The Languages of Afrofuturism


Abstract - Afrofuturism is a transdisciplinary cultural movement based upon the unusual connection between the marginality of allegedly “primitive” people of the African diaspora and “modern” technology and science fiction. At a first glance, Afrofuturism may sound like an oxymoron. “Afro” and “Futurism” are likely to be considered as terms in opposition, the former which used to evoke images of primitivism and backwardness, the latter – ever since F. T. Marinetti’s definition in 1909 – celebrating instead speed and modernity. It is precisely to challenge this assumption that Afrofuturism works on a metaphorical level to reject a number of clichés that have commonly referred to people of African descent. Using a wide range of different genres and media, the creative contribution of Afrofuturist writers, musicians, artists, filmmakers and critics challenges the stereotypical historical view routinely applied to the Black Atlantic experience and proposes counter-histories that reconsider the role of black people in the Western society in the past and imagine alternative roles in the future. The paper aims to consider the different languages of Afrofuturism: music (Sun Ra), visual arts (Basquiat), film (John Coney’s Space is the Place) and especially literature − proto-Afrofuturist fiction such as W. E. B. Du Bois’s short story “The Comet” (1920) and more recent examples such as Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) and Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred (1979).

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v12p83

Keywords: Afrofuturism; Black science fiction; African diaspora; Racism; Slavery


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