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The Black Angel of History: On Afrofuturism’s Cosmos

Authors: Frederic Neyrat*, University of Wisconsin
Topics: Anthropocene, Social Theory
Keywords: Afrofuturism, Anthropocene, Technology
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Against the usual interpretation, which states that Afrofuturism is unreservedly technophilic (see Black Panther), in this talk I show that Afrofuturism is a radical critique of white technology. White technology (be it imperial, colonial, or capitalist) is an acosmic technology that rejects its belonging to the cosmos. The Space Age –as a colonial project—and what is now called New Space—private spaceflight industry aiming at exploiting asteroid resources—are perfect illustrations of what I call white technology and its Anthropocentric enthusiasm. Rejecting this colonial and exploiting technology, Afrofuturism –from the music and poems of Sun Ra to the paintings of Wangechi Mutu to the poems and activism of Alexis Pauline Gumbs—is first and foremost an attempt to use outer space not as a space open to conquest, but as a mediation, a stellar detour thanks to which our terrestrial condition could be politically and anthropologically rethought.
To explore this Afrofuturist stellar detour, I’ll first explain in which sense Afrofuturism contests the Anthropocene’s geocentrism. In a second moment, I’ll define the Afrofuturist “counter-futures” (Eshun) as a way to redeem the past and change the present. Finally, I’ll oppose Afrofuturism to Russian Cosmism: at odds with any geoengineering project, Afrofuturism conjures up an “epoch of being” (Heidegger) in which technology would be constantly inhabited by a form of Unheimliche, an uncanny that would definitively prevent human beings from considering technology as a way of mastering the Earth.

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