PAMLA 2021: The City in Afrofuturism

deadline for submissions: 
April 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
contact email: 

“Cities controlled by big companies are old hat in science fiction,” writes diarist Lauren Olamina in Parable of the Sower. Be it site of dystopian horror or utopian haven, The City in all its iterations serves speculative and science fiction in a variety of ways: as setting, plot device, character-in-itself, metanarrative reference point, all-purpose trope. Yet as metaphorical stand-in for ‘civilization’—and all that loaded signifier may entail—the city as trope may be all the more richly complicated within afrofuturism, allowing authors to ground their narratives in explorations of race, gender, class, and an entire array of intersectional complexities of human identity, community and social marginalization. As the meme-ification of a recent popular film demonstrates, the city in afrofuturism may even function as fourth-wall breakthrough, as call to power, as moral imperative, as cultural invitation to dream anew: “Wakanda forever!"

From W.E.B. Du Bois’ destroyed New York in “The Comet” to Octavia Butler’s privatized company-city in the Parable series, to both film and comic versions of Black Panther, the concept of the city has figured prominently in afrofuturistic texts of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. This session invites papers in English that explore the presence of the city and all its dis (or new) contents in afrofuturism. For our purposes, we’ll loosely define afrofuturism as a global aesthetic that spans all forms of the literary and artistic genres. Therefore, papers that focus solely on written texts are welcome; papers that include in their analyses more than one textual format are also encouraged. SUBMIT abstract by April 15 at: