Androids, Shape Shifters, and Vampires: Black Women’s Afrofuturist Feminist Cultural Productions
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When Afrofuturist soul singer Erykah Badu calls herself “an analog girl in a digital world,” she is underscoring not only her connection to a pre-digital sensibility, but also her status as an outsider within mainstream American culture. Nevertheless, Badu’s brand of futurist music, fashion, and politics troubles her claim to a wholly “analog” identity and suggests that she has a complicated relationship to the intersections of technology, normative notions of progress, and human relationships. This talk argues that Badu, alongside other artists and writers such as Janelle Monáe, Alice Smith, Octavia E. Butler, and Tananarive Due navigate complex relationships to futurism and remix tropes from science fiction, fantasy, and horror in popular culture and literature in ways that both push back against dominant futurist discourse and expands the possibilities for Black women’s understandings of themselves and their places in the world. Indeed, I see these women’s various cultural productions as part of an epistemology I understand as afrofuturist feminism. Afrofuturist feminism is a way of knowing and moving through the world that is a strategy for naming and navigating complicated and often vexed histories and visions of the future, one that places people of color at the center and is fundamentally interested in transgressing conventional systems of power and dominance. Looking at the work of the aforementioned artists and writers, my analysis pays particular attention to Black women’s engagement of Afrofuturist feminism in mapping out spaces for vivid and robust expressions of Black women’s sexuality and intimacy.