African/American: Afrofuturism

Spring 2018
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

Andrew Buchman
music composition
Kris Coffey
creative writing, historical fiction, ethnic american literature

Note: Kris Coffey will be joining the program in the latter part of the quarter.

"Space is the place." — Sun Ra

Afrofuturism is a literary and cultural aesthetic embraced by artists who have imagined alternative futures while often grappling with aspects of race, ethnicity, gender, (dis)ability, and class. Rone Shavers and Charles Joseph offered a critical working definition of the genre, first named by Mark Dery in 1993: "Afro-Futurism … combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and magic realism with non-Occidental (non-Western) cosmologies in order to critique not only the present-day dilemmas of people of color, but also to revise, interrogate, and re-examine the historical events of the past." Artists often listed in an Afrofuturist pantheon include authors Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler; visual artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Renée Cox; and musicians George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Sun Ra, DJ Spooky, and Janelle Monáe.

After laying the groundwork for explorations of these and other artists, we will ask students to help us address additional avenues for explorations of Afrofuturism, including race and digital culture; utopia, dystopia, and the "post-historical;" prostheses and the body; urban musics (drum and bass, garage, hip-hop, house, jungle, neo-soul, funk, dub, techno, trip-hop, etc.); interrogations of identity and identity politics; previous race-based art movements (e.g., the Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts Movement); Black liberation songs; superheroes, rebels, and comic books as contemporary folklore; film/video studies; and social and cultural implications.

Because the artworks we will encounter will be both exciting and provocative, we think that students will find this hard intellectual work deeply rewarding, sometimes in unexpected ways. We expect to learn from students and to share an intellectual adventure in an ever-evolving, engrossing artistic terrain. While research writing and criticism will be emphasized, students will also be encouraged to pursue optional creative writing and music projects for possible presentation to the entire program.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in: the humanities or the arts, especially creative writing and music

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$50 for admission to museums, concerts, and other similar venues. 

Scheduled for: Day

Located in: Olympia

Final schedule and room assignment:

2017-09-11Kristin Coffey joins the teaching team, replacing Joye Hardiman.