Highlighted Selections from:

Further Considerations of Afrofuturism


DOI: 10.1353/ncr.2003.0021

Eshun, Kodwo. “Further Considerations of Afrofuturism.” CR: The New Centennial Review 3.2 (2003): 287–302. Print.

p.288: Imagine a team of African archaeologists from the future—some silicon, some carbon, some wet, some dry—excavating a site, a museum from their past: a museum whose ruined documents and leaking discs are identifiable as belonging to our present, the early twenty-first century. Sifting patiently through the rubble, our archaeologists from the United States of Africa, the USAF, would be struck by how much Afrodiasporic subjectivity in the twentieth century constituted itself through the cultural project of recovery. In their Age of Total Recall, memory is never lost. Only the art of forgetting. Imagine them reconstructing the conceptual framework of our cultural moment from those fragments. What are the parameters of that moment, the edge of that framework? -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.288: In our time, the USAF archaeologists surmise, imperial racism has denied black subjects the right to belong to the enlightenment project, thus creating an urgent need to demonstrate a substantive historical presence. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.289: To establish the historical character of black culture, to bring Africa and its subjects into history denied by Hegel et al., it has been necessary to assemble countermemories that contest the colonial archive, thereby situating the collective trauma of slavery as the founding moment of modernity. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.289: In an interview with critic Paul Gilroy in his 1991 anthology Small Acts, novelist Toni Morrison argued that the African subjects that experienced capture, theft, abduction, mutilation, and slavery were the first moderns. They underwent real conditions of existential homelessness, alienation, dislocation, and dehumanization that philosophers like Nietzsche would later define as quintessentially modern. Instead of civilizing African subjects, the forced dislocation and commodication that constituted the Middle Passage meant that modernity was rendered forever suspect. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.289: Because the practice of countermemory defined itself as an ethical commitment to history, the dead, and the forgotten, the manufacture of conceptual tools that could analyze and assemble counterfutures was understood as an unethical dereliction of duty. Futurological analysis was looked upon with suspicion, wariness, and hostility. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.289: For African artists, there were good reasons for disenchantment with futurism. When Nkrumah was deposed in Ghana in 1966, it signalled the collapse of the rst attempt to build the USAF. The combination of colonial revenge and popular discontent created sustained hostility towards the planned utopias of African socialism. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.290: Fast forward to the early twenty-first century. A cultural moment when digitopian futures are routinely invoked to hide the present in all its unhappiness. In this context, inquiry into production of futures becomes fundamental, rather than trivial. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.290: It is clear that power now operates predictively as much as retrospectively. Capital continues to function through the dissimulation of the imperial archive, as it has done throughout the last century. Today, however, power also functions through the envisioning, management, and delivery of reliable futures. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.290: In the colonial era of the early to middle twentieth century, avantgardists from Walter Benjamin to Frantz Fanon revolted in the name of the future against a power structure that relied on control and representation of the historical archive. Today, the situation is reversed. The powerful employ futurists and draw power from the futures they endorse, thereby condemning the disempowered to live in the past. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.291: Power now deploys a mode the critic Mark Fisher (2000) calls SF (science fiction) capital. SF capital is the synergy, the positive feedback between future-oriented media and capital. The alliance between cybernetic futurism and “New Economy” theories argues that information is a direct generator of economic value. Information about the future therefore circulates as an increasingly important commodity. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.291: Looking back at the media generated by the computer boom of the 1990s, it is clear that the effect of the futures industry—defined here as the intersecting industries of technoscience, fictional media, technological projection, and market prediction—has been to fuel the desire for a technology boom. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.292: Imagine the All-African Archaeological Program sweeping the site with their chronometers. Again and again, they sift the ashes. Imagine the readouts on their portables, indicators pointing to the dangerously high levels of hostile projections. This area shows extreme density of dystopic forecasting, levels that, if accurate, would have rendered the archaeologists’ own existence impossible. The AAAP knows better: such statistical delirium reveals the fervid wish dreams of the host market. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.292: If global scenarios are descriptions that are primarily concerned with making futures safe for the market, then Afrofuturism’s first priority is to recognize that Africa increasingly exists as the object of futurist projection. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.293: These powerful descriptions of the future demoralize us; they command us to bury our heads in our hands, to groan with sadness. Commissioned by multinationals and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), these developmental futurisms function as the other side of the corporate utopias that make the future safe for industry. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.293: For contemporary African artists, understanding and intervening in the production and distribution of this dimension constitutes a chronopolitical act. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.294: Afrofuturism, then, is concerned with the possibilities for intervention within the dimension of the predictive, the projected, the proleptic, the envisioned, the virtual, the anticipatory and the future conditional. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.298: By excavating the political moments of such vernacular futurologies, a lineage of competing worldviews that seek to reorient history comes into focus. In identifying the emergence and dissemination of belief systems, it becomes critical to analyze how, in Gilroy’s words, “even as the movement that produced them fades, there remains a degree of temporal disturbance.”

By creating temporal complications and anachronistic episodes that disturb the linear time of progress, these futurisms adjust the temporal logics that condemned black subjects to prehistory. Chronopolitically speaking, these revisionist historicities may be understood as a series of powerful competing futures that infiltrate the present at different rates. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.299: In The Last Angel of History, Tate argued that “The form itself, the conventions of the narrative in terms of the way it deals with subjectivity, focuses on someone who is at odds with the apparatus of power in society and whose profound experience is one of cultural dislocation, alienation and estrangement. Most science ction tales dramatically deal with how the individual is going to contend with these alienating, dislocating societies and circumstances and that pretty much sums up the mass experiences of black people in the postslavery twentieth century.” -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.302: To conclude: Afrofuturism may be characterized as a program for recovering the histories of counter-futures created in a century hostile to Afrodiasporic projection and as a space within which the critical work of manufacturing tools capable of intervention within the current political dispensation may be undertaken. The manufacture, migration, and mutation of concepts and approaches within the fields of the theoretical and the fictional, the digital and the sonic, the visual and the architectural exemplies the expanded field of Afrofuturism considered as a multimedia project distributed across the nodes, hubs, rings, and stars of the Black Atlantic. As a tool kit developed for and by Afrodiasporic intellectuals, the imperative to code, adopt, adapt, translate, misread, rework, and revision these concepts, under the conditions specied in this essay, is likely to persist in the decades to come. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014