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Afro-Atlantic Flight: Speculative Returns and the Black Fantastic

Michelle D. Commander
Michelle D. Commander

Michelle D. Commander is Associate Professor of English at the University of Tennessee.

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Duke University Press
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Book Chapter

Fantastic Flights: The Search for Ancestral Traces in Black Speculative Narratives

March 2017

This chapter explores the turn to speculation in cultural production about transatlantic slavery and Africa during the post-1965 era by analyzing the ways that writers and filmmakers have applied the trope of flight in their works to address and offer a corrective for the sense of shame, dispossession, and rootlessness that many Black Americans feel as a result of their ancestors’ experiences during the peculiar institution. Through the examination of nonfiction travel memoirs, novels, and films, including Maya Angelou’s All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Haile Gerima’s Sankofa, Saidiya Hartman’s Lose Your Mother, and Thomas Allen Harris’s é Minha Cara/That’s My Face, this chapter argues that these cultural productions have helped structure and advance the Afro-Atlantic imaginaries that are examined in subsequent chapters regarding homeland returns, roots tourism, cultural performances, and the democratization of master narratives about slavery and American history.

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