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Course Description:

Afrofuturism is a black aesthetic practice that combines elements of African mythology, science fiction, African Diaspora history, magic realism and political fantasy in black expressive texts across multiple media and artistic forms. Rooted in the generalized practice of “imagining otherwise,” Afrofuturism expresses the concerns, experiences, and longings of black people throughout the African Diaspora. Considering such practitioners as W.E.B. Du Bois, Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Nalo Hopkinson, Wangechi Mutu, Wanuri Kahiu, Parliament-Funkadelic, and Janelle Monáe, this course analyzes the various ways in which African Diaspora cultural producers – writers, visual artists, musicians, and filmmakers – use Afrofuturism to critique racial asymmetries in the present and to imagine as-yet-unrealized, free black futures. Our investigation starts in the early twentieth century and proceeds into the current moment to trace the distinctive development, thematic concerns, and multi-dimensional genres of Afrofuturism. As we traverse the past century, we will attend to particular developments in Afrofuturism, including utopianism/dystopianism, Afro-pessimism and Afro-optimism, ecological and cyborg feminism, neo-slavery, and post-humanism. Particular attention will be paid to the ways that alternate notions of time, technology, communication, and mobility inform Afrofuturist politics, cultural knowledge, and aesthetic innovation. This class regards Afrofuturism as a black literary and cultural aesthetic that is profoundly engaged with questions of diaspora, sociopolitical asymmetry, technological development, communication systems, distant pasts and possible futures, and the very definition of who and/or what qualifies as human.

Professor Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman
Brandeis University

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