Objective 3f. Are utopias limited to Western Civilization, rationalism, and social engineering, or may they exemplify multiculturalism?
African American culture joins Western culture via different routes, volitions, and traditions. Whereas Western Civilization progresses westward from the Mediterranean through Europe to the New World through voluntary migration and immigration. African Americans (and Afro-Caribbeans) did not join this westward progress voluntarily but were captured from Africa and forced into slavery. Thus African American culture both participates in and remains distinct from Western Civilization. (Voluntary immigration of Africans to the USA was virtually unknown until the late 20th century.)
Possible African American texts for inclusion in Utopias seminar:
*Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
Samuel R. Delany, Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia (1976)
Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (1993): apocalyptic narrative of social collapse; refugees from Los Angeles, led by a young woman gifted with hyperempathic powers and prophecy, journey to land in Pacific Northwest, where they establish a hardscrabble commune on ecotopian principles.
*Toni Morrison, Paradise (1997)
*Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist (1999): alternative history / future; afrofuturism
*Notable for "parallel world" or "world within a world" aspects; cf. grandmother baking crackers in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
selections from African American slave narratives
Possible utopian features of Paradise:
"The Convent" as feminine / feminist utopian counterpart to patriarchal dystopia / traditional community of Haven / Ruby (founded by Big Papa and Big Daddy)
"Convent" literally means a woman's monastery—-compare to monastery that may have modeled More's Utopia, but for women rather than men
Possible applications to utopian studies: African America may have a distinct utopian inheritance through Bible, especially identification of African America with chosen people of God suffering under Pharaoh's Egypt (i.e., slaveholding USA) who are delivered by God to the Promised Land (for African America, either the North or a reformed Southern USA).
In Paradise, after the Civil War and Emancipation, a community of freed slaves journeys from Haven to Ruby.
Compare Moses and chosen people on Exodus to Promised Land (= utopia or utopian destination)
(Dr. King made similar comparisons b/w himself and Moses, and other African American leaders are compared to Moses: Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman)
Travelers in Paradise bring community oven on journey, comparable to the Jews' Arc of the Covenant as a symbol of community cohesion, tradition, shared values.