The Queer Drama of Black Life
20 black and white illustrations
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, Nyong’o 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.”
“In this prodigious study of performances of the ordinary and the everyday, Tavia Nyong'o expands our horizon of the possible. For Nyong'o, Afro-fabulation is a critical poetics of black life. The book's extended engagement with insurgent movement and upheaval, transmutation and plasticity is both breathtaking and surprising. Cognitive science, particle physics, queer and trans theory, and black radicalism enjoy intimate company within its pages. Afro-Fabulations is a dazzling and matchless performance.”
—Saidiya Hartman, author of Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route
“Afro-Fabulations brings virtuosic critical energy and powers of synthetic and figurative attention to the tense-queering performance of black shadow archives. It’s a stunningly generous book both in the time it takes to draw time out toward the fabulously reparative dimensions of its aesthetic objects and its capacious philosophical and critical engagements. A committed visionary and undefensive work of critical art.”
—Lauren Berlant, author of Cruel Optimism
“Afro-Fabulations helps us identify the uncanniness of black queer life and performance. In it, Tavia Nyong’o shows us how black queer artists and performers daily conjure new worlds and new possibilities and in doing so leverage their creative powers to transport us to the beyond of anti-blackness. This book is nothing less than an archive of oppositional fabulousness.”
—Roderick A. Ferguson, author of Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique
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