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#BlackPantherSoLit & more

Nothing brings a #blackademic back to the blog game like the trailer for the biggest movie of my Black-ass lifetime!

Over the past few weeks, between getting proofs for an article I’ve had in the works for a bit (let’s go ASAP/Journal) and seeing work I’ve done in print, it’s been a really great scholarly time!

You can read my article Spectacular Intimacies: Texture, Ethnicity, and a Touch of Black Cultural Politics in the “Black Scenes” issue of Souls journal (vol. 19, no. 2).

You can read my article Minor Miracles: Toward a Theory of Novelty in Aya of Yopougon in Lateral (vol. 6, no. 1), which features a special section on Cultural Studies and Intersectionality as Intellectual Practice! This piece has been in the works for some time, and it’s gone through quite a bit of reconsideration. I’m looking forward to seeing it put to use in Black and American Studies, queer studies, and comics studies.

Speaking of comics: Black Panther!

Wonder Woman, I’m really happy for you, and I’mma let you finish, but Black Panther is about to be the biggest superhero movie of all time–all time!

The lasso is one of the coolest and most original things about Wonder Woman

Good god

Like every Black nerd, I am contractually obligated to react to the Black Panther trailer. All I have to say is: YES. Yes to all of this.

Also, I saw some birds, and I’m reading some books.

Eastern Towhee!

Yellow Warbler!



Finally, here’s a preview of my summer reading. Check out Roy Christopher’s site soon to see what sound studies aficionados and other smarties are reading.  Continue reading

Golden State, Part 2

Stanford University

The Vulcan Science Academy. No, I’m kidding, it’s Stanford.

Last month I was in California for some super cool collaborations and intellectual exchanges: the Queers & Comics conference, which I recapped via twitter and this post, and the Interdisciplinary Working Group in Critical Theory (!) at Stanford. Also: birds! First of all, here are the birds I saw at Lake Merritt, in Oakland…

Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe

A Western Bluebird!

A Western Bluebird!

Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant

Western Grebe

Western Grebe

Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup–at least I think so

Before getting to the birds I saw at the Arboretum in Palo Alto, I guess I should talk about the research I shared with Stanford’s faculty & graduate students: on the vision of the future presented in Star Trek. This is the subject of a chapter in Speculative Blackness, but it’s also been on my mind in recent months as I’ve traveled the country and participated in the Penn Humanities Forum on Translation. I’ve settled on a framing device (a set of several framing devices, actually) for some topics that I don’t explore in-depth in the book. These topics–time travel and the nature of intelligent life–are central to my interpretation of how race operates on a world-historical scale, but I hadn’t quite found appropriate imagery to connect them until recently. Fortunately, some of those connections have emerged in the conversations I’ve been privileged to have, recently. In short, I think the role of Uhura as Communications Officer is more important than we’ve considered in the past, in part because she embodies the practice that’s enabled by one of the fantastic technologies envisioned in Star Trek‘s utopian future: the Universal Translator. From the perspective of literary & cultural studies, I think the Universal Translator is as significant to SF as superluminal space travel.

There’s a whole bevy of Afrofuturist epistemologies entangled with this line of inquiry, and I’m working to articulate how sound, intelligence, universalism, and time are figured through Nichols’s performance and the concept I call the Speculative Fiction of Blackness. I first spoke about these ideas in Tennessee, at the Futures of Afrofuturism Symposium, and I’m trying to carry them forward.

Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, NASA recruiter, popular science advocate

The Universal Translator

Anyway, back to the birds! Here are some of the locals in Palo Alto.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird. Not pictured: Anna.

Steller's Jay

Steller’s Jay!

Acorn Woodpeckers

Acorn Woodpeckers

California Towhee

A California Towhee?

Western Bluebird

That Western Bluebird!


The Golden State, 1 of 2


Among other things I learned from my excursion to the Golden State, really good coffee and really nice weather can make people more pleasant and attentive. At least, that’s the effect the conditions had on me. This level of attentiveness was valuable, since I found myself scheduled for major intellection in the space of a week. First, Queers & Comics! Then, the Working Group in Critical Theory at Stanford! Special thanks to Philz Coffee for being delicious, and shoutout to the Clipper card–it’s really cool to be able to travel on multiple transit systems in multiple cities within a region. Public transit is my jam. This post is part 1 of 2.

Friday & Saturday April 14th and 15th saw the second successful (yeah I said it) Queers & Comics international conference at California College of the Arts. Whereas, last time, as a Board member of CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies, I was involved in every aspect of the planning, this time, my role was basically backup. It’s pretty awesome to see something you worked to bring about go on existing autonomously, in the world! I did some initial vetting of proposals, consulted with the Program Committee, and helmed the Twitter account for the conference this time around. You’ll see from the tweets that this involved a whole lot of hype and celebration, because the accomplishments of everyone who pulled this off are truly impressive. Rather than recap the conference here, I can say with some confidence that the @QueersComics timeline from those dates represents things well. The good people behind San Francisco’s own Queer Comics Expo covered a lot of ground at the conference, too.  Continue reading

Sound off!

My cartoon characters are real! What a week.

Went to Tennessee for the first time and did #Afrofuturism with the best: Michelle Commander, Amy Elias, Nettrice Gaskins, Tiffany Barber, Scott Heath, Alessandra Raengo, Michael Bennett, and Jonathan Eburne. And Nnedi Okorafor!

We’re gearing up to take this show on the road with a roundtable at next year’s MLA. Stay tuned. Shared references to John Akomfrah and the Black Audio Film Collective let you know this symposium was the real deal.

I decided to go with a theme that I haven’t treated in detail in much of my writing for the purpose of this gathering: time travel. We’re always talking about the way Black life resists linear time, right? I decided to put on paper what I’ve been thinking about why that is, from my teaching and my encounters with the more brilliant interpreters of astrophysics & quantum physics in the Afrofuturist continuum, and the result was a meditation on Kindred, entropy, and the relationship between the Arrow of Time and the Door Of No Return.

I can’t even explain how cool my new in-person colleagues are. But let me point out that Nnedi Okorafor is the truth. I need to hurry up and read Binti: Home. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: we welcomed Jennifer Stoever to campus for a rousing discussion of sound studies, radio, and race in American literature & culture. 

The Sonic Color Line: Get Into It! In addition to bringing out my students & colleagues, the occasion really elevated my burgeoning collegiality with a leading thinker in a field that needs new energy (and is fortunate to have it in some quarters), and I hope I can meet the challenge. I’m more committed than ever to sound studies, in part because it will be a departure from the long-term project on which I’ve spent the last decade. But not too much of a departure! The thing about sound is, it’s a medium, and it works through a medium. It’s an ideal venue to work out the future of Afrofuturism, if you will, and I am really glad I can spend however long it takes to investigate race, genre, and radio drama. (Also, check out this awesome candid shot below.)

Tennessee, Tennessee

Next weekend I’ll be at the Futures of Afrofuturism Symposium at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville! This is going to be off the chain, off the surface of the planet, off the gravitational pull of the Earth/Moon system…

The event is bringing together some really essential voices. First of all, Michelle Commander and Amy Elias, am I right? I’m looking forward to meeting Amy and Jonathan Eburne in part because I have something coming out in a special issue of ASAP/Journal. I had the good fortune of meeting Michelle at MLA in Philly (everybody was here) but I’ve never met Alessandra Raengo, either. So this is basically everything.

Let me say a word about Nnedi Okorafor–wait, no, a picture says a thousand words. From the UTK Humanities Center website:

Nnedi Okorafor is an associate professor of creative writing and literature at the University at Buffalo. An acclaimed novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for children and adults, she is the author of several award-winning books, including Akaka Witch (an Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), Chicken in the Kitchen (winner of Children’s Africana Book Award for Best Book for Young Readers), and the space opera novella Binti (winner of the Nebula and Hugo Awards for Best Novella). Binti: Home was published in January 2017, and Okorafor’s young adult novel Akata Witch 2: Akata Warrior will be released this fall.

I will be talking about where Queer Studies meets Afrofuturism, a relationship I’ve been revisiting lately, ever since I managed to think about anything other than Speculative Blackness. Some things within the book lead into this discussion, so stay tuned!

Creating Black Futures! video

As part of Mx’d Messages, the 2017 Live Ideas festival at New York Live Arts, I took part in a panel discussion on Creating Black Futures. It was engrossing, as you’ll see for yourself! Our moderator was the brilliant and talented Reina Gossett (recently Activist-in-Residence at the Barnard Center for Research on Women, Happy Birthday Marsha. Here’s the video (via Facebook Live!)
Onstage (left to right): Reina, Kimberley Drew (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Black Contemporary Art), me, Niv Acosta (dancer, sculptor, performance artist), E_Jane (Mhysa).
One think you’ll probably notice is that Bill T. Jones (legend) started the Q&A in a pretty ebullient fashion, and our crosstalk was the focus of conversation until the end. Across the board, though, the panel really showcased how some Black and queer futurists are getting free in these dystopian times. I’m grateful to be in the company of people who are thinking and embodying the future I want the most. I may come back to this post to annotate.
I joined to hang out at the Whitney Biennial opening for like 30 minutes, but I had to get back to Philly to bring the dog home and teach on Thursday #priorities. Kind of a perfect New York experience in the space of 6 hours, right? Check out the trailer for Live Ideas 2017 to see what else the brilliant Mx. Justin Vivian Bond planned around the theme of moving across binaries: Mx’d Messages.


I’m my own AV Club!

Starting soon, I’ll be curating links to the audio and video interviews I’ve done over the past couple years on Speculative Blackness and other topics. Here’s the first of many: the interview I just recorded with James Stancil for New Books Network African American Studies channel!

Enjoy, and thanks for checking it out!

It’s Yourz the world in the palm of your hand

I have good news, and I have bad news. The bad news is largely the same as it’s been since 1492. The good news? Moonlight! Mahershala AliQUEEN VIOLA!

And this! my conversation with Mark Anthony Neal for Left of Black, following close on the publication of a review of Speculative Blackness on your new favorite blog, Black Perspectives.

And this:

That’s from the review of Speculative Blackness in Science Fiction Studies! And there’s more where that came from.

Speculative Blackness has been reviewed in The Future Fire, CHOICE, and Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society recently… and a review is in the works in African American Review! Not to turn this into the Speculative Blackness blog, but let’s keep it a buck–this book is the biggest of big deals.

And now, a musical interlude, in which Remy Ma reminds us why we need to abolish prison–see, if Nicki had never said “Free Remy,” we might have peace in these rap streets today…

South to the Future

I had the sincere pleasure of visiting Durham, NC for the first time to be a keynote speaker for a symposium at Duke University–Black Is, Black Will Be: On Black Futures. I got to share keynote duties with my esteemed colleague Dr. Regina Bradley, spend some time with Dr. Mark Anthony Neal (hardest working man in showbiz, right?) and take part in a two-day dialogue among faculty, students, and community members holding down the African & African American Studies Department. (There were also burgers and beer, because of course.)



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Greetings from Hoth! #mla17

The first big development of 2017 is the MLA conference which is taking place in Philadelphia. It’s excellent to attend a major conference without having to travel. However, this does entail regular turn-arounds in the neighborhood to walk the dog.

Actual photograph from Philadelphia.

The panel I participated in was Graphic Queer/Queer Graphics: Seriality and Sexuality in Graphic Form. It was organized by my esteemed colleague, Dr. Ramzi Fawaz, author of The New Mutants, one of the leading lights in queer & comics studies. I presided on the panel, giving me the honor of introducing these awesome scholars to our assembled peers. Something notable about our presentations: we all utilized the scholarship of José Esteban Muñoz, and several of us are fellow travelers of Queers & Comics.

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