Afrofuturism: Archive

I’m looking forward to my Twitter confab on Afrofuturism with students from the African American Literatures and Cultures Institute. My friend and colleague Howard Rambsy, who is a professor of English and director of the Black studies program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is teaching a module on African American fiction and theory.

I will be speaking about Afrofuturism in September at Parsons: The New School for Design and will be delving into related themes in a lecture at Columbia in October. So, I took Howard’s invitation to tweet with the Institute’s students as an opportunity to reflect on the project that I started in 1998. This process has included digging out my files. (Not as fun as digging through crates or thrifting, but pleasurable still). Is an Afrofuturism archive inherently retro-futurist?

Afrofuturism started as a message board (remember those days!) with me as the list moderator. I invited rotating guest moderators. DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid (aka Paul D. Miller) as the first guest moderator followed by Alexander Weheliye, Ron Eglash, Nalo Hopkinson and others. The list then migrated to a Yahoo group. In 2002 the project was converted into a special issue of the journal Social Text. UPDATE: Duke University Press has generously granted free access to the “Afrofuturism” issue through September.

This image is the 1998 postcard that I had created (designed by Chris Nojima) to announce the formation of the Afrofuturism online community.

I distributed these postcards at museums, universities, music venues and cyber-cafes (remember those spots!) in New York city. I carried these with me constantly, including when I traveled to conduct dissertation research in California, always leaving a few in my wake. I brought them when I traveled to Barcelona, London and Kingston in the late 1990s, among other places. My collaborators in the cultural collective Apogee, from which the Afrofuturism project originated, did the same.

The second set of images are pages from the program of Afro-Futurism Forum, a symposium I organized in 1999. This symposium was a featured program of the former Downtown Arts program and was funded with a small grant from The Peter Norton Family Foundation and LOTS of support from friends, teachers and fellow travelers (click below).

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2 Responses to Afrofuturism: Archive

  1. afrofuturismscholar says:

    Reblogged this on afro-futurism scholar and commented:
    Dr. Nelson’s work on Afrofuturism began in 2002 with a scholarly message board, and at some pont grew to a ground-breaking Affrofuturism Issue in Social Text (read her entire post to get access to it for $30, or at least the citation information for later retrieval at your local university library through Project Muse). Make no mistake: my own research on Afrofuturism owes much to the work and solid ground established by Dr. Nelson and others who came before me. I am excited to see what future/s emerge as we continue to innovate and explore–and imagine.

    • The message board actually began in 1998. The special issue of Social Text was published in 2002. Thank you so much for the work that you do, for extending the conversation!

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