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Berkeley Talks: Scholars on using fantasy to reimagine Blackness

By Public Affairs

Poster with "Keeping it Unreal" at the top and photos of five scholars

Read the transcript.

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In Berkeley Talks episode 147, a panel of scholars discusses UC Berkeley professor Darieck Scott’s new book Keeping It Unreal: Black Queer Fantasy and Superhero Comics, which explores how fantasies of Black power and triumph in superhero comics and other genres create challenges to — and respite from — white supremacy and anti-Blackness.

Scott began by reading from the introduction of his book:

“My investigation, my fantasy about fantasy, is a fantasy as a mode of living and fantasy as a transformation of living and being,” said Scott at the March 10 event. “The argument here is for fantasy as world-making.”

“The ultimate project of Keeping It Unreal ,” he continued, “which must reach beyond the book’s end, for its achievement can’t be encompassed in this book or any single book alone, is to cite whether and how Black fantasy can begin to undertake a description of ludicrous, unreal things like Black happiness, how Black fantasy might re-twist the twisted significations of Blackness such that Black and happy is at least not a clearly oxymoronic conjunction.”

Panelists in this discussion included:

  • Darieck Scott, professor of African American studies at UC Berkeley
  • Ramzi Fawaz, associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Rebecca Wanzo, chair and professor of women, gender and sexuality studies at Washington University in St. Louis
  • Jonathan Gray, associate professor of English at John Jay College-CUNY
  • Michael Mark Cohen, associate teaching professor of American studies and of African American studies at UC Berkeley

This event was presented by the Othering and Belonging Institute and co-sponsored by the Department of African American Studies and the American Cultures Program at UC Berkeley. Watch a video of the discussion below.

Scholars discussed UC Berkeley professor Darieck Scott’s new book Keeping It Unreal on March 10, 2022. (Video by the Othering and Belonging Institute)

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