“Possible Futures” and “Collective Fantasies” Reimagined:
Explorations into Changing Worlds in Afrofuturist Literature—A Roundtable
NeMLA 52 | Theme: Tradition and Innovation: Changing Worlds through the Humanities
March 11-14, 2021 at the Marriot Downtown in Philadelphia, PA
Throughout our global history, cycles of discrimination and oppression have directly impacted the Black community—a tradition particularly evident in the United States, from its participation in the transatlantic slave trade to the present inequities in the justice system, the perpetuation of the prison industrial complex, and more. These harmful traditions in many ways have rendered Blacks second-class citizens, challenging the founding principles upon which this nation was built while preserving a racial and socioeconomic hierarchy that threatens to both dehumanize and dispossess. Afrofuturist literature, however, attempts to explore counter-futures to the present condition, breaking down the barriers to Black advancement and constructing new worlds as well as new, Black-authored understandings of Blackness. Exploring these works is therefore a vital part of contemporary African-American studies and the inspiration for this roundtable to be held as part of the 52nd Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) convention in Philadelphia, PA.
Building upon the convention theme of “Tradition and Innovation: Changing Worlds through the Humanities,” this roundtable asks interested participants to examine the core philosophies of Afrofuturism and the texts that engage Afrofuturist themes in order to better understand how Black authors such as Octavia E. Butler, George Schuyler, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson, and others envision the deconstruction of systemic barriers to racial uplift through art, technology, and science in a world where Blackness is now celebrated instead of stigmatized, silenced, and ignored. Recognizing that, yes, “a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, [can] imagine possible futures” and engineer new “collective fantasies” (Dery), this roundtable, sponsored by Third Stone Journal (devoted to Afrofuturism, African-futurism, and other modes of the Black fantastic), intends to delve headfirst into the futuristic, the scientific, as well as the supernatural to discover what the world looks like when those barriers are swept away.
Please submit an abstract of no more than five hundred words for a ten minute presentation to Dr. Christopher Allen Varlack at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than Friday, September 4, 2020 for consideration. Remember that indicate any A/V needs and that panelists may only present on one session of each type, according to NeMLA’s presenter policies.
Christopher Allen Varlack, Ph.D. (He, Him, His)
Department of English
450 South Easton Road
Glenside, Pennsylvania 19038