Black Utopias

Speculative Life and the Music of Other Worlds

Black Utopias

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 14 illustrations Published: February 2021

Author: Jayna Brown

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

In Black Utopias Jayna Brown takes up the concept of utopia as an occasion to explore 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.


Black Utopias is replete with flashes of insight, important provocations, and an urgent ethical and political thrust. Jayna Brown models a patient search for intellectual kin adequate to the nightmare world of the present and its dead and deadening ideologies. She reminds us of the extent to which so much Black political thinking begins from a profound negation of the fundamental tenets of Western models of subjectivity. Ambitious, bold, and bracing, Black Utopias forcefully reorients conversations around utopia and Afrofuturism. A field-defining work.” — Anthony Reed, author of Soundworks: Race, Sound, and Poetry in Production


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Fall2020 Online Sale
Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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 Back to Top
Part I: Ecstasy
1. Along the Psychic Highway: Black Women Mystics and Utopias of the Ecstatic
2. Lovely Sky Boat: Alice Coltrane and the Metaphysics of Sound
Part II: Evolution
3. Our Place is Among the Stars: Octavia E. Butler and the Preservation of Species
4. Speculative Life: Utopia Without the Human
Part III: Sense and Matter
5. In the Realm of the Senses: Heterotopias of Subjectivity, Desire, and Discourse
6. The Freedom Not to Be: Sun Ra's Alternative Ontology
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1167-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1054-8