By Howard Rambsy II
Afrofuturism (AF), as it was thought of in the late 1990s and early 2000s, is a critical approach that examines convergences between technology or speculative narratives and Black culture.
The term “afrofuturism” was coined in 1993 by Mark Dery, and in 1998, Alondra Nelson founded and facilitated a listserv that explored possibilities for the concept. “AfroFuturism has emerged as a term of convenience to describe analysis, criticism and cultural production that addresses the intersections between race and technology,” wrote Nelson. “Neither a mantra nor a movement, AfroFuturism is a critical perspective that opens up inquiry into the many overlaps between technoculture and black diasporic histories.”
Participants on the listserv discussed technological devices, music production, nerds and geeks, computer programming, science fiction, innovative artists, and science. They covered those topics with an emphasis on Black people and culture.
An Afrofuturist studying novels might raise an array of questions: What does the composition reveal about African American engagements with technology or speculative narratives? How does the work portray, interrogate, or situate black nerds or African American scientific thinkers, and what do such portrayals imply about black interactions with technology, science, or ingenuity? What does the design of the novel indicate about its operation, and in what ways does the composition link to networks of related works?