What is the Vision of Afrofuturism?

One way Afrofuturism challenges our understanding of knowledge production is through critical making, which artists Stacey Robinson and John Jennings describe as a methodological approach that insists that scholars and artists engage with broader critical and cultural conversation through the act of making. From an aesthetic perspective, contemporary Afrofuturism continues an established practice of black scholars and artists seeking to celebrate forms, shapes, and textures linked to the African Diaspora. The creation of black counterpublic space through artistic means has been and continues to be central to black speculative practice.

Defining blackness through freedom lies at the core of Afrofuturism's emphasis on speculation and liberation. Black speculative practice challenges colonial hierarchy rejecting oppression and alienation central to racism. Ytasha Womack, author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi Fantasy and Fantasy Culture, argues that Afrofuturism is a "way of seeing" that is "non-linear, fluid, and feminist" and that it offers a way for black people to "see ourselves in a better future." Her emphasis on Afrofuturism as a way of seeing is echoed in Alondra Nelson's introduction to the seminal SocialText issue on Afrofuturism (Summer 2002). Nelson's analysis made clear that the promised technoculture revolution linked to the internet would not be free of considerations of race or racism. She argued that technoculture vision depended on leveraging otherness and in the face of this challenge people of color need to employ new analytical tools to see black cultural production beyond the confines offered by white notions of progress. In her explanation of Afrofuturism, she recognized that a "community of thinkers, artists, and writers" sought to define a black technoculture past to imagine possible futures. The centrality of visual culture to this process should not be shocking. Visual narratives can dismantle hierarchies of power that marginalized blackness through images that disrupt expectations, affirm identity, or imagine something new. Afrofuturism's vision sums up a black counterpublic aesthetic that seeks to resist racist assumptions, promotes social justice, and offers the opportunity to visualize community.

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