Redefining the colonial: An Afrofuturist analysis of Wakanda and speculative fiction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The world of Wakanda, as depicted in the film Black Panther (2018), provided an opportunity for viewers to bask in the glorious scenes, heroic drama, Black feminist power, and guile of an African world bordering on the fantastic. Starving audiences seeking Black filmic culture eagerly settled for Wakandan fantasy - based on the filmmaker's magnificent achievement to build a fanciful and engaging vision for Black viewers and comic-book aficionados alike. It was a significant relief to enjoy Black Panther, even with its errant vision of thuggish conflict by an anti-hero whose rationale for sharing Wakandan technology to save Africans in the diaspora made sense - though his violent demand for war-like resolution did not. It was also an unfortunate plot line to make a white CIA agent a hero, or to depict the United Nations as the platform for peacefully bringing Wakanda to light. But these are side issues to the main conceptual framework, and dilemma, presented by the film: What does a modern African nation look like, if it has not been created though colonialism? Can African-Diasporic art, culture, language, music and cinematography provide a foundation for envisioning a "Wakandan" world that is neither utopic nor dystopic? How do we redefine Afro- Diasporic possibility, existing outside of colonial, neocolonial and postcolonial imaginations? While addressing such issues, we should not belittle Black Panther's global cinematic accomplishment, but instead seek to deploy Afrofuturist analytics to narrowly examine two questions: How does an imaginary realm of the African world - untouched by colonialism - affirm Black genius and futurity to enable current generations to deprogram ourselves and combat anti-Black racism? And, how can Black speculative fiction re-fashion a de-colonial space beyond Wakanda, in the current nation-states and community places within which Afro-diasporic peoples struggle daily for sustenance, power, and joy? Using the complex array of Afrofuturist and global Pan-Africanist analyses provided by theorists such as Eshun (2003), Anderson and Jones (2015), Mudimbe (1988), and futurists such as Inayatullah (2008), Sardar (2009), and Gatune (2010, 2011), this essay examines how Wakanda exists within colonial spaces and how Black speculative fiction (as well as the Black Panther film itself) depend upon a de-colonial imagination for sustenance and legibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-28
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Futures Studies
Volume24
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

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Keywords

  • African-Diaspora
  • Afrofuturism
  • Black panther
  • Black speculative fiction
  • De-colonialism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Development
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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