Word, Sound and Power: The Lyrical Making of African Diaspora Futures examines how writers from the Anglophone African diaspora in the long twentieth century have questioned traditional distinctions between music and literature in forward-thinking ways. This is the main research question the project will examine: How have writers in the African diaspora experimented with literature and music in ways that imagine and attempt to create a better future? The project studies genres such as for example jazz poetry, dub poetry, sonnets, punk, soul, funk, blues, spirituals, folk, slam poetry, hip hop and new and emerging genres of experimental literature at the intersection of literature and music. The aim of the project is to advance research on "Afrofuturism" by historicising and looking more critically at the term than has previously been done. Word, Sound and Power contributes to research on Afrofuturism by showing that there are many different imaginary futures and ways of understanding futurity to be found in literature from the African diaspora. There is also an ideological diversity among writers that have often been overlooked. The project demonstrates this by comparing authors from different decades and regions of the African diaspora and by using interdisciplinary perspectives from literary studies, cultural studies and musicology.
The Anglophone African diaspora is a part of Western societies and their history. Therefore, more research on the impact of the African Diaspora on Western culture is necessary to better understand Western aesthetics in all of its complexity and diversity. The ambition of Word, Sound and Power is to contribute to forwarding knowledge about Western aesthetics by examining the influence the African diaspora has had on contemporary and expanded definitions of “literature” and “the literary”, as well as on establishing and popularising the idea that the aesthetic is political.
Word, Sound and Power is an interdisciplinary research project that combines perspectives from literary studies, cultural studies and musicology in order to answer the overarching research question: How have writers of the Anglophone African Diaspora in the long twentieth century challenged the boundaries between literature and music in order to envision alternative political futures? The project introduces new and cutting-edge perspectives to the study of the African Diaspora by deconstructing and historicising the theoretical concept of Afrofuturism. By comparing literary-musical experiments by writers from the Caribbean, Europe and America, Word, Sound and Power will bring attention to the diversity of black epistemology and ideology. The project’s principal research aim is to study the ways in which African Diasporic experiments with the boundaries between music and literature, and the lyrical and the poetic, have produced a range of different imaginary futures. These include both utopias and dystopias. It will therefore advance our understanding of the various political modalities, micro-ideologies and political positions and political conflicts that exist within the musical-literary experimentation of the African Diaspora. The research group focuses on Afro-diasporic European, American and Caribbean literature in English and studies genres such as spirituals and folk songs, blues, gospel, soul, jazz poetry, dub poetry, slam poetry, sonnets and romantic poetry, avant-garde poetry, performance poetry, punk poetry, hip-hop and rap and experimental poetry.