Persistence in Afrofuturist Cultural Production

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
MLA Forum: African since 1990
contact email: 

In outlining her presidential theme for the 2021 MLA Conference, Judith Butler writes of the precarity we face in the humanities and the vulnerabilities of human and nonhuman lives in the face of climate change and the “dominance of market values.” However, Butler’s outlook is not defeatist; her focus on persistence encourages reflections on alternative future possibilities centered on collective resistance and survival.

This panel, organized by the African since 1990 Forum, invites proposals investigating the relationship between persistence and Afrofuturism, a vision of the future that positions modes of resistance on the continent of Africa and throughout the African diaspora as central to humanity’s survival. Considering the historical attenuation of black life on the continent and around the globe by centuries of exploitation and oppression from slavery, Jim Crow laws, colonialism, neocolonialism, globalization, and other enduring forms of racism, vibrant manifestations of black life testify to the persistence of  people of African descent despite the horrors of racial violence they have suffered (Mbembe; Hartman; Sharpe; Moten). In other words, black people perfectly fit the profile that Butler details of those who persist because of their “endurance, survival, defiance, resistance, creating, and flourishing.”

We seek papers that explore the strategies of persistence in Afrofuturist cultural production. What Afrofuturist literature, films, visual art, performance, and new media represent black endurance? What are the possible points of connection and of tension between precarity and persistence? How might tensions be addressed or reframed? And what might be the limits of foregrounding persistence and potentiality in place of the increasing precarity of black life? We especially welcome proposals that bring a critical lens to Afrofuturism, that theorizes not only ways for black people to thrive but also future flourishing of the human race and the planet.

Prospective panelists should submit a 200-word abstract and one-page CV to Cajetan Iheka ( by March 15, 2020, with “MLA Panel” in the subject line.


We invite papers exploring how Afrofuturist literature, films, visual art, and new media represent black endurance. And what might be the limits of foregrounding persistence in place of the precarity of black life?