14:30 – Talk by Jenny Terry

Stars, Aliens and Rockets – Jenny Terry

Taking as an initial framework Kodwo Eshun’s definition of Afrofuturism as a political ‘program for recovering the histories of counter-futures created in a century hostile to Afrodiasporic projection’, I consider visions of futurity in literature and visual art that are shaped against the past exclusion of particular groups from narratives of ‘progress’ and modernity. Representations of space travel in African American culture are often tied up with attempts to stake a claim to the future, with addressing the dominant politics of race and technology, and with estranging encounters that enable a critical perspective on current social structures. Such concerns can be traced from the hopeful symbol of the North Star in accounts of flight from the slave South, to Sun Ra’s 1970s space mythology in music and film, to the extraterrestrial aspirations of ‘Earthseed’ in Octavia Butler’s Parable novels, to contemporary works invoking space imagery by visual artist Ellen Gallagher. My exploration of recent black diasporic imaginative engagements with movement and contact beyond the earth will focus primarily on the Space Race-era sci-fi references and collaged counter-futures of Ellen Gallagher’s art.

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