2020-2021: UTOPIA

A year of digital programming culminating in the return of the Buffalo Humanities Festival in a face-to-face format in September 2021

Black Utopias in a Post-Pandemic World

The 2020 Buffalo Humanities Festival: Utopia was scheduled to take place Sept. 24-26, 2020 featuring Spotlight Speaker Candy Chang. Due to COVID-19, the in-person 3-day festival has been postponed to Sept. 23-25, 2021.

Over one year ago, while organizing the 2019 festival with its focus on Democracy, we decided our 2020 theme would be “Utopia.” At the time, we believed the 2020 festival would take place shortly before the 2020 election when the future of the United States of America would be a pressing topic on everyone’s mind. Little did we know just how pressing considerations of utopia, and by association dystopia, would be in this moment.

While we cannot currently host the in-person conversations that have embodied the exchange of ideas at the Buffalo Humanities Festival for the past decade, over the course of the coming year, we will present virtual programming focused on the theme of utopia that we hope will culminate in a return to our face-to-face format in fall 2021.

upcoming events

Black Utopias in a Post-Pandemic World

Thursday, November 19, 7pm [Zoom]

Text reading 2020-2021 Utopia, Black Utopias in a Post-Pandemic World with featured guests listed

There is a powerful tradition of utopian practice and thought in African American communities. From black towns like Mound Bayou, Mississippi to the lyrical imaginings of Afrofuturism, Black utopias have been a potent response to racial inequality and suffering. At this moment of rupture, with the related crises of the pandemic, racial uprisings, climate change and economic decline, Black Utopian thought and practice offer alternative paths to the future. On Thursday, November 19 leading scholars and artists in the field of Afrofuturism and Black Utopia will engage in a conversation about the role Black Utopian thinking can play at this crucial moment.

  • Convener and moderator: Victoria W. Wolcott, Professor of History, University at Buffalo;
  • Julian C. Chambliss, Professor of English with an appointment in History and the Val Berryman Curator of History at the MSU Museum at Michigan State University;
  • John Jennings, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, UC Riverside;
  • Alex Zamalin, Director of African American Studies and Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Detroit, Mercy.

Presented through the generous support of Humanities New York.