Black Utopias: Speculative Life and the Music of Other Worlds

Black Utopias: Speculative Life and the Music of Other Worlds

by Jayna Brown


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In Black Utopias Jayna Brown looks to utopia as a way of exploring new states of being, doing, and imagining in Black culture. Brown uses the lives and work of Black women mystics Sojourner Truth and Rebecca Cox Jackson, musicians Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra, and speculative fiction writers Samuel Delany and Octavia Butler to develop a concept of utopia that radically refuses the terms of liberal humanism. For Brown, utopia consists of those moments in the here and now when Black people-untethered from the hope of rights, recognition, or redress-celebrate themselves as elements in a cosmic effluvium. In such moments, musical, literary, and mystic practices become utopian enclaves in which Black people can take part in modes of alternative worldmaking. Brown demonstrates that engaging in such practices gives Black people the power to destabilize humanism and to create new genres of existence and models of collectivity.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781478011675
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 02/26/2021
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 371,966
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.47(d)

About the Author

Jayna Brown is Professor in the Graduate Program in Media Studies at the Pratt Institute and author of Babylon Girls: Black Women Performers and the Shaping of the Modern, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction  1
Part I: Ecstasy
1. Along the Psychic Highway: Black Women Mystics and Utopias of the Ecstatic  23
2. Lovely Sky Boat: Alice Coltrane and the Metaphysics of Sound  59
Part II: Evolution
3. Our Place is Among the Stars: Octavia E. Butler and the Preservation of Species  83
4. Speculative Life: Utopia Without the Human  111
Part III: Sense and Matter
5. In the Realm of the Senses: Heterotopias of Subjectivity, Desire, and Discourse  137
6. The Freedom Not to Be: Sun Ra's Alternative Ontology  155
Conclusion  177
Notes  179
Bibliography  195
Index  205

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