The Black Atlantic in Popular Culture (Panel)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Post/colonial

Dana Horton (Mercy College)

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Ryan Coogler, director and screenwriter of Black Panther (2018), describes the way Black Americans were “marooned in this place that we’re not from,” which speaks to the physical, spiritual, and psychological disconnect between black identity and the American landscape. The idea of Black Americans "marooned" onto a foreign land is reinforced in Black Panther through Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, a character played by Michael B. Jordan, who quietly proclaims the following towards the end of the film: “Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships…cause they knew death was better than bondage.” This proclamation speaks to the Transatlantic Black experience and the timeless impact that Transatlantic slavery had on the water, the weather, the people, and other afterlives of slavery. In her 2016 book In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, Christina Sharpe describes the ubiquity of Africans “thrown, jumped, dumped, overboard in [the] Middle Passage,” and how “they are with us still, in the time of the wake.” Sharpe’s analysis enhances Killmonger’s final words by aligning the twenty-first century Transatlantic Black experience with slavery and demonstrating that the afterlives of slavery are still a contemporary issue. Through Killmonger’s character, as well as the visual and rhetorical representations of the United States, Great Britain, South Korea, and Wakanda, Black Panther reifies many tropes associated with slavery while complicating Paul Gilroy's original conception of The Black Atlantic.

In this panel, we will examine representations of The Black Atlantic in Popular Culture. What tropes and symbols do filmmakers, artists, and authors draw on when representing the Black Atlantic? How do these ideas challenge and/or reinforce Paul Gilroy’s original conception of The Black Atlantic? How does the political and social landscape of the twenty-first century impact the way artists depict The Black Atlantic? How is mobility between different identity categories, as well as physical spaces, portrayed in these representations? How do different genres, such as literature, film, music, and art, portray The Black Atlantic? The goal of this panel is to examine The Black Atlantic in Popular Culture from an intersectional approach that considers how identity categories such as gender, sexuality, nationality, and class, complicate the way filmmakers, artists, and authors portray the global black experience in their work.

In this panel, we will examine representations of the Black Atlantic in popular culture. What tropes and symbols do filmmakers, artists, and authors draw on when representing the Black Atlantic? How do these ideas challenge and/or reinforce Paul Gilroy’s original conception of the Black Atlantic? How does the political and social landscape of the twenty-first century impact the way artists depict the Black Atlantic? How is mobility between different identity categories, as well as physical spaces, portrayed in these representations? How do different genres, such as literature, film, music, and art, portray the Black Atlantic? The goal of this panel is to examine the Black Atlantic in popular culture from an intersectional approach that considers how identity categories such as gender, sexuality, nationality, and class, complicate the way filmmakers, artists, and authors portray the global black experience in their work.