, despite the fact that performers like Sylvester and other black artists contributed to the notion of a “Black Fantastic” that has subversively impacted the political, cultural, and social aspects of the (white) public sphere, we leave with a cautionary note: such aesthetic/ artistic politics are inescapably functioning within the context of the “new politics of containment” that ultimately relies on the visible representation of African Americans (and racialized peoples worldwide) to “generate the invisibility of exclusionary practices” (Collins 1998). It is thus to new ways of seeing and hearing that the fabulous sings—in campy, high falsetto.

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NOTES 1. Tis chapter is based on “Fabulous: Sylvester James, Black Queer Afrofuturism, and the Black Fantastic” by Reynaldo Anderson, frst published in the Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture special issue on Afrofuturism 5(2) (2013), edited by tobias c. van Veen. Tobias would like to thank the students of his 2017 seminar at Quest University, “Black Science Fiction and Afrofuturism.” 2. Indeed, the black fantastic dovetails with recent contestations of the very idea of modernity as commencing with the French revolutionary subject, suggesting an emphasis instead on the commodifcation of the African to slavery as “subject $” (see Baucom 2005; van Veen 2013a).

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Brooks, Kinitra, Alexis McGee, and Stephanie Schoellman. 2017. “Speculative Sankofarration: Haunting Black Women in Contemporary Horror Fiction.” Obsidian 42(1–2): 237–48. Brown, Jayna. 2010. “Buzz and Rumble: Global Pop Music and Utopian Impulse”. Social Text 28(1): 125–46. Butler, Judith. 1989. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge. Chang, Jef. 2005. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Clinton, George. 1982. Atomic Dog. Capitol (12-inch): V-8603. Collins, Patricia H. 1998. Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice. New York. Routledge. Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 2000. A Tousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Dery, Mark. 1994. “Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose.” In Flame Wars: Te Discourse of Cyberculture, edited by Mark Dery, 179–222. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1903. Te Souls of Black Folk. New York. Bantam Classic. Eglash, Ron. 2002. “Race, Sex, and Nerds: From Black Geeks to Asian American Hipsters.” Social Text 71 20(2): 49–64. Eshun, Kodwo. 2003. “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism.” Te Centennial Review 3(2): 287–302. François, Anne-Lise. 1995. “Fakin’ It/Makin’ It: Falsetto’s Bid for Transcendence in 1970s Disco Highs.” Perspectives of New Music 33(1/2): 442–57. Gamson, Joshua. 2005. Te Fabulous Sylvester: Te Legend, the Music, the 70s in San Francisco. New York: Henry Holt and Co. Gaskins, Nettrice. 2011. “Cybism and Decoding the Letter Building: Afro-Futurist Styled Game Layers on top of Te World.” Te 17th International Symposium on Electronic Art. Istanbul, Turkey. Gauthier, Francois. 2005. “Orpheus and the Underground: Raves and Implicit Religion, a Critical Analysis.” Journal for the Implicit Study of Religion 8(3): 217–65. Gilroy, Paul. 1993. Te Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ———. 2004. Between Camps: Nations, Cultures and the Allure of Race. London: Routledge. Glock, Charles, Robert Bellah, and Randy Alfred, eds. 1976. Te New Religious Consciousness. Berkeley: University of California Press. Iton, Richard. 2008. In Search of Te Black Fantastic: Politics and Popular Culture in the PostCivil Rights Era. New York: Oxford University Press. Jameson, Fredric. 2005. Archaeologies of the Future: Te Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. London: Verso. Jonzun, Crew. 1983. Pack Jam. Tommy Boy (12-inch): TB-826. Lawrence, Tim. 2003. Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture 1970– 1979. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Manovich, Lev. 2013. Software Takes Command. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. McCall, Leslie. 2005. “Te Complexity of Intersectionality.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30(3): 1771–800. McLeod, Ken. 2003. “Space Oddities: Aliens, Futurism and Meanings in Popular Music.” Popular Music 2(3): 337–55.

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McRobbie, Angela. 1990. “Settling Accounts with Subcultures: A Feminist Critique.” In On Record: Rock, Pop, and the Written Word, edited by Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin, 56–65. New York: Pantheon. Negroponte, Nicholas. 1995. Being Digital. New York: Alfred Knopf. Nelson, Alondra. 2002. “Introduction: Future Texts.” Social Text 71 (Summer): 1–15. Pisters, Patricia. 2012. Te Neuro-Image: A Deleuzian Film Philosophy of Digital Screen Culture. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Phuture. 1987. Acid Tracks. Trax Records (12-inch): TX142. Ra, Sun. 2006. Te Wisdom of Sun-Ra. Edited by John Corbett. Chicago: WhiteWalls. Reynolds, Simon. 1999. Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. New York: Routledge. Silcott, Mireille. 1999. Rave America: New School Dancescapes. Toronto: ECW Press. Sites, William. 2012. “Radical Culture in Black Necropolis: Sun Ra, Alton Abraham and Postwar Chicago.” Journal of Urban History 38: 687–719. St John, Graham, ed. 2016. Weekend Societies. London: Bloomsbury Academic Press. Sylvester. 1978. Dance (Disco Heat). Fantasy (12-inch): D-102. ———. 1978. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real). Fantasy (12-inch): K052Z-61678. ———. 1982. All I Need. Megatone (LP). M 1005. ———. 1982. Do You Wanna Funk. Megatone (12-inch): MT 102. Szwed, John F. 1998. Space is the Place: Te Lives and Times of Sun Ra. New York: De Capo Press. Tomas, Valorie. 2003. “‘1 + 1 = 3’ and Other Dilemmas: Reading Vertigo in Invisible Man, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, and Song of Solomon.” African American Review 37(1): 81–94. ———. 2018. “Unenslaveable Rapture: Afrxfuturism and Diasporic Vertigo in Beyoncé’s Lemonade.” TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies 39: 48–69. van Veen, tobias c. 2010. “Technics, Precarity and Exodus in Rave Culture.” Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 1(2): 29–49. ———. 2013. “Music Is a Plane of Wisdom: Transmissions from the Ofworlds of Afrofuturism.” Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 5(2): 2–6. ———. 2013a. “Vessels of Transfer: Allegories of Afrofuturism in Jef Mills and Janelle Monáe.” Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 5(2): 7–41. doi:10.12801/ 1947-5403.2013.05.02.02. ———. 2015. “Te Armageddon Efect: Afrofuturism and the Chronopolitics of Alien Nation.” In Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of Astro-Blackness, edited by Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones, 63–90. New York: Lexington Books. Walcott, Rinaldo. 2016. Queer Return: Essays on Multiculturalism, Diaspora, and Black Studies. London: Insomniac Press. Wilchins, Riki. 2004. Queer Teory, Gender Teory: An Instant Primer. Los Angeles: Alyson Books. Womack, Ytasha. 2013. Afrofuturism: Te World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books. Wynter, Sylvia. 2003. “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument.” CR: Te New Centennial Review 3(3): 257–337. Yaszek, Lisa. 2006. “Afrofuturism, Science Fiction, and the History of the Future.” Socialism and Democracy 20(3): 41–60. Zuberi, Nabeel. 2004. “Te Transmolecularization of [Black] Folk: Space is the Place, Sun Ra and Afrofuturism.” In Of Te Planet: Music Sound and Science Fiction Cinema, edited by Phillip Hayward, 77–95. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

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IV

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IMAGES ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TIME

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16 Funky Images on the Other Side of Time

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Wriply Marie Bennet, Tim Fielder, John Jennings, Jessi Jumanji, Amber Johnson, Sheeba Maya, Stacey Robinson, and Quentin VerCetty

Te purpose of this Black Speculative Art Movement volume is to provide readers with insight into contemporary theory and practice of Afrofuturism with a particular emphasis on art and design. In this chapter we focus on both practice and design by displaying visual images from some of the most acclaimed artists and scholars in Afrofuturism today. Teir work blends the past with the future, the forgotten with the yet uncovered, and the defned with the undefned. Each artist articulates their own description of their work to provide context for the images. Some of the terms that they use include Dieselfunk, Ethnogothic, Transfuturism, Sankofatopia, and Sankofanology. In this way, their own words are coupled with the images and function as diverse theoretical frameworks used to interrogate the notion of a visual Afrofuturist aesthetic. We consider the following images as a continuation of the conversations started by groundbreaking exhibitions such as Te Shadows Took Shape, curated by Naima Keith and Zoé Whitely in 2013 at Studio Museum in Harlem, and Unveiling Visions: Te Alchemy of the Black Imagination curated by John Jennings and Reynaldo Anderson at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in 2016. As these conversations evolve, it becomes clear that there is no one way to defne an Afrofuturist aesthetic because Afrofuturism is not at static entity. Like the art printed on the following pages, Afrofuturism is fuid, it evolves and expands with the purpose of pointing to new possibilities and perceptions that have yet to be voiced. So, with this in mind, fip to the next page and experience these Afrofuturistic Funky Images on the Other side of Time.

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TIM FIELDER

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Figure 16.1  Fielder, Tim. Dieselfunk Connection, 2017.

Fielder, Tim. Steamfunk Connection, 2017.

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Funky Images on the Other Side of Time

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JOHN JENNINGS

Jennings, John. Conjure-Punk: Bokor Assassin, 2017.

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Jennings, John, Regina Bradley, and Stacy Robinson. Cybertrap: Deck, 2017.

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Funky Images on the Other Side of Time

Jennings, John. Critical Race Design Studies, 2018.

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Jennings, John and Stanford Carpenter. EthnoGothic, 2018.

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AMBER JOHNSON/WRIPLY MARIE BENNET

Johnson, Amber and Wriply Marie Bennet. Nova, The Shapeshifter, 2017. Superhero fashioned after Eb Brown. Acrylic on canvas, 4' x 6'.

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Johnson, Amber and Wriply Marie Bennet. Valor, The Keeper of Darkness, 2017. Superhero fashioned after Kei Williams. Acrylic on canvas, 4' x 5'.

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Johnson, Amber, and Wriply Marie Bennet. Massai, The Sun Goddess, 2017. Superhero fashioned after Ayai Nikos. Acrylic on canvas, 4' x 5'.

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JESSI JUMANJI

Jumanji, Jessi. AfroFuturism: Afro-Entemology, 2018.

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Funky Images on the Other Side of Time

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SHEEBA MAYA

Maya, Sheeba. Afro Fantasy Realism, 2013.

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STACEY ROBINSON

Black Kirby (Stacey Robinson and John Jennings). Magneto X, 2012.

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Funky Images on the Other Side of Time

Robinson, Stacey. Destination Saturn, 2015.

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Robinson, Stacey. Building Black Utopia 2015.

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QUENTIN VERCETTY Outside In: Te Afro-Republic Work Collection Abstract (Afrixin Monuments of Liberation/ Galactic Negus) (2015–2018)

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Tis collection is inspired by the numerous statues of historical oppressive fgures around the world that have been removed from diferent public spaces like the confederate slave owners in the United States or like genocidal military leaders in South Africa and then contrasting that to the conceptual monuments I've seen through my own travels throughout the Caribbean and Africa. I was intrigued by the social value that public art can preserve and how it is used as a tool to refect the values that society might have or could have. To date, there are only three known public sculptures of people of African descent (Harry Jerome— Vancouver, Oscar Peterson—Ottawa, Toussaint Louverture—Montreal) in Canada. With this in mind, I wanted to create digital public spaces that contain motivating and positive public monuments of the everyday young black person and scenes where people of African descent can celebrate and participate in their own cultures, customs, practices, and aesthetics unashamed, unpoliced, and not as spectacles. Utilizing diferent African semiotics and ideas mixed with science fction metaphors, this work features photographs, digital scans, and/or digital (re)modeling of people who I have met or have been inspired by.

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The Return of the Boom, 2018

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Tis piece speaks to the history of struggle to control and keep the authenticity of African music. Tis is meant to highlight the timeless and ongoing importance of the drums to African people and their spiritual relations to the land and how this tradition will continue into the future.

VerCetty, Quentin. The Return of the Boom, 2018.

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Stars Art Born, 2017

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Inspired by Star Trek: Discovery being flmed in Toronto, this piece is a nod to the lead actress Sonequa Martin-Green who plays Michael Burnham but also functions as a tribute to the artist, actress, activist, playwright, philanthropist, CBC columnist, and radio personality Amanda Parris. Tis art piece features diferent spiritual guides from throughout her life, including her husband to her great-grandparents—collectively empowering and supporting her on the trek of self-discovery and success. She greets the viewer with the Vulcan salute indicating that her journey to “live long and prosper” has only begun and it is far from over.

VerCetty, Quentin. Stars Art Born, 2017.

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Atom of Eve’s Plotting, 2017

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Te black imagination functions as a portal as well as a way to connect to deeper understanding. Trough conceptualizing black skin as a valuable golden atomic structure, this piece exposes the spiritual element of an African person that functions like a liquid, fowing, connecting, and intersecting with others.

VerCetty, Quentin. Atom of Eve’s Plotting, 2017.

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Early Amorphous, 2018

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Representation is important and it is through art that we often refect upon our own spiritual state. With art, an African child learns about themselves, about their ancestors, and their spiritual gifts, and purpose. It is through these meditative spaces that one can fnd their passion, enabling them to grow to do monumental things in the future for themselves and their community.

VerCetty, Quentin. Early Amorphous, 2018.

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Watah No Get Enemy, 2017

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With the avant-garde, apocalyptic, city skyline in the background, this piece focuses on the bright contrast of the sculptural bust of a young Congolese girl who aspires to be a professor and a young Chadian boy who aspires to be a lawyer. Tese two individuals are youth from the Rexdale community in West Toronto, where I am from, and I wanted to put their likeness into the future. Tis piece preserves their spirits of aspiration and hope and presents them as beacons of ambition and resilience.

VerCetty, Quentin. Watah No Get Enemy, 2017.

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Pan-alien at the Square, 2016

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In antiblack spaces, oftentimes people of African descent trying to engage within their own cultural expressions, customs, or practices are made to feel out of place and alienated. Likewise, the steelpan drum, an invention with African roots, is sometimes seen as an alien instrument and is often disregarded and discredited as not worth learning or accepting.

VerCetty, Quentin. Pan-alien at the Square, 2016.

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

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Copyright © 2019. Lexington Books. All rights reserved.

Index

Advanced Chemistry (German rap group), 19–20, 23n14, 23n16 Africa, 14, 37; Afrofuturism and, 109, 154; ancient, 63; colonization of, 190; conceptual monuments in, 247; Data Tief and, 66–67; frst space base, 153; as idea, 157; science fction in, 91–97, 108; survival of, 1; traditions of enslavement, 16; worlds within worlds, xi African: futurity, 2; German history, 17–20; Other, 14, 18; rhythm, 37–38, 47n15; science fction and fantasy, 91–95. See also African SF African American(s), 1, 68, 97, 175, 181; arts, music, writing, 28–29, 108; culture, xii, 79, 133, 144, 146, 173–74; naming and, 119–20; dance, 144; experience, 181; folklore, 95; German culture and, 17–18; history of, 107; intimate relationships, 189–92; online dating, 193–94; literature, 62, 80, 109; musical history, 139. See also black music; performers, 143, 177; rhetorical behavior, 132; sociopolitical condition, 45; speculative fction, 59, 77, 133, 154–57 (See also science fction;

technoculture); technology and, 190–91, 196 African diaspora, xi, 2–3, 60, 133, 193; art and technology, 199; blackness and the, 77; experiences from, 78; histories, 22; literatures, 96; technological innovation in, 62, 202 African Futurism, 94–97, 100–102, 155; as intersecting Afrofuturism, 96 African SF, 94–95 Africology, 78, 132–33, 147 Afro-Caribbean, 133, 143, 183, 223 Afrocentric: historical revisionism, 221–22; ideologies, 97; imagination, 209; perspective, 56; worldview and cosmology, 38–39. See also Afrocentrism Afrocentricity, 3, 97. See also Afrocentric; Afrocentrism Afrocentrism, 28, 38, 227 Afrodiaspora, 52, 132, 147, 219, 226 Afrofuturism, x, 1, 209; as alienation and abduction, 16, 28; black music and, 44–45; digital humanities and, 55; listserv, 2, 62, 225; as technology, 40; as temporal control, 157; as temporalities, 53; through queer theory, 220–23; as world-building, 52

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Afrofuturism 2.0, 2–3, 56, 175; digital humanities and, 57. See also Anderson, Reynaldo Afrofuturist: is everybody and their mama, x; origins of thought, 2; rhythms, 40; theory, 28, 30, 36 Afrofuturist Afair, Te, 51. See also Phillips, Rasheedah Afrofuturist feminism, 78–82; black feminism and, 89 Akomfrah, John, 66, 71 Anderson, Reynaldo: critique of, 108; defnitions of Afrofuturism (2.0), 56, 79–80, 96, 175; Unveiling Visions, 233. See also Afrofuturism 2.0; Sylvester Android: female, 178; genderless and androgynous, 209; racialization of, 176. See also Monáe, Janelle antiblackness, 43; Armstrong, Louis, 135, 140. See also Invisible Man Asante, Molef Kete, 38, 54, 78, 89n2 ashe, 144, 146; electricity and, 133–36, 138; Legba and, 134; as spiritual energy of cosmos, 132 Astroblackness, 156, 209 Badu, Erykah, 182 Baldwin, James, 143 Bambaataa, Afrika, 19, 108 Baraka, Amiri (LeRoi Jones), 28; changing same, 28, 38; reading of jazz, 32–33, 38, 45, 46n4; Te Toilet (play), 221 Bible, Te, xii, 84, 118. See also Christianity black Atlantic, 28; imaginaries and identifcations, 219; music, 174; subjectivities, 16 black fantastic, 218; Afrofuturism and, 220 black feminism: Afrofuturism and Africana studies and, 77–78; First Black Woman in Space, 22. See also Afrofuturist feminism; Lorde, Audre black imagination, 205, 250 BLACK KIRBY, 67–72, 244 black music, 174; antiblackness and, 43; black politics and, 28. See also Blues; disco; electro; funk; hip-hop; jazz; Monáe, Janelle

black nationalism, 28 blackness: aesthetic liquidity, 69; African diaspora and, 77; antiblackness and, 43; black life and, 45; canonical ways of reading/seeing, 207; contemporary condition, 29; Du Bois and, 12; linked to futurity, 80; queer(ness) and, 221, 223; radical black ontology and, 219–20; social death and, 147; as sublime technology, 60; Zone One and, 109 Black Panther, 3; superhero, 67 Black Panther Party, 224 Black Quantum Futurism, 51, 156; infuences of, 52 black vernacular, xii, 219, 226; becomings, 220–21 Blues, 12, 66, 138, 217, 223, 226; “blues impulse,” 28. See also black music; Wheatstraw, Peetie Boulez, Pierre, 29, 33; Deleuze’s reading of, 41–42; IRCAM and notated form, 39; theory of smooth space, 36, 42 Butler, Octavia E., 52, 77–88, 134, 154, 182, 210; “Te Book of Martha,” 78, 87; Kindred, 157; Parable series, 77, 83, 85, 87–88 Cage, John: free jazz and, 34–37; indeterminate scores, 40; theory of rhythm, 30, 33, 36, 44 capitalism, 59, 144, 162, 224; consumer, 225 Christianity, 11, 84, 147. See also religion chronopolitics, 218, 223. See also Eshun, Kodwo Clinton, George, 227; Dr. Funkenstein, 180. See also Parliament/Funkadelic colonialism, 1, 157–58; German, 12–15; literature and, 92–93; transbodies and, 211 coolness, 10 cosmology, 5, 38, 56, 131, 226 critical race design studies, 237 Data Tief, 66–67 Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari, 36, 41–42

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

Index Dery, Mark, 1, 11, 56, 133, 190, 225; defnition of Afrofuturism, 59–60, 79, 107–9, 154, 174, 202; futures industry, 220 Detroit techno, 2, 41, 66, 224–26 dieselfunk, 234 digital humanities, 3, 55 disco, 174, 217, 220–27. See also black music; Sylvester Du Bois, W. E. B., 15, 21–22; “Te Comet,” 11–12; double consciousness, 12, 136; Souls of Black Folk, 38–39; theories of race and, 12, 21; veil, 140 Egypt, 169n23, 180. See also Africa; Kemet electro, 224, 226 Ellison, Ralph, 131–47, 226; Invisible Man, 131–47, 154, 156–57; phonograph and, 39 Eshun, Kodwo: Afrofuturism (defnitions), 1–2, 28, 30, 79, 96, 119, 155, 223; black posthumanism and, 181; chronopolitics, 218, 223; critiques of, 44–45; Drexciya and, 120; Middle Passage alienation, 16; post-soul, 174– 75; Rhythmachine, 41–43

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Fanon, Frantz, 14–15, 156–57, 164 feminism. See Afrofuturist feminism; black feminism fash of the spirit, 135. See also ashe funk, xiii, 41, 59, 66, 217, 223–24, 233. See also black music; dieselfunk; steamfunk Gaskins, Nettrice, 57, 109, 199 gender, 102, 121, 125; Afrofuturist feminism and, 81, 84; inequality, 95; Janelle Monáe and, 174–75, 177–78, 180–81, 183; relativity and Invisible Man, 133. See also sexuality Ghana, 2–3, 37, 97, 99. See also Africa; African SF Gilroy, Paul, 16, 121, 219–21. See also black Atlantic grafti, 19 griot, 11–12

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Haiti, 3, 72n1, 146, 182–83; Revolution, 132; vodou (voodoo), 110, 132. See also Vodou Haraway, Donna, 180–82, 212 Harlem: jungle of, 136; Renaissance, 72n1; Spanish, 127–28; Te Studio Museum, 155–56, 233; Unveiling Visions, 233 Hegel, G. F. W., 11–12, 14–15, 17, 20 hip-hop, 20, 41–42, 225; African mythologies and, 108; BLACK KIRBY and, 68, 71; German rap, 19–20, 23n14; hypermasculinity, women and, 129; science fction and, 156; use of technology in, 63, 66. See also Bambaataa, Afrika; black music; Keith, Kool; Wu-Tang Clan Hurston, Zora Neale, 134–35, 143, 182–83 Invisible Man, 131–47. See also Ellison, Ralph Iton, Richard, 218–20. See also black fantastic Jackson, Michael, 177 jazz, 28–45, 66, 108, 156, 223–24, 226–27; AACM, 29, 40; avant-garde of the 1960s, 28, 44–45; electricity, ashe and, 134–35; electronic music and, 174; interstellar, 222; Invisible Man and, 135, 138; John Cage and, 34–37; Teodor Adorno and, 31–34. See also Ra, Sun Keith, Kool (Dr. Octagon), 180 Kemet, 222, 227. See also Africa; Egypt Lang, Fritz, 174, 176–80, 184 Last Angel of History (flm), 66. See also Akomfrah, John Legba (Papa), 132–36; circuit and crossroads, 143; electricity, jazz and ashe, 134; Invisible Man and, 132; sexuality and, 146. See also ashe Lorde, Audre, 18–19 masculinity, 44, 68, 81, 129, 201, 206 Metropolis: album (Janelle Monáe), 174, 179–81; flm (Fritz Lang), 173, 176–78;

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trope, 174, 184. See also Lang, Fritz; Monáe, Janelle Monáe, Janelle, 80, 108, 173–84; albums: Te ArchAndroid, 173, 176, 183; Te Electric Lady, 173, 176, 181; Q.U.E.E.N video, 181–84; Metropolis: Suite I (Te Chase), 174; as android, 176; as Cindi Mayweather, 6, 176, 179, 182; Q.U.E.E.N. performance read as queer, 184 Mumbo Jumbo, 60–64, 73nn3–4. See also Reed, Ishmael mythology, 131, 181; Afro- (and African) mythology, 96–97, 99, 100, 102; BLACK KIRBY and, 68; Greek, 158, 163. See also Legba; MythScience; religion MythScience. See Ra, Sun Nelson, Alondra, 60, 62–64, 133, 225 Nigeria, 3, 167; Civil War, 98; literature and speculative fction, 93–102. See also Africa; African SF; Okorafor, Nnedi; Okri, Ben

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Okorafor, Nnedi, 5, 92–95, 155. See also African SF; Nigeria Okri, Ben, 5, 92, 95, 97, 100–102. See also Nigeria orisha, 128. See also Vodou pan-African, 1–2 Parliament/Funkadelic, 59, 108, 156, 180, 226–27. See also black music; funk phenomenology, 11, 221–23. See also queer (theory) Phillips, Rasheedah, 51–54 post-soul, 174–75. See also Eshun, Kodwo pyramids, 86, 180, 227. See also Egypt; Kemet Queer (theory), 211; frofuturism, 220–23; “black queer” performance, 218, 227; constituencies of the black fantastic, 218; cosmic and, 226; Janelle Monáe and Q.U.E.E.N., 181, 184; phenomenology, 221–23; ways of being, 219

Ra, Sun, 59, 79, 108, 205, 226–27; Amiri Baraka, Black Arts Movement and, 28, 222; details of birth, 156, 180; John Cage and, 47n14; music and technology, 175; MythScience, 131, 180, 184; Saturn and, 56, 156, 222; Saturn Records, 226; sci-f mysticism, 45; Space is the Place (flm), 173; transmolecularization, 28 race: Afrofuturism and, 155; Afrofuturist transcendence and, 60; critical posthumanism and, 227; gender and, 78, 80–81, 84, 181, 201, 225, 227; German laws of, 13; interracial dating and, 193; Invisible Man and, 131, 133, 144; Janelle Monáe and, 174, 181; Octavia Butler and, 69; politics, temporality and, 108–10; as technology, 21, 64–65; transfuturism and, 211, 213; W. E. B. du Bois and, 12, 21; Zone One and, 121 racism, 1, 14, 16, 18, 144; canonical prejudice and, 207; digital humanities and, 55; environmental, 191; estranges African Americans, 120; German colonial, 20–21; institutional, 65; internalized, 84; intersectional, 81; online dating and, 193, 196; postracism, 110, 116, 121; science fction and, 107; scientifc, 96; structural, 219, 222 radical black ontology, 219–21, 226 rap. See hip-hop Reed, Ishmael, 60–61, 63–64, 72n1 religion: Afrofuturism and, 220; black dance and, 139, 144, 146; ritual and, 226. See also Vodou remix, 60, 78, 131, 134, 146; Afrofuturist feminism and, 78, 81, 83, 85; Bible and, xii; BLACK KIRBY as, 67–68, 71–72; culture and electronic music, 225; historical, 155; Legba and, 138–39; uncanny cultural, 153 robot, 155, 167, 192; black female, 175–81; electro, 226; robotic consumer, 137; sex, 194

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,

Index

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sankofa, 219; Sankofatizer, 71; Sankofatopia, Sankofanology, 233 Sankofa (flm), xii sankofarration, 219; at work in Afrofuturism and queerness, 222 Sayles, John, 108, 156; Brother From Another Planet (flm), 156 science fction, 2–3, 11, 16, 21, 52, 62, 212, 222; African, 5, 91, 94, 153; frodiasporic, 220; Afro-Latino, 125–26; black American, 66, 108–9, 154–57, 173, 175, 226; BLACK KIRBY and, 68, 70; black speculative, 77–78, 107; Drexciya and, 120; Janelle Monáe and, 180; sonic, 44; tropes of, 155, 158; Weimar, 176 sexuality: Afrofuturist feminism and, 81; black male, 195, 220; fears of female, 175; Sylvester and, 225, 227. See also gender sonic science fction, 44 South Africa, 2, 108, 161, 247 South African: flms, 156; novelists, 93; photographer, 167 Space is the Place (flm), 173. See also Ra, Sun speculative race theory, 226 steamfunk, 234 stolen thinking from, 180 Sylvester (James), 210, 217–28 Tate, Greg, 60–64 technoculture, 109, 175–76, 184; African American concerns in context of, 59, 108, 174, 183 techno-vernacular, 199–202

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time travel, xii, 21, 85, 108, 155; Black Quantum Futurism and, 52–54; Data Tief and, 66–67; Janelle Monáe and, 176, 182; queer imaginary and, 221 transfuturism, 205, 209; as explicit valuing of work transbodies do, 213; as theoretical disruption of gender binaries, 212 Vodou (Vodun), 132, 144, 146 wa Tiong’o, Ngugi, 95–96. See also Nigeria West Africa, 95 West African: deities, 132. See also Legba; fction, 101; god of the crossroads, Eshu, 66; tradition, 11; zombie-like fgures, 110 Wheatstraw, Peetie, 141. See also Blues Whitehead, Colson, 109–10, 119, 121; Te Intuitionist, 109; Zone One, 110–21 whiteness, 12, 69, 205; as authority, 209; clinical, 138; European, 22; of the futures industry, 220; as German supremacist ideology of neutrality, 16; as power, 35; virtual, 180 Wilcox, Johnnie, 135–47 Womack, Ytasha, 79; defnitions of Afrofuturism, 80, 101, 175, 220; race as technology, 21 Wu-Tang Clan, 156 xenogenesis, 77, 88. See also Butler, Octavia Zone One. See Whitehead, Colson Zuberi, Nabeel, 28, 44–45, 226

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About the Editors and Contributors

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EDITORS Reynaldo Anderson, PhD, currently serves as associate professor of communications and chair of the Humanities Department at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, Missouri. Anderson has earned several awards for leadership and teaching excellence and he is currently the chair of the Black Caucus of the National Communication Association. Anderson has not only served as an executive board member of the Missouri Arts Council, he has previously served at an international level working for prison reform with C.U.R.E. International in Douala Cameroon, and as a development ambassador recently assisting in the completion of a library project for the Sekyere Afram Plains district in the country of Ghana. Anderson recently cocurated the acclaimed exhibition Unveiling Visions: Te Alchemy of the Black Imagination at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York. Reynaldo publishes extensively in the area of Afrofuturism, communications studies, and the African diaspora experience. Anderson is currently the executive director and cofounder of the Black Speculative Arts Movement, a network of artists, curators, intellectuals, and activists. Finally, he is the coeditor of the book Afrofuturism 2.0: Te Rise of Astro-Blackness published by Lexington books, coeditor of forthcoming volume Te Black Speculative Art Movement: Black Futurity, Art+Design to be released in 2017, and the coeditor of “Black Lives, Black Politics, Black Futures,” a forthcoming special issue of TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. Clinton R. Fluker, PhD, is assistant director of Engagement and Scholarship at the Atlanta University Center’s Robert W. Woodruf Library where he supervises the Archives and Research Center and the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) Center for Collaborative Teaching and Learning. In this capacity he develops exhibitions, programming, and scholarly projects that utilize digital platforms. His most recent digital humanities project is the Big City Map Project, a 261

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digital platform created in collaboration with Emory University’s Center for Digital Scholarship, Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Library, and the creators of the independent comic Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline, Dawud Anyabwile, and Guy Sims. Tis platform serves as a prototype that explores the possibilities of GIS mapping and various immersive techniques to highlight the creative process and design elements associated with developing fctional worlds. Fluker is also the cofounder of TrdSpace, a creative placemaking consulting frm that activates historic venues by collaborating with emerging artists, professionals, and social activists. Fluker received his PhD at Emory University’s Institute for Liberal Arts with a research focus on contemporary movements in black speculative fction.

CONTRIBUTORS Souleymane Ba, PhD, is currently teaching English at the Law Faculty, University of Montpellier, and is a member of Études Montpelliéraines du Monde Anglophone, Paul Valéry University, France. He has held various teaching posts in the United States and in France. His essay “John Henry: A Folk Hero in Postmodern Era” is edited in (Re)writing and Remembering (2016). He is the author of “Afrofuturism in Contemporary African American Literature: Reading Colson Whitehead,” Black Studies Papers (2016).

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Wriply Marie Bennet is a proud, self-taught illustrator, actor, writer, and singer born and raised in Ohio. Her organizing work started with the Trans Women of Color Collective and expanded in Ferguson where she was a freedom rider traveling to stand with Mike Brown’s family and community. Wriply’s work expresses the perseverance, power, strength, resilience, grace, and beauty of trans-women. Her work sheds light on the lack of national outcry over the epidemic of black trans-women murdered each year at the hands of state-sanctioned violence. Wriply’s art has been used in numerous social justice fyers, and made its frst flm debut in MAJOR!, a documentary at the 2015 San Francisco Transgender Film Festival. Iain Campbell, PhD, is an independent researcher who has written on topics across philosophy, music, sound studies, and art theory for publications including parallax, Sound Studies, and A/V: Journal of Practical and Creative Philosophy. He received a PhD from the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, London, in 2016, with a thesis exploring experimental practices of music and philosophy in the work of John Cage and Gilles Deleuze. He has lectured in philosophy, politics, and art at the University of Brighton, and is a member of the editorial board of Evental Aesthetics. Enrique Carrion is an enigmatic, creative copywriter, and narrative designer. His works span many genres from science fction to fantasy. His debut professional comic was the critically acclaimed Vescell on Image Comics; he then went on to

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publish the urban fantasy novel titled Dragons from Enceladus, the dystopian comic book Kill Godz, and even brought his pen game to the house of ideas, working on Civil War II: Choosing Sides, for Marvel Comics. Dariel Cobb is a PhD candidate in history, theory, and criticism of art and architecture at MIT. Her work examines modern art and architecture across the Black Atlantic, with a particular focus on the plastic synthesis between art and architecture, the infuence of Négritude on expressions of nationalism following colonial independence, and the entanglement of modern architecture and tropical design. Her dissertation explores postcolonial expressions of national identity in Francophone West Africa and the discursive milieu which infuenced creative exploration at mid-century, including the work of ethnographers, writers, and artists alongside architects. Cobb has written about Afrofuturism and the technological body in Africa; the climate discourse in modern architecture; juridical defnitions of space; and the relationship of nomadic peoples to built space, and the various ways “built” is defned.

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Tim Fielder is an illustrator, concept designer, cartoonist, and animator born and raised in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He has a lifelong love of visual Afrofutuism, pulp entertainment, and action flms. He holds other Afrofuturists such as Samuel Delany, Steven Barnes, and Octavia Butler as major infuences. He has worked over the years in the storyboarding, flm visual development, gaming, comics, and animation industries for clients as varied as Marvel Comics, Te Village Voice, Tri-Star Pictures, and Ubisoft Entertainment. He also works as an educator for institutions such as New York University and the New York Film Academy. Fielder hopes to push forward with his art in the emerging digital content delivery systems of the day. To that end, Matty’s Rocket is Fielder’s frst foray in the genre coined as “Dieselfunk.” He makes his home with his wife and children in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Harlem. Sherese Francis is a southeast Queens-based poet, speculative fction writer, blogger, and literary curator. She has published work in journals and anthologies including Bone Bouquet, African Voices, Newtown Literary, Blackberry Magazine, Kalyani Magazine, and Near Kin: A Collection of Words and Arts Inspired by Octavia Butler. Additionally, she has published two chapbooks, Lucy’s Bone Scrolls and Variations on Sett/ling Seed/ling. Her current projects include her Afrofuturism-inspired blog, “Futuristically Ancient,” and her southeast Queens-based pop-up bookshop/mobile library project, J. Expressions. For J. Expressions, she received a 2017 Queens Council on the Arts grant to do the Reading (W)Riting Remedy series and was a fnalist for the Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize. John Jennings is professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California at Riverside. Professor Jennings received his MA in art education in 1995 and MFA in studio with a focus on graphic design in 1997 from UIUC. He is an

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interdisciplinary scholar who examines the visual culture of race in various media forms including flm, illustrated fction, and comics and graphic novels. Jennings is also a curator, graphic novelist, editor, and design theorist whose research interests include the visual culture of hip-hop, Afrofuturism and politics, visual literacy, horror and the ethnogothic, and speculative design and its applications to visual rhetoric. Jennings is coeditor of the Eisner Award winning collection Te Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art and cofounder/organizer of the Schomburg Center’s Black Comic Book Festival in Harlem. He is cofounder and organizer of the MLK NorCal’s Black Comix Arts Festival in San Francisco and also SOL-CON: Te Brown and Black Comix Expo at the Ohio State University. Jennings’s current projects include the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred (with Damian Dufy), Tony Medina’s police brutality themed ghost story “I Am Alphonso Jones” (with Stacey Robinson), and his Hoodoo Noir graphic novella Blue Hand Mojo. Jennings is also a Nasir Jones Hip Hop Studies fellow at the Hutchins Center at Harvard University. Amber Johnson, PhD, is a scholar/artist/activist, who explores the language, exigency, sound, and aesthetics of various social movements. Teir art, research, and activism focus on performances of identity, protest, and social justice in digital and lived spaces. As a polymath, their mixed-media artistry involves working with metals, recycled and reclaimed goods, photography, poetry, percussion, and paint to interrogate systems of oppression. Johnson is an award-winning assistant professor of communication and social justice at St. Louis University and the creator of Te Justice Fleet,™ a mobile justice museum that fosters healing through art, dialogue, and play.

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Jessi Jumanji is an Afrofuturist collage artist and painter who believes creating art is a form of self-discovery. Using collage to merge historical exploration with selfexpression, Jumanji visually rewrites the lackluster narrative of black history and recontextualizes blackness as beautiful, valiant, and embodying infnite power and potential. Natasha A. Kelly has a PhD in communication studies and sociology. Born and bred in the United Kingdom and raised in Germany, she considers herself to be an “academic activist,” two important features that can be seen individually, but never separately from each other. Rooted in the pan-African culture of her Jamaican heritage, her political and academic works relate to the past, present, and future of the African diaspora in Germany. Tis is also the focus of her numerous art installations that have been shown in museums throughout the country. Since 2015 Natasha’s annual performance, “M(a)y Sister,” which is dedicated to the Afro-German poetess and activist May Ayim, has been shown at the HAU Teatre in Berlin. Her frst documentary flm, Milli’s Awakening, debuted at the Tenth Berlin Biennale in Summer 2018.

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Sheeba Maya is an illustrator, fne artist, graphic designer, curator, and educator. She is deeply passionate about her art. As a lifelong student, she studied tirelessly on her own before studying formally at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland and the Art Institute of Philadelphia. She later studied under master artists to hone her illustration and portraiture skills in traditional and digital media. Her personal artwork is inspired by her own spiritual journey, her love of nature, culture, ancient wisdom, and all things mystical.

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Susana M. Morris, PhD, associate professor of literature, media, and communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is a scholar of black feminism, black digital media, and Afrofuturism. Morris is also cofounder of the popular feminist blog “Te Crunk Feminist Collective.” She is the author of Close Kin and Distant Relatives: Te Paradox of Respectability in Black Women’s Literature (2014), coeditor, with Brittney C. Cooper and Robin M. Boylorn, of the anthology Te Crunk Feminist Collection (2017), and coeditor, with Kinitra D. Brooks and Linda Addison, of Sycorax’s Daughters (2017), a short story collection of horror written by black women. Morris is also series editor, along with Kinitra D. Brooks, of the book series “New Suns: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Speculative.” She is currently at work on her latest book project, which explores black women’s relationships to Afrofuturism and feminism. Dike Okoro, PhD, is a poet, essayist, short-story writer, and editor. He holds a BA in English from University of Wisconsin-Parkside; an MA in English (African American Literature) from Chicago State University; an MFA in poetry from Chicago State University; and a PhD in English from the University of WisconsinMilwaukee. He has taught and lectured at numerous colleges and universities in the Midwest. His teaching, writing, and research recognition/awards include the Sam Walton fellowship (Illinois), the Gwendolyn Brooks Research/Graduate Assistantship (Illinois), the Cecile De Jongh Literary Award (shortlist/2016), and the 2017/2018 Newberry Scholar-in-Residence Award. His felds of interest include postcolonial and transnational theory, world literature, twentieth-century British and American literature, African diasporic literatures (African American, African, and Afro-Caribbean), creative writing (fction and poetry), and ecocriticism. His publications include the short stories collection Letter to Aisha and Other Stories and the poetry volumes Dance of the Heart (2007) and In the Company of the Muse (2015). He has also edited multiple anthologies of poetry and fction, including We Have Crossed Many Rivers (2013), Speaking for the Generation: Contemporary Short Stories from Africa (2010), Two Zulu Poets: BW Vilakazi and Mazisi Kunene (2015), and Echoes from the Mountain: New and Selected Poems by Mazisi Kunene (2007). His reviews, essays, articles, interviews, book chapters, and creative works have appeared in World Literature Today, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Black Issues Book Review, Chimuernga, Journal of Africology, Midwest African American Review, the Caribbean Writer, Issues and Trends in Special Education, and elsewhere.

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He is a member of the Humanities faculty at Harris-Stowe State University, St. Louis. Stacey Robinson is assistant professor of graphic design and illustration at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and is an Arthur Schomburg Fellow who completed his Master of Fine Arts at the University at Bufalo. His work discusses ideas of “Black Utopias” as spaces of confict resolution away from colonial infuence by considering black afuent self-sustaining communities, black protest movements, and the art movements that document(ed) them.

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Erik Steinskog, PhD, is associate professor of musicology in the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He holds Dr. art. in musicology from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU; 2002) with the dissertation “Arnold Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron: Music, Language, and Representation.” His current research includes Afrofuturism, African American music, and questions about music, race, gender, and sexuality. His recent publications include Afrofuturism and Black Sound Studies: Culture, Technology, and Tings to Come (2018), “Performing Race and Gender: Erykah Badu between Post-Soul and Afrofuturism” (2017), and “Analog Girl in a Digital World: Erykah Badu’s Vocal Negotiations of the Human” (2016). Toniesha L. Taylor, PhD, is department chair and associate professor of communication in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences in the School of Communication at Texas Southern University. Her research foci are in the areas of African American studies, religion, intercultural communication, gender communication, and digital humanities. She has cultivated her interest throughout her doctoral work at Bowling Green State University where she completed her PhD in communication studies with a focus on rhetoric in 2009. Taylor’s research, conference presentations, and publications speak to her diverse interest. Her recent research and conference presentations include discussions on womanist rhetoric as method and theory; practical social justice pedagogy for faculty and students; and digital humanities methods implications for activist recovery projects. Her recent publications include “Saving Sound, Sounding Black and Voicing America: John Lomax and the Creation of the ‘American Voice’” in Sounding Out!: Te Sound Studies Blog (June 8, 2015, http:​//sou​ndstu​diesb​log.c​om/20​15/06​ /08/j​ohn-l​omax-​and-t​he-cr​eatio​n-of-​the-a​meric​an-vo​ice/) and a coauthored essay with Amy E. Earhart titled “Pedagogies of Race: Digital Humanities in the Age of Ferguson” in Debates in Digital Humanities, 2016, edited by Lauren Klein and Matthew Gold. Sheree Renée Tomas is an award-winning author and editor. Her multigenre writing explores ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances and her editorial work uncovers a legacy of over a century of black science fction writing.

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Her collection Sleeping Under the Tree of Life was long listed and named a 2016 James Tiptree Jr. Award “Worthy” book and Shotgun Lullabies (2011) was described as “a revelatory work like Jean Toomer’s Cane.” Tomas’s Dark Matter volumes won two World Fantasy Awards for Year’s Best Anthology (2001 and 2005). Tomas was the frst black writer to receive the World Fantasy Award since its inception in 1975, and in 2017 she was named as the frst recipient of the L. A. Banks Award for Outstanding Achievement. She is the associate editor of the peer-reviewed historic journal Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora. She was the Lucille Geier Lakes Writer in Residence at Smith College and has been honored with fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation, the Katharine Bakeless Nason Scholarship for Bread Loaf Environmental, Te Millay Colony of the Arts, Wallace Foundation, VCCA, Ledig House, Blue Mountain Center, New York Foundation of the Arts, Poets & Writers, and the Tennessee Arts Commission. A multiple Pushcart-nominated author with honorable mentions in Te Year’s Best annuals, including the 2017 Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, her widely published stories and poems appear in the New York Times, ESSENCE, Apex Magazine, Harvard’s Transition, Callaloo, Strange Horizons, Sycorax’s Daughters, Memphis Noir, and Mojo Rising: Contemporary Writers. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Tomas studied at Rhodes, worked in publishing and curated arts programs in New York City, and now writes in her hometown. Her new story collection, Nine Bar Blues: Stories From An Ancient Future, is forthcoming 2020.

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Ebony A. Utley, PhD, researches how individuals negotiate interpersonal relationships. Her expertise has been featured on Te Oprah Winfrey Network as well as other radio, print, and online outlets. Additionally, Utley applies her research to technology product development and planning for social impact. She is the creator of Love Lines, an online relationship game and advisor for several intimacy technologies and organizations. As professor of communication studies at California State University Long Beach she also teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on intimacy, popular culture, and technology. tobias c. van Veen, PhD, is research fellow in media and cultural studies at the University of California Riverside. He holds doctorates in communication studies and philosophy from McGill University. His teaching and research address philosophy of race, sound, and technology in media theory and transnational cultural studies. He has published widely on the ethics and politics of posthumanism, Afrofuturism, sonic materialism, and electronic dance music cultures. Tobias is coeditor, with Reynaldo Anderson, of the “Black Lives, Black Politics, Black Futures” special issue of TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies (2018), editor of the Afrofuturism special issue of Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture (2013), and coeditor, with Hillegonda Rietveld, of the journal’s special issue “Echoes from the Dub Diaspora” (2015). A sound/media artist, flmmaker, photojournalist, and tactical turntablist since 1993, tobias has exhibited and curated interventions, events,

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and broadcasts worldwide, working with galleries and festivals from Montréal to NYC, and Amsterdam to Vancouver. He hosts the Other Planes: Speculative Cultures podcast on CreativeDisturbance.org, is creative director of sound-art label IOSOUND.ca, and broadcasts techno-turntablist mixes on soundcloud.com/ djtobias. An award-winning broadcaster and photojournalist, his creative and professional photography can be found on Instagram.

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Quentin VerCetty is an award-winning visual griot (storyteller) and art educator who knows no boundaries when it comes to his creative expression. His work builds of his Masters in art education thesis from Concordia University, exploring speculative narratives, like Afrofuturism, addressing issues of representation, immigration, decolonization, and other social and environmental issues through public art. VerCetty’s work has been in numerous academic journals, magazines, and a variety of publications including making contributions to the Cosmic Underground: A Grimoire of Black Speculative Discontent. His artistry has been showcased in countries on every continent such as Haiti, Peru, Ghana, Australia, the United Arab Empire, and France. His passion for artivism, using art as a tool for social change, led to launching the Canadian chapter of the Black Speculative Arts Movement (BSAMCanada) in 2016 and has since continued to spread it across the nation. Trough his work he hopes to engage minds and inspire hearts to help to make the world a better place not only for today but also for many tomorrows to come.

The Black Speculative Arts Movement : Black Futurity, Art+Design, edited by Reynaldo Anderson, and Clinton R. Fluker,