Janelle Monáe has demonstrated herself to be a lot of things. The talented actress, queer icon, and social activist has also brought Afrofuturism to popular music by way of android alter ego Cindi Mayweather, who Monáe has suggested represents societal fear and resonance with otherness. Her single from The Electric Lady, “Q.U.E.E.N.” (2013), with Erykah Badu, bears an acronym for structurally marginalized communities: “queer,” “untouchables,” “emigrants,” “excommunicated,” “negroid”—all “others” represented by the android trope. The song’s video begins with an announcer on a screen at the Living Museum (where black1 figures are frozen in active poses) suggesting, “It’s hard to stop rebels that time travel” (Monáe 2013). Sitting at a desk at the center of these rebels is Monáe, who reanimates along with the rest of the exhibited bodies as she starts singing. As time travelers, they...
Giving Postblackness the Silent Treatment
K. Merinda Simmons is professor of religious studies at the University of Alabama. Her books include Race and New Modernisms (coauthored with James A. Crank, 2019), The Trouble with Post-Blackness (coedited with Houston A. Baker, Jr., 2015), Changing the Subject: Writing Women across the African Diaspora (2014), and Race and Displacement (coedited with Maha Marouan, 2013). She is working on a monograph tentatively entitled “Sourcing Slave Religion: Theorizing Experience in the Archive.”
K. Merinda Simmons; Giving Postblackness the Silent Treatment. American Literature 1 June 2021; 93 (2): 307–327. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-9003610
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