Winner, 2019 Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History, given by the American Society for Theatre Research
Argues for a conception of black cultural life that exceeds post-blackness and conditions of loss
In Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life, cultural critic and historian Tavia Nyong’o surveys the conditions of contemporary black artistic production in the era of post-blackness. Moving fluidly between the insurgent art of the 1960’s and the intersectional activism of the present day, Afro-Fabulations challenges genealogies of blackness that ignore its creative capacity to exceed conditions of traumatic loss, social death, and archival erasure.
If black survival in an anti-black world often feels like a race against time, Afro-Fabulations looks to the modes of memory and imagination through which a queer and black polytemporality is invented and sustained. Moving past the antirelational debates in queer theory, Nyong’o posits queerness as “angular sociality,” drawing upon queer of color critique in order to name the gate and rhythm of black social life as it moves in and out of step with itself. He takes up a broad range of sites of analysis, from speculative fiction to performance art, from artificial intelligence to Blaxploitation cinema. Reading the archive of violence and trauma against the grain, Afro-Fabulations summons the poetic powers of queer world-making that have always been immanent to the fight and play of black life.
"To afro-fabulate is to listen to and know the ongoing history of anti-black racism, but also to rebuke it by telling another story. In showing us how artists and performers engage in this act of telling, Nyongo offers not only a compelling new way to think about works that challenge history, narrative, and truth, but also a method in which we might continue that work." ~Brooklyn Rail
"The imaginative power of Nyong’o’s words, his push to reimagine chronology and time through the optics of Blackness and his insistence on the intellectual stakes of Afrofabulatory ambivalence stuck with me, reminding me of the importance of the ephemeral, the everyday, and the speculative." ~Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal