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Afronatures and Afrofutures: Speculation, Technology, and Environment in African Literature and Film (MLA 2018)

deadline for submissions:
March 15, 2017

full name / name of organization:
Dustin Crowley / Association for the Study of Literature and Environment

contact email:

Afronatures and Afrofutures: Speculation, Technology, and Environment in African Literature and Film // MLA 2018, New York City, January 4-7 // Panel arranged by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment

Science fiction and speculative fiction have a rich tradition of engaging environmental concern. Using the distance of other worlds and futures, these genres often reflect and refract the human-nature relationship, interrogating and critiquing discourses of otherness and belonging, and projecting the environmental consequences of unchecked war, technology, capitalism, and so on. Similarly, Afrofuturism and other forms of African science/speculative fiction challenge histories and contemporary practices of black marginalization by drawing on and reimagining black history, culture, mythology, cosmology, and more to “build new worlds” and pose alternative futures and possibilities. In his review of Wanuri Kahiu’s 2010 film Pumzi, Matthew Durkin sees environmentalism and Afrofuturism coexisting “to produce an indictment of unrestrained material consumption and its physical effects upon the natural world” (African Studies Review 59.1, April 2016). Yet important questions and potential tensions remain in bridging these fields and genres, including Afrofuturism’s privileging of technology and urbanity and science fiction’s strains of imperialist fantasy and universalization through a planetary scale.

This panel invites papers on African science/speculative fiction and/or Afrofuturism in literature and film as it engages with environmental concerns and discourses. We are particularly interested in projects that explore how these genres might productively challenge and expand each other, reimagining relations of place and belonging, human-nature relationships, the scales and structures of agency and activism, and the centrality of Africa within environmental discourse and practice.

Topics may include (but are not limited to):

Negotiating Afrofuturism’s focus on urbanity/built environments and technology with other discourses of environmentalism
The convergence of myth/folklore and science/technology in the literature’s environmental representations
Challenges to the universalism of environmentalist and Anthropocene discourses
Reconfigurations of animals, agency, and the category of the “human” in African science/speculative fiction
Challenges to the imperialist thrust of science fiction through recentering of Africa and reimagining of colonial/neocolonial histories of environmental and ecological degradation
Send a 250-word proposal and CV to Dustin Crowley, Assistant Professor of English at Rowan University at Deadline for submissions is March 15, 2017.