Graduate Course Description

350:655 - Black Futures

Course No: 350:655
Index # - 05785
Distribution Requirement: A5, C, D
Thursday - 1:00 p.m.
MU 113

Black Futures

Carter Mathes

This course offers a trans-historical, diasporic meditation on the question of Black futurity. We will focus on the concept through an afro-futurist framework that 1) emphasizes visions of Black life in connection with ideas of the fantastic, science fiction, magic, spirituality, and the supernatural; and 2) considers how writers, musicians, visual artists, and spiritual practitioners have sought to imagine a future outside of the evolving confines of white supremacy. The idea of Black freedom as both always forestalled and as a present vision of future possibility deeply marks past and ongoing (re)constructions of Black hemispheric ontology through the United States and the Caribbean. Our course will consider how lived experiences of Black (non-)being through chattel slavery and its aftermaths have necessitated distinct ways of experiencing and knowing one’s world(s), and how those modes of perception have been expanded through explorations of alternate modes of temporality, cosmology, and phenomenology.

The course will explore these ideas primarily through the work of African American and Black Caribbean artists and practitioners, but we will also consider how contemporary African artists have responded to these conditions and possibilities from a different African diasporic location/positionality. We will examine 19th century slave narratives and manifestos; early 20th century accounts of spiritual conversion and science fictional speculation; as well as Black surrealism and later 20th and early 21st century engagements with Afro-futurism. Our course materials will include creative and theoretical work from writers, artists, musicians, and theorists such as: Harriet Jacobs, James Weldon Johnson, Wagechi Mutu, Pauline Hopkins, Alice Coltrane, Leonard Howell, Aimé Césaire, Sun Ra, Dilman Dila, Moor Mother, Marlon James, Martin Delany, W.E.B. DuBois, Erna Brodber, Joseph Jarman, Charles Burnett, Shabazz Palaces, Deji Olokotun, Jheanelle Brown, Frankétienne, Sanford Biggers, Masiyaleti Mbewe, John Akomfah, Geri Allen, Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, Zakkiyah Jackson, Arthur Jaffa, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Hortense Spillers, Alexander Weheliye, Fred Moten, Christina Sharpe, Walter Benjamin, Giorgio Agamben, Ron Judy, Jacques Derrida, Kahlil Joseph, Calvin Warren, C. Riley Snorton, Simone White, and others.

Requirements: regular attendance and active engagement, willingness to consider ongoing research interests in connection with the course, blog posts and replies, multi-stage research and writing project including—1) annotated bibliography, 2) short essay (8 pages) and presentation of it as a building block towards a 3) substantial critical essay (20-25 pages).