Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Towards a Queer Black Futurity: The Disruptive Potential of (Re)Memory in Janelle Monáe’s World of Dirty Computer Public Deposited
  • Singer, actress, activist, and writer, Janelle Monáe, has been critically acclaimed as one of the greatest voices in pop music of the twenty-first century. Her work, however, is often overlooked in terms of its political potential. This thesis serves as a critical intervention into Monáe’s Dirty Computer album, accompanying emotion picture, and shorty-story collection set in the Dirty Computer storyworld. The Afrofuturist world-building that Monáe undertakes in these three interconnected projects constitutes a vital queering of the futures that Afrofuturism has posited up to this point. Her work closely engages with the chronopolitics of capitalist time, revealing the ways in which such a system hinges on the exploitation of the Black, femme, and queer body. I argue that Monáe’s Dirty Computer world acts as a future projection that challenges America’s insistence on a linear view of progress by calling back to the nation’s willfully suppressed histories of racial violence that date back to the initial moment of African enslavement in the Western world. By imagining a future that warns of the authoritarian direction America is headed in if it continues its intentional ignorance of its history and reliance on “othering” of groups that do not fit the mold of white heteronormativity, Monáe signals the importance of reflecting on the past in order to direct future action. At the same time, Monáe’s depictions of unabashed queer Black joy in Dirty Computer make it apparent that the futures we imagine must be grounded in communal love and must forefront care for the well-being of people over the well-being of capital. 

Date Issued
  • 2023-04-23
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Committee Member
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Commencement Year
Last Modified
  • 2024-01-05
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