Caroline D. Eckhardt Early Career Professor and Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature
Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow: The Aesthetics of Futurity in the Wake of Neoliberal Globalization
African writers have long made use of science fiction tropes to address political questions on the continent as well as in the larger world system. In Emmanuel Dongala’s “Jazz and Palm Wine” (1970; Republic of Congo), for instance, aliens land in Congo and the world is thrown into chaos; the story satirizes Cold War-era hierarchies of global governance while also tracing the experiences of recently-decolonized Africans and African Americans. Dongala uses the trope of alien arrival (and surprise departure) as the con
eptual break after which new possibilities might be imagined.
More recent speculative fiction by African writers—and, specifically, science fiction by migrant or diasporic African writers—turns attention to the rise of neoliberal globalization. These works move beyond the question of the break, and interrogate the notion of futurity as such. In the context of the twenty-first century, the very notion of a “future” will have to be rethought. This project builds on an earlier article, “Afronauts: On Science Fiction and the Crisis of Possibility” (Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry 3.3 ), and will focus primarily on two recent novels by the Nigerian-American writer Deji Bryce Olukotun, Nigerians in Space (2014) and After the Flare (2017). It is also one half of a larger project in collaboration with Matt Tierney, entitled “Present Futures and the Legacies of Afrofuturism: Speculative Fiction, Globality, Utopia.”