Welcome to the Pratt Institute Libraries' guide to Afrofuturism! This guide was inspired by the theme for BLM Pratt's 2021 Teach In: Black Futures & Utopias.
The term "afrofuturism" was coined by Mark Dery in his 1994 essay, "Black to the Future." In the piece, the term is defined as "speculative fiction that treats African American themes and addresses African American concerns in the context of the twentieth century technoculture—and, more generally, African American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future."
It's important to note that, although Dery's definition provided an official name for the work that Black writers and artists were doing within this genre, it does not define the full scope of where afrofuturism has been and where it's going. A more targeted and expansive definition by multi-hyphenated author Ytasha Womack best describes what afrofuturism is and how it functions.
"Afrofuturism is a way of looking at the future and alternate realities through a Black cultural lens. Black cultural lens means the people of the African continent in addition to the Diaspora, the Americas, Europe, etc. It is an artistic aesthetic, but also a kind of method of self-liberation or self-healing. It can be part of critical race theory and in other respects its an epistemology as well. It intersects the imagination, technology, Black culture, liberation, and mysticism. An an artistic aesthetic it bridges literature, music, visual arts, film, and dance. As a mode of self-healing and self-liberation, it's the use of imagination that is most significant because it helps people to transform their circumstances. Imagining oneself in the future creates agency and it's significant because historically people of African descent were not always incorporated into many of the storylines about the future."