Monthly Archives: May 2017

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

Philharmonic.

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