Valorie Thomas

"'Cut Me Up and Get Down': Black Women's Knowledge & (The Move To) AfroFuturist Abstractions"

Associate Professor of English/Africana Studies, Pomona College

What we now term “Afrofuturism,” despite recent acclaim from mainstream media and arts communities, has been inseparable from African and African Diaspora aesthetics and philosophy since the beginnings of African time. As Kodwo Eshun argues, the 1990s term Afrofuturism is “proleptic” insofar as it applies to previous cultural production as well as to the present and future. The label is relatively new and helps us consolidate certain ideas and practices, but those who practice within this ethos are firmly rooted in a lineage of Black intellectual innovation and often informed by indigenous critical perspectives. While mainstreaming often has the effect of turning meaning into coy spectacle or decontextualized entertainments, Afrofuturism holds African Diaspora knowledge and philosophical principles in place; it is an epistemological process that manifests across genres and so defies easy categorization. To regard Afrofuturism as empty embellishment is to miss its substance. ┬áThomas tracks specific streams of Black women’s critical commentaries enacted via Afrofuturism as a case in point; as a move toward decolonizing imagination and consolidated resistance to objectification, alienation and dissection.


This lecture is made possible through the Alexa Fullerton Hampton '42 Endowed Speaker Fund.


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