Skawennati Aliens Assembled (I See You),machinimagraphs from the project, 2017.
Photo : with support of AbTeC, courtesy of the artist & Ellephant, Montréal

Indigenous Intemporalities and Performative Futurities

Anne-Marie Dubois
Deeply rooted in colonial culture, the Western conception of a future intrinsically dependent on a teleological and inviolable past and present undoubtedly influences our understanding of time. Following this linear and cumulative logic, the future would, to some extent, be hostage to our actions, even to our ability to imagine the future, determined and colonized as it is by history as written by the victors. Hence, the future would have no autonomy from the mistakes and prejudices of the past — a highly problematic vision for colonized peoples, as it reinforces their position of victim and therefore stifles any form of agency regarding their destinies.

Attempting to undo this knot are proponents of Afrofuturism, a multidisciplinary movement that crystallized at the turn of the 1990s in response to theoretical, political, and ultimately aesthetic lethargy. A hybrid object articulated around the notions of Africanness, civil rights, science fiction, and futurity, Afrofuturism is positioned as a philosophy of emancipation and free will, using an array of practices and knowledge precluded from modern Western thought. Although the term first gained critical traction following the publication in 1993 of Mark Dery’s article “Black to the Future,” in response to his students’ art production combining postcolonialism and new science and technology, such creative métissage emerged long before this postcolonial flood. Reynaldo Anderson, theoretician and cofounder of the Black Speculative Arts Movement, attributes the rise of “Black speculative thought”1 1 - « Black speculative thought » [trad. libre]. Anderson favours this umbrella term over “Afrofuturism.” Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones (eds.), Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Astro-Blackness (Minneapolis: Lexington Books, 2015). to the influence of Afro-American literature at the turn of the nineteenth century, including the works of novelist Pauline Hopkins and writer W.E.B. Du Bois. Their writings, resembling antiracist socio-political analyses, with subjects such as the foreigner, the machine, space, and a utopian future, take a critical and constructive look at the notions of difference, progress, territory, and agency. Picking up on their ideas, Afrofuturism envisages liberating decolonial alternatives to a future that can no longer be considered a simple and inevitable consequence of the past.

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This article also appears in the issue 100 - Futurity

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