Louis Chude-Sokei

TALK: Race and Robotics: An Uncanny History

Though often imagined as cultural or social oppositions, discourses of race and those of technology are so intimate as to have actually been birthed in the shared and overlapping historical contexts of slavery and industrialization. This presentation focuses on key moments in those histories as one discourse–say, technology as anthropomorphized into robotics, cybernetics and ultimately Artificial Intelligence–as it abuts and blends with the history of another, for example slavery, colonialism and evolving notions of race as both material or poetic stand-in for non-human life.

LOUIS CHUDE-SOKEI, Professor of English at the University of Washington, is author of The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics (2016), which considers how the emergence of race as a concept in Western culture was inextricably linked to the growth of technology. His work includes the award winning The Last Darky: Bert Williams, Black on Black Minstrelsy and the African Diaspora (2006), and the forthcoming books, Dr. Satan’s Echo Chamber and Other Essays and An Immigrant Alphabet, a memoir.  He is also the Editor-In-Chief of the newly revamped The Black Scholar, one of the oldest and most renowned journals of black thought in the United States.

WEB (linkThe Black Scholar (link)


Plummeting Appliances, Dying Verbs, Enslaved Automatons. Louis Chude-Sokei. 601ArtSpace, New York, NY. 2013 (link)

Under Our Skin. Documentary. The Seattle Times. 20 June 2016 (link)

Louis Chude-Sokei Interview. Modern Griots Interviews. Futuristically Ancient. 16 Jan 2016 (link)

The Sound of Culture Book Video (link)

The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics. Book Review. P. Grant. Race and Class 58, 3. 12 Jan 2017. (link)


The Sound of Culture. Diaspora and Black Technopoetics (link)

[From the cover] The Sound of Culture explores the histories of race and technology in a world made by slavery, colonialism, and industrialization. Beginning in the late nineteenth century and moving through to the twenty-first, the book argues for the dependent nature of those histories. Looking at American, British, and Caribbean literature, it distills a diverse range of subject matter: minstrelsy, Victorian science fiction, cybertheory, and artificial intelligence. All of these facets, according to Louis Chude-Sokei, are part of a history in which music has been central to the equation that links blacks and machines. As Chude-Sokei shows, science fiction itself has roots in racial anxieties and he traces those anxieties across two centuries and a range of writers and thinkers—from Samuel Butler, Herman Melville, and Edgar Rice Burroughs to Sigmund Freud, William Gibson, and Donna Haraway, to Norbert Weiner, Sylvia Wynter, and Samuel R. Delany.