Imagine Otherwise: André Carrington on Race in Science Fiction & Shifting Roles for Black Academics

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Imagine Otherwise: André Carrington on Race in Science Fiction & Shifting Roles for Black Academics

April 6, 2016 Podcast

What role does race play in imaginative literary genres like science fiction and fantasy? Can we broaden the confines of what we consider political and academic? How do Black creatives and intellectuals engage in the work of imagining otherwise?

In Episode 7 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach interviews guest andré carrington about how bringing Black representation to academia is a form of activism, why we should complicate our current understanding of popular culture and race, and what sustains him in doing his social justice work.

We invite you to check out the episode, as well as our highlights and show notes below.

Guest: andré carrington

  • andré carrington is an assistant professor of African American Literature at Drexel University. His first book, Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction (University of Minnesota Press) interrogates the cultural politics of race in the fantastic genres through studies of science fiction fanzines, comics, film and television, and other speculative fiction texts. andré’s writing has appeared in Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in SocietySounding Out!Callaloo, African & Black DiasporaJournal of the African Literature AssociationStudio magazine for the Studio Museum in Harlem, and books including A Companion to the Harlem RenaissanceThe Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Blackness in Comics and Sequential ArtRace/Gender/Class/Media 3.0, and Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call. In 2015, he co-organized the first-ever Queers & Comics international conference through CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies in New York. He teaches courses in African American and Global Black Literature, Black Liberation Movements, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Comics, Science Fiction, and Literary Theory. He’s also a birder.

We chatted about:

  • How blackness can disrupt dominant racial presentations in science fiction and fantasy (02:00)
  • The speculative fiction of blackness (09:00)
  • The integration of art, activism, and academia in andré’s work (11:30)
  • How bringing Black representation to academia is a form of activism (00:00)
  • How andré’s critical lens differs from a more common scholarly trend (21:00)
  • Imagining Otherwise (25:30)

Takeaways:

  • On collectively imagining otherwise through science fiction: “Even though we are living through spectacular moments right now, imagining the future as a part of African-American diasporic culture has always been part of the traditions Black people have developed.”
  • On the ways that Black creatives have always engaged in imagining otherwise: “Black creativity tries to imagine that the future will not be what the past has been and the future will not be what it is now.”
  • On the intrinsic motivation of activist work: “Even if it’s not always fun to do, there is a hope and a promise and a sustaining kind of vision that allows people to stay motivated doing that kind of work to imagine the future, even when it’s hard.”
  • On how andré’s approach to studying race and science fiction differs from the more dominant approach: “Racial marginalization is actually not like the subordination of certain kinds of culture. One of the ways that I wanted to [study] that is to draw attention to the fact that science fiction as a genre is both marginal and popular at the same time. There’s a tremendous amount of investment in it.”
  • On activism through Black representation in academia: “There are so few of us who are part of the mainstream, predominantly white institutions’ faculty. It’s not activist work to be a Black academic, but it’s a job that so few of us get to do and that so many more of us should get to do.”
  • On imagining otherwise: “[I imagine] a world in which the kind of work I do is more available to people who want to do it.”

More from andré:

Projects and people discussed:

About Imagine Otherwise:

Imagine Otherwise is a podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice, and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining and creating more just worlds. Check out full podcast episodes and show notes at ideasonfire.net/episodes. Imagine Otherwise is produced by Ideas on Fire, an academic editing and consulting agency helping progressive, interdisciplinary scholars write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds.

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About the author

Cathy Hannabach: Cathy is the president of Ideas on Fire, and loves helping progressive, interdisciplinary academics rock their careers and build the worlds they want to see.

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