10:30 – Talk by Erik Steinskog

We Travel the Spaceways: Afrofuturist Space Programs

In the beginning of the 1960s, Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra recorded “We Travel the Spaceways,” with the lyrics “We travel the spaceways / from planet to planet.”  They seem to have left Earth behind for interstellar traveling. At the same time, back on Planet Earth, a number of Space Programs were working, with both USA and Soviet working to reach the moon. “The Space Age” is often understood as the time from the launch of Sputik 1 (1957), and “the Space Race” understood as the Cold War competition for control in outer space (time span from 1955 to 1972). Sun Ra’s musical oeuvre, beginning approximately simultaneously with both the Space Age and the Space Race, is often read related to this context. At the same time his ambitions are, arguably, much bigger, related to what he called, when lecturing at University of California, Berkley, “The Black Man in Cosmos.”

Taking Sun Ra’s Myth-Science as point of departure, this presentation will explore a number of afrofuturist space programs, from real life, fiction, and in-between. It is about the future, both as our future, as imagined futures, and as futures that never happened. And, of course, it is about the place for race in these different futures.

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