August Wilson, Afrofuturist Dystopia and the Gem of the Ocean

6_Gem_H_JEJ_PR_LGH, January 20, 2012 | © Courtesy of The Huntington /Flickr.
6_Gem_H_JEJ_PR_LGH, January 20, 2012 | © Courtesy of The Huntington /Flickr.

On December 4, 2018, Anthony Dwayne Boynton has published an article entitled “August Wilson, Afrofuturism, & Gem of the Ocean” in Open Cultural Studies.

A Blog Post by Pablo Markin.


In his paper, Boynton has concentrated on August Wilson’s plays belonging to the Pittsburgh or Century Cycle as “a theatrical experiment of black cultural history and sociology” (374). This author, thus, approaches Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean (2003) as a dystopian play set in a capitalist-police state” (374), in order to “delineate how history and the black speculative imagination are intertwined […] with the writing of dystopian fiction” (374).

In this article, Boynton argues that “Afrofuturism addresses and heals fractures caused by traumas of domination and oppression” (375). Similarly, Boynton takes recourse to the notion of dystopia “typically considered a setting wherein the citizens live in a legalised state of dehumanisation with a lack of autonomous citizenship conditioned by allegedly utopic sociopolitical and sometimes religious parameters” (376). Thus, this author’s “dystopian reading of Gem of the Ocean relies on the socio-political and historical context of the early 20th century and racialised experiences therein.” (377).

Boynton concludes that “Afrofuturists disrupt science fiction conventions often articulated by white male writers by placing black cultural histories and people at the forefront of the narrative” (382). To this, the scholar adds that “Wilson takes Jim Crow and Great Migration histories and morphs them into a creative work whose setting is bound to historical dilemmas of power” (382).

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: 6_Gem_H_JEJ_PR_LGH, January 20, 2012 | © Courtesy of The Huntington /Flickr.

Cite this article as: Pablo Markin, "August Wilson, Afrofuturist Dystopia and the Gem of the Ocean," in Open Culture, 03/04/2019, https://oc.hypotheses.org/2136.

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