2022-2023 Faculty-Graduate Seminar: "Black Speculative Futures" ft. Justin L Mann

Oct 12, 2022, 4:30 pm6:00 pm
  • Faculty & Staff
  • Graduate Affairs
Event Description

Black Speculative Futures

This seminar investigates the enduring interplay between speculation and Blackness. In recent years, speculation has emerged as a key term in Black and African American Studies with speculation emerging as the site where Blackness gets refracted, refined, and (re)imagined. Speculation, Saidiya Hartman reminds us, activates a methodological approach to reading and writing Black histories that both evade and are erased from the historical record. But speculation is also the economic engine of racial capitalism and a mode of creative dissent and art making. Taking up this capacious understanding of speculation and the speculative, this seminar will explore how writers, scholars, artists, and cultural producers across historic periods mobilize speculation as an analytic, a creative praxis, and an interventionist strategy. Over the course of this year-long seminar, we will investigate various iterations of speculation – creative, financial, economic, methodological – and the forms it takes. We will place questions of speculation at the center of our discussion of  public policy, histories of racial capitalism, aesthetics, performance, and literary genre. How, we will ask, do those figures who are made to secure exploitative systems of economic and ideological values forecast alternative civic and social futures? And how has speculation emerged as extractive economic practice and an insurgent praxis? This series will bring together scholars, artists, and writers from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, all of whom think diversely about speculation in their work, their method, and their practice.

Justin L. Mann

Justin L. Mann earned his Ph.D. in American Studies from George Washington University. His research and teaching are primarily concerned with the worldmaking and -breaking relationship between U.S. literature and state policy. His current manuscript in-progress, Breaking the World, argues that Black speculative fiction, including works by Octavia E. Butler, N.K. Jemisin, Janelle Monáe, and Colson Whitehead, are an essential but underexamined archive for understanding America’s security ambitions since the Reagan administration. Weaving together analysis of such texts with scrutiny of security policy guiding practices like missile defense, peacekeeping, biosecurity, covert operations and drone warfare, and climate security, Breaking the World shows that Black speculative works counter securitization—the process of increasing ideologies and infrastructures that allege more safety through increased surveillance and the curtailment of freedom—by imagining alternative modalities of social organization. These imaginaries, which often emerge by rending apart known structures, prompt audiences to reframe their own relationship to the notion of safety and security. Professor Mann’s teaching portfolio includes courses in twentieth century black literature and culture, black feminist and queer of color theory, speculative fiction studies, and security studies.


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The seminar is available to Princeton University faculty, students, and staff ONLY (Not open to the public). To attend, RSVP to Dionne Worthy.

Event Type
Faculty-Graduate Seminar
Event Category
AAS Events


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Any individual, including visitors to campus, who requires accommodation should contact Dionne Worthy (dworthy@princeton.edu) at least one week in advance of the event.