Black womanist temporalities = unique, intersectional temporal experiences as Black and woman

Women by Moor Mother

Radical Futurities by Black Quantum Futurism

Osage Avenue by Moor Mother

Womanist and feminist movements articulate unique modes of temporality as natural alternatives to temporalities informed by linear fatalistic timelines -  temporalities that “reveal to us [time’s] multifaceted and multiform nature” from the perspectives and experiences of women. Womanist and feminist movements have studied temporal issues and tools to theorize on such issues as “time, age, change, choice, self-image, and the related implications of women’s changing roles.’ In the essay Femalear Explorations: Temporality in Women’s Writing, Irma Garcia notes that “women’s time is purely affective time, disrupting pre-established schemas and structures,” and how in feminine time in general, “notions of the past/present/future are interdependent and blend into each other.’

 

The time traveling, Black woman protagonist Dana in Octavia Butler’s speculative novel Kindred demonstrates this blended, affective temporality well. Dana had to ensure the continuation of her family’s timeline in the Antebellum South, and by extension, her own birth, several hundred years into the future. Michelle M. Wright highlights how Butler and other Black womanist writers, such as Alice Walker, create “bold new models for self-defined or internally defined notion of tradition, one Black and female.” Tradition as understood here emphasizes an overlapping past and present temporal dimensions, and in relationship of those two dimensions to each other, necessarily involves a future trajectory, if considered within a traditional linear temporal construct of forward, progressive movement. I would argue in support of an articulated theory of Black womanist temporalities, given our unique, intersectional temporal experiences as Black and woman.

The Black women protagonists and the world(s) within Octavia Butler's stories embody diverse chronotopes, while the characters are experiencing varied timescapes or engaging in negotiations of chronopolitics. Looking at such examples as Kindred, where she turns the classical time travel trope, the Grandfather Paradox, on its head, and the chronopolitical landscapes encompassed in the Patternist series, Butler’s works disrupt, interact with, or agree with the dominant Western, linear progress narrative and the racialized chronotope of the American future.

 

Chronotopes and timescapes in Butler’s multiverse seemingly employ indigenous African notions of time, space, and futurity.  In agreement with modern day quantum physics, such spatiotemporal constructs resolve many of the tropes and paradoxes presented by a linear time construct, allow access to the past or the future in a way that linear temporality and obedience to mechanical and digital clock time cannot.  Such access provides for a unique opportunity to survey the ways in which collective and personal pasts continue to affect us, how intergenerational trauma cycles throughout our personal lives and within the larger communities and societies that we participate in, and how we can break or shift these cycles. This works to elevate the power of personal and collective memory of the many as being just as important, if not more, than a recorded history shaped by a privileged few.

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