Power and Privilege in Black Science Fiction

Therí Pickens, Assistant Professor of English

During the summer, I will continue to work on the project I began last summer, conducting research for my book project on Black Speculative Fiction. The genre, also referred to asAfrofuturism or Black Science Fiction, raises significant questions about race, gender, ability, and technology. The major research question of the book is: How do black speculative fiction writers theorize power relationships as part of a multi-racial future?

My research takes as its premise that black writers theorize, to paraphrase famed black feminist scholar Barbara Christian, from the quotidian, the folkloric, and the putative mundane. I start here because Afrofuturist novelists mobilize the mundane and the everyday to make statements about power and privilege. Like women science fiction writers in the late 1970s and 1980s who created men who reproduce, these writers tend to upend existing structures so that black figures are in power. They each make varying claims about the machinations of power: from finding power intricate and dynamic (i.e., Octavia Butler) to eschewing it full stop (i.e., Victor LaValle).


TO APPLY:  Please contact Professor Pickens by email (, providing her with a list of relevant courses and other research experience. Please provide a short statement on what you bring to the project and what you hope to discover. Please contact Professor Pickens by Friday, March 22, 2013.