Ghosting Memory: Afrofuturism and Ethnographic Imagination in Blue Light Til Dawn

Speaker / Presenter: 

Dr. Darius Omar Williams, Assistant Professor of Theatre and Africana Studies
Wednesday, November 12, 2014 -
12:00pm to 1:00pm
Zoellner Arts Center, Room 211

William R. Scott Brown Bag Series

Critical inquiry into various constructions of Black identity through modes of popular culture fall, into a decidedly speculative arena known as the Ethnogothic. The Ethnogothic deals much more with the past than the future. It examines Black identity as a material that has been generated as a cultural artifact or talisman that haunts the lives of Black people. Indeed, in conjuring the idea of haunting, the experience of Black people can be equated with a Gothic aesthetic. The vehicle for the novel Blue Light ‘Til Dawn uses an African Yoruba-Mississippi Delta supernatural trope. This trope is replete with Pan African expressions and languages of the south: the fusing of blues tradition with the ethos of primitive tradition. Blue Light ‘Til Dawn allows characters to imagine themselves in the future with their connection to the past acting as a counterpoint. In the novel, the Black  body houses the idea of the grotesque Other and also acts as an index for haunted spaces filled with all manner of dark fantasies, sordid nightmares, and insidious curiosities about the abject. Gothic cultural expressions and spiritual emblems including African vodoun, black southern folk culture and the black church interact with the black body as haunted—an index of a haunted space—the black body as a traumatic entity intersects with the immobility of slavery and race as a performed identity—as an antiquated technology that creates identity. As this supernatural trope materializes while one travels through the destabilized spaces in Blue Light ‘Til Dawn, other questions around the intersections between representations of race, sexuality, gender, spirituality, and cultural expressions are dealt with. In turn, the monolithic idea of black identity becomes polarized.