Afrofuturism: Making Black Futures Visible in Literature and the Arts

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa

Afrofuturism: Making Black Futures Visible in Literature and the Arts


The future is a contested terrain and one that has of recent begun to be reclaimed from essentially economist-numerical perspectives by thinkers in the humanities (e.g. Appadurai 2013) and the arts, where it is both theorised and imaginatively constructed. The recent Afrofuturist imaginary is an increasingly noticeable field in these debates and manifestations, requesting as it does the envisioning of a future through an artistic, scientific, and technological Black lense. Afrofuturism is not a new term, but it seems to have broadened and developed in different directions, and an assessment of the term “Afrofuturism” in the 21st century seems essential for a better understanding of a Black future imaginary. Given that across the globe Black authors’ contributions to such genres as speculative fiction and science fiction are continuously expanding (e.g. Nnedi Okorafor, Nalo Hopkinson, Anthony Joseph, Bernadine Evaristo, Pauline Hopkins) such an assessment seems all the more called for.

Since the term was coined in the early 1990s (Dery 1994) the label ‘Afrofuturism’ has found a way into literary and artistic (popular) culture (e.g. Selly Raby Kane, Cyrus Kabiru, Osborne Machari) and is now undergoing first critical transformations that consider the multidirectionality of digital culture as an asset in the development of a complex Afrofuturist narrative (cf. Anderson/Jones 2016). However, this development raises questions about the state of Black visions of the future that precede the establishment of this terminology. How did Afro/European artists, authors, and thinkers envision the future prior to a (critical) Afrofuturist discourse? Which aesthetic approaches, traditions of knowledge, political or technological developments or visions have influenced literature and art that is/can be labelled as Afrofuturist?

While Afrofuturist imaginaries are interested in shaping, producing, and engaging with visions of the future, it seems that the diversity of scientific, literary, and artistic production past and present (cf. Womack 2013, Steinskog 2018) makes it difficult to establish a coherent Afrofuturist approach or even movement. This panel, therefore, invites contributions (20-minute papers or poster presentations) that 1.) illuminate the growing corpus of Afroeuropean engagements with the future in order to showcase the diversity of the forms and dimensions they take, 2.) provide critical reflections on diverse approaches to the term Afrofuturism and 3.) engage with African/Afroeuropean literature, art and futurist approaches throughout history.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

-       Theorising Afrofuturism in/for the 21st century: e.g. Afrofuturism, Afrotopia, ecocritical Afrofutures

-       Reading/case studies of Afrofuturist engagements: e.g. negotiations of space/time, medium and genre, narrative and artistic strategies, politics of representation

-       Black Europe and the future: Afrofuturist engagements with/in/beyond specific national/European settings/post-racial ideology

-       Histories of Afrofuturism: Transnational/alternative Modernisms, race and European avant-garde imaginaries

If you are interested in contributing to our engagement with Afrofuturism, please send abstracts of 300 words for a 20-minute paper or a poster presentation to Eva Ulrike Pirker ( and Judith Rahn ( no later than 15th March 2019. Please also include a short biographical note (approx. 50 words).


This panel will be conducted within the 7th Biennial Afroeuropeans Network Conference: "Black In/Visibilities Contested", to be held at ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, 4-6 July 2019.