RELG 047. Afro-Futurism: Astral Mythologies of Creation and the Afterlife

(Cross-listed as ENVS 057 )
In his 1974 film Space is the Place, avant-garde jazz musician Sun Ra announced his mission to rescue Black earthlings and shuttle them in his spaceship to the safety of a newly-discovered planet: "I come to you as a myth. Because that's what black people are, myths. I come to you from a dream that the black man dreamed long ago." In many ways, Sun Ra's prophecy parallels variants of the Dogon creation myth of Mali, West Africa (recorded in the 1940s) that details the fateful voyage of the Nommos demiurge deities, who traveled to Earth in a sky vessel from a planetary point of origin some observers speculate may orbit the Sirius star system.  

Through primary and secondary readings, interactive classroom activities, and multimedia sources -- including a bevy of music and film recordings -- this course investigates Afrofuturism as a radical imaginary within the broader corpus of Black Astral Mythologies. By tracing a throughline between topics such as 16th-century astronomical observations at the University of Timbuktu, U.S. Underground Railroad fugitive navigations according to the 'North Star,' and recent cosmogonic speculation by quantum physicists into the elusive nature of Dark Matter, students will consider this premise: when the safe harbor of the earth no longer offers itself as habitation, Blackened celestial futures constellate the cosmic horizons. 

Possible field trip to the House of Future Sciences, headquarters of the Philadelphia collective AfroFuturist Affair.
1 credit.
Eligible for BLST, ENVS
Fall 2021. Padilioni.
Catalog chapter: Religion  
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