Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This dissertation focuses on developing a theory of Afrofuturist music. Afrofuturism is an umbrella term used to describe Black cultural productions that reflect on the African diasporic culture of the past while imagining potential futures, often while appropriating imagery of technology and science-fiction tropes. With the intent of redefining notions of blackness, Afrofuturist artists create alternative historical narratives and speculative future projections. These productions create space that allows the Afrofuturist to discorporately negotiate the limits of Black subjectivity. Poet, activist, and avant-garde musician Sun Ra is credited as the progenitor of Afrofuturism, and his model has since been adapted by subsequent generations of Black artists. Using selections from popular artists Erykah Badu, OutKast, and Janelle Monáe as case studies, I demonstrate how these artists use Afrofuturist speculative thought to inform their music, videos, and overall aesthetic, especially as it relates to style, form, and temporality. Scholarship of Black popular music in general, specifically rap and hip-hop, is typically musicological or ethnomusicological in nature, focusing on extra-musical aspects like history, linguistics, and cultural impact. This project incorporates theoretical analysis so as to bring into sharper relief the complex intertextualities within Black popular music. My methodology melds pre-existing interdisciplinary literature with traditional and non-traditional musical analysis to better analyze unique sonic phenomena employed by Afrofuturist musicians as well as contextualizing these phenomena in what I call “Afrofuturist space.” These analyses demonstrate how future scholarship on Afrofuturist music can remain sensitive to its Afrofuturist context, while expanding theoretical frameworks to better deal with issues of teleology, cyclicity, and interconnected musical narrative in Black popular music.



Committee Chair

Bazayev, Inessa