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Diversity in the Stacks: Afrofuturism

Posted on by Nick Okrent

Today we launch a series of blog posts to celebrate the Penn Libraries’ Diversity in the Stacks initiative.  Diversity in the Stacks aims to build library collections that represent and reflect the University’s diverse population.  Our inaugural post highlights holdings related to Afrofuturism.

One of the most popular and actively researched sub-genres in academia today is Afrofuturism.  The term was coined in 1993 to denote the movement of African, African-American, and other Black diasporic writers, artists, musicians, and theorists who address issues of blackness and race through speculative and science fiction. (If you’re interested in learning about Afrofuturism more broadly, check out this .)

In 2018, Afrofuturism entered the pop-cultural lexicon because of major achievements in African-American filmmaking and literature. Ryan Coogler’s  enjoyed dramatic success at both the box office and awards ceremonies.  Also, became the first author to win the Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel for three consecutive years, with each of the three installments of her  Series garnering the award.

However, 2018 — and Jemisin’s achievement — was not wholly without precedent.  There’s a long history of black writers working in the genre of science fiction. For example W.E.B. Du Bois’s short story  imagines a post-apocalyptic world in which the sole survivors are a black man and a white woman. (For a cinematic version of a markedly similar story, see the 1959 film , starring Civil Rights activist Harry Belafonte.)

More recently,  wrote a series of groundbreaking works in the 60s, and in 1972 the MacArthur ‘genius’ Fellow  wrote the canonical .  Beginning in the 1980s, a steady stream of popular and critically acclaimed works were published by authors such as  .

Musical pioneers of Afrofuturism, particularly  and  brought Afrofuturist lyrics and imagery to jazz and funk. More recently, Beyoncé’s landmark album  体育竞猜推荐|广州体育职业and the works of , , , and  variously manifest Afrofuturist elements and sensibilities.

Afrofuturistic art is also represented in the collections of the Fisher Fine Arts Library.  contains images of work by artists such as Terry Adkins, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Wangechi Mutu, Angelbert Metoyer and others, and Fisher holds catalogs of exhibitions at which Afrofuturist work was shown.

Penn Libraries’ Franklin catalog is not readily searchable for fiction by theme, but some example of Afrofuturism are .  Scholars who are interested in exploring some of our more unusual holdings — including pulp fiction with original covers and rare comic books — may want to take a look at the   and at the , both located in the Kislak Center for Special Collections.

Below is a curated list of Penn Libraries’ holdings related to Afrofuturism:

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  • , catalog of the exhibit .
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Selection of Afrofuturistic books