Call for Papers: Teaching Afrofuturism: Race, Erasure, and Corona

This cluster issue of Radical Teacher, “Teaching Afrofuturism: Race, Erasure, and Corona,” seeks innovative essays, poems, personal narratives, and creative non-fiction on teaching Afrofuturism as a means to counter various forms of Black erasure, including but not limited to literal, representational, and material erasure(s), during coronavirus. Radical Teacher, founded in 1975, is a socialist, feminist, and antiracist journal dedicated to the theory and practice of teaching. It serves the community of educators who are working for democratic process, peace, and justice. The magazine examines the root causes of inequality and promotes progressive social change. We publish articles on classroom practices and curriculum, as well as on educational issues related to gender and sexuality, disability, culture, globalization, privatization, race, class, and other similar topics. Radical Teacher is a peer-reviewed journal.


COVID19 has drastically changed students’ relationships to their course materials. This is especially true for courses that center Black experiences. Nationally, due to structural racism, African-Americans are being disproportionately impacted by coronavirus, with high levels of infection and death rates. According to the Economic Policy Institute, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) also make up the majority of essential workers in key industries, like food services, agriculture, security, and residential facilities, making them more likely to experience exposure and less likely to receive proper medical care. Globally, the continent of Africa was the least effected by COVID19; yet, global responses did not reflect this reality. In China, for instance, African students were accused of being “COVID- carriers” and were evicted from their flats, ousted from their respective University, and left stranded on the streets. At the same time, in order to erase Chinese solidarity with U.S. BLM protestors, a major Chinese media outlet intentionally mistranslated an IndieWire article covering BLM protests. Meanwhile, medical professionals in European nations bluntly suggested that people of African descent be used as guinea pigs for COVID19 vaccine testing, as proffered by French physicians Drs. Jean-Paul Mira and Camille Lochte.


These incidents demonstrate how, in both the national and global imagination, Blackness remains disposable. This perceived disposability of Black bodies harkens back to America’s long history of using Black people as medical test subjects, from Dr. John Marion Simms, the father of gynecology who forcedly experimented on enslaved Black women, to Johns Hopkin’s University medical teams, which illegally harvested cells belonging to Henrietta Lacks, to ICE’s (alleged) forced sterilization of BIWOC immigrates. Correspondingly, China’s decision to expel Africans mirrors Hungary’s anti-Black immigration policies and that country’s recent attempts to use its borders to prevent Black students from traveling throughout the EU. Restricting the movements of Black bodies is not a new phenomenon and can also be found in America’s recent past, where city officials in Gretna, Louisiana blocked the road leading to New Orleans in order to deny Hurricane Katrina evacuees access. These incidents illustrate how the past continue to reinscribe itself in the present while simultaneously charting a path toward the future. In this way, COVID19 makes plain how the future is now and we must ask ourselves, what might it hold for Black people?

Broadly speaking, Afrofuturism is a genre of literature, art, and film that takes up science fiction elements to narrate Black culture and history. Derek Bell’s short story (1992) “The Space Traders” is often cited as the quintessential Afrofuturistic text, even though the term “Afrofuturism” was not coined until two years later, in 1994, by Mark Dery in his seminal article “Black to the Future.” This is not surprising because an “Afrofuturistic” aesthetic, if not the genre as such, was well underway prior to the 1990s, as seen in the works of Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Ishmael Reed, Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. Scholars like Tricia Rose, Greg Tate, Alondra Nelson, and Isiah Lavender respective works examine how Afrofuturism reinvigorated our imagination regarding how Black people and culture(s) would and could exist in a technologically advanced future.

Radial Teacher invites scholars to embrace the dynamic nature of Afrofuturism and submit works that demonstrate its power to influence and shape a future of Black agency and self-actualization by countering erasure. To this end, we ask authors to consider using Dewitt Douglas Kilgore’s view of Afrofuturism, as an aspirational “cultural force, an episteme that betokens a shift in our largely unthought assumptions about that histories matter and how they may serve as a precondition for any future we may imagine” as a launching pad. We welcome innovative essays, poems, personal narratives, and creative non-fiction that use a range of theoretical and empirical frameworks to address the following:


o What are the radical politics of Afrofuturism that show up in your teaching that can be used to counter erasure? How might we teach Afrofuturism to address historical, cultural, and/or literary erasure?
o How do you incorporate non-literary Afrofuturistic texts—such as art, fashion, music, and film— into your curriculum and how might these non-literary texts permit Afrofuturism to function as a change-agent to counter erasure during corona? How might such an approach to erasure highlight the inspirational or sublime nature of Afrofuturism?
o How might Afrofuturism’s preoccupation with sovereignty and transformation help students understand current independent or intersecting restorative justice movements like the Black Lives Matter movement; Say Her Name movement; Black Trans Lives Matter movement; movement to defund ICE and/or demilitarize the police; and movement to remove confederate monuments as a counter to Black erasure?
o How do you teach Afrofuturism as an episteme of visibility that is part of a larger pantheon of Black intellectualism, Black feminists’ genealogies, queer of color critique, and Black political thought that is now being shaped by COVID19?
o How does your teaching address the ways in which Afrofuturism intersects with contemporary technology, for example, social media, podcasts, esports/gaming, and blogs, as a means to both counter Black erasure and establish Black agency?
o What are the social justice implications for teaching Afrofuturism during COVID19? How might we use this literature to not only imagine but also to help usher in a more just world? In other words, how can we employ Afrofuturism as a transcendent tool?
o How might we better understand the complex history of Blacks in the United States of America when taught through an Afrofuturistic lens? How does making Black bodies central rather than parenthetical to the nation change our understanding of America? What does this pedagogical approach make visible that other approaches cannot?

Inquiries and article proposals are encouraged. Do not hesitate to contact us, the co-editors, if you have questions or wish to explore ideas: Belinda Deneen Wallace (bwallace@unm.edu), Joseph Entin (jentin@brooklyn.cuny.edu) and Jesse Schwartz (jwschwartz@gmail.com). Complete manuscripts are due May 3, 2021.


Radical Teacher articles are typically 4,000 -- 6,000 words, though we consider shorter or longer submissions. To submit a manuscript, register on the journal’s publication site: http://radicalteacher.library.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/radicalteacher/login

Complete submission guidelines can be found here:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uScIA6SQUdTHdVYQ8eY8J_CvoYZBjEbVaDFr519uUx8/edit?u
sp=sharing

We also encourage the submission of Teaching Notes, Reviews, and Poetry related to the topic of the issue. Follow the same general submission process as for articles; however, rather than selecting the topic of the issue, select the section to which you are submitting: “Teaching Notes,” “Reviews,” or “Poetry."