By Daylanne K. English

About Daylanne K. English

Daylanne K. English is Professor of English at Macalester College. She is the author of Unnatural Selections: Eugenics in American Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance (2004) and Each Hour Redeem: Time and Justice in African American Literature (2013).



It is tempting to understand the keyword “science” as fundamentally and strictly an enemy of African American people. And there is no doubt that natural sciences and social sciences in the West have historically helped to construct and reinforce a racial hierarchy: a seemingly data-­driven white supremacy built on the presupposed inferiority of nonwhite, particularly black, people. Yet science and critical-­historical approaches to science can also serve to dismantle white supremacy, to eliminate race as a viable scientific category, and to affirm the resilience and power of African American intellection, culture, and activism. Especially in the past two decades, science, understood in the contexts of the arts and popular culture, points us to the most significant political, academic, political, and cultural African American movement since the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement: Afrofuturism.

The etymology of the word “science” provides clues as to its ongoing power both …

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