Afrofuturism is a “Speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth-century technoculture—and, more generally, African American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prothetically enhanced future”.
— Mark Dery, 1994, p 180
“Sci-fi authors have long used the genre to grapple with social problems, propose better futures, or to imagine society’s disastrous potential in dystopian worlds. Afrofuturism uses the genre to riff on experiences of the African Diaspora. Black artists address contemporary racism by imagining funkier, more colorful (in every sense), sci-fi futures. P-Funk is populated by transcendent “Afronauts, capable of funkitizing galaxies,” as Clinton has said. But the genre also features clashes with aliens, which serve as allegories for racism. Afrofuturism seems especially visible right now—and relevant as we muddle through the not-so-utopian realities of our so-called “post-racial” era.”
” Now part of what […] I see as the problem is the idea of anybody’s having to fight the fragmentation and multicultural diversity of the world, not to mention outright oppression, by constructing something so rigid as an identity, an identity in which there has to be a fixed and immobile core, a core that is structured to hold inviolate such a complete biological fantasy as race— whether white or black”
Samuel R. Delany, interviewed by Mark Dery, 1994
Below some citations on the article
‘Black to the Future: interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose’ by Mark Dery.
“[I]f all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” —George Orwell.
Science fiction as a genre deal with the ‘close encounter with the Other’ the stranger or the alien. Similarity with the African American situation, since the fact that this group of people, in a very real sense, are the descendants of alien abductees
What is afrofuturism?
Afrofuturism is a “Speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth-century technoculture—and, more generally, African American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prothetically enhanced future”. (Dery, p 180)
Dealing with racism and alienation in the context of the genre fiction.
SF is: continuing a vein of philosophical inquiry and technological speculations, the basic human desire to know the unknowable.
“Hiphop is ancestor worship” (Greg Tate). SF, like hiphop is a very sociohistorical genre.
“Digital music technology—samplers, sequencers, drum machines— are themselves cultural objects, and as such the carry cultural ideas.” (Tricia Rose, Dery, p212).
“I’m much more comfortable with, […] one of James Baldwin’s last rhetorical strategies, which he proposed in the preface to his collected nonfiction, The Price of the Ticket. The Baldwin wrote that is suddenly struck him that there were no white people—that is to say, “whiteness,” as it indicated a race, was purely an anxiety fantasy to which certain people had been trained immediately to leap […] whenever they encoutered certain other people whom they coded as black or nonwhite. In short, “white” is just something you, Mark Dery, have been socially convinced you are, out of a kind of knee-jerk fear, whenever you happen to glance in my […] direction.” (Samuel R. Delany, p 190)
Characteristic of science fiction: “didactic way in which instruction is given about the potential for catastrophe in a society when it’s members don’t pay attention to the path that either a new technology or an abberant life form may take. In that sense, SF parallels traditional mythology.” (Dery, p 208)
Afrofuturism as a metaphore for a vision of a new world.
Alien= the ‘Other’. It could be the one who abducts (e.g. the White slavetrader) or the one who is abducted ( e.g. the (descendant of) slave).
Technology is often brought to bear on black bodies (branding, forced sterilization, water hose, policedogs)
action=to encounter, colonise
This country (America, ed.) was founded n the systematic, concientious, and massive destruction of African cultural remnants.
SF needs a visionary landscape, somethimes post-apocalyptic, fantasy, space, new world.
SF is ‘imaginative leap’: putting human into an alien and alienating environment.
Adopting the persona of the robot (e.g. Afrika Bambaataa) is a response to an existing condition: namely, that they were labor for capitalism, that they had very little value as people in this society.