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Saturday, March 25, 2023

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Brown infuses literature, comics, film and music into the course curricula. Brown infuses literature, comics, film and music into the course curricula.

Off the Beaten Course: AFRAS 496

AfroFuturism explores how science fiction and fantasy can relate to the black experience.

Off the Beaten Course is a series that delves into SDSU's course catalog to share unique and non-traditional classes.

Course Title: AfroFuturism (AFRAS 496)
Professor: Ajani Brown

Ajani Brown is a professor of Africana Studies at San Diego State University and the adviser for SDSU's Afrikan Student Union. A double alum of SDSU, he earned his bachelor's degree in English and master of fine arts in creative writing.

1) What inspired you to teach this course?

AfroFuturism is a new field of study. When I began teaching here, I noticed this topic was nowhere to be found in the course catalogue. I knew then it was up to me to develop the curriculum. The wide breadth of topics covered in AfroFuturism will be a draw for students whose interests range the full gamut of media — literature, comics, film, music, etc.

2) What can students expect to learn from this course?

Students should expect to learn how science fiction and fantasy concerns itself with the black experience. They will gain an understanding of what it means to be identified as ‘alien’ or ‘other’ as seen through the lens of various speculative milieus, in relation to real life scenarios. Plus, students will learn how AfroFuturism deals with reimagining the black identity.

3) What makes this course different from similar courses?

The course encompasses not just futurist themes, but African history as well. The foundations of Afrofuturism are rooted in the cosmologies, mythologies and folklore of multiple groups from the African continent, in addition to the collective experience and histories of African people globally.  Even though there may be other classes that touch on speculative or science fiction themes, AfroFuturism is culturally specific.

4) Is there one day on the syllabus for this course you most look forward to? If yes, why?

Yes — I look forward to the unit on comics. As a huge comic book fan and avid collector, I have chosen some relevant stories to be read by the class. Sequential art, a visual storytelling medium, adds a new perspective to the discussion. Independent comic illustrators literally have control of how their characters are portrayed. 

Unlike literature, where its up to the reader's imagination, or film and television where the production studio gets the final word on imagery, comic book creators of color, have the ability to actively combat stereotypes with their storylines and imagery.

When the class discussion shifts to identity, this commentary will arise. We will talk about the differences in comic stories with black protagonists created by people of African descent, as compared to comic stories with black protagonists created by others.
5) What’s your favorite thing about teaching this course?

My favorite thing about teaching AfroFuturism is that the theory and source material are so new. It’s not a repeat or rehashing of the same old material from the humanities. There are new fiction writers, comic book creators, filmmakers and musicians contributing to the canon of AfroFuturism. Although I’m thrilled to be on the teaching end of AfroFuturism, at the cusp of its inception into academia, I wish it was available when I was a student.

6) Any other thoughts?

As an alumni of SDSU, I’m excited to bring the AfroFuturism to my alma mater.  Only a handful campuses nationwide have this offering in their catalog.    

Have an interesting course? Contact the SDSU Marketing and Communications team to share your story.