Date of Graduation
Master of Arts in English
Popular understanding of history is dominated by racial binaries that suggest the Black past and the white past are wholly antithetical to one another. In Kindred, Octavia Butler uncovers interconnections between Black and white Americans that complicate this understanding by having her characters travel to the antebellum period. By uncovering these interconnections, Butler is able to envision a future in which Black and white Americans are reunited through the recognition of their shared, yet vastly differing, sufferings under white supremacy. I have termed this idea anti-racialist Afrofuturism because Butler seeks to dismantle the social construct of race through her illumination of Black and white Americans’ interconnections. I begin by explaining how Butler’s representations of whiteness contrast with those of other Black writers. She differentiates herself from previous generations of Black writers by punishing white-supremacist characters who prove themselves to be irredeemable instead of generalizing about white morality. She also does not wholly align herself with Black Arts writers, her near-contemporaries, because she portrays white supremacy instead of whiteness as antagonistic to Blackness. I then discuss Butler’s depiction of anti-racialist Afrofuturism in the epilogue, in which Dana and Kevin return to 1970s America transformed by their experiences in antebellum Maryland. These characters speculate on the anti-racialist possibilities of the past that historical records fail to account for, and they seem to have a better understanding of one another, an understanding that in turn benefits their interracial marriage. This anti-racialist Afrofuturism is represented allegorically in a number of Butler’s other works, and I argue that it is a project that spans her entire career. Lastly, I discuss the continued relevance of Butler’s ideas, as shown in multiple contemporary adaptations of her work and continued popular and scholarly interest in her writings.
Afrofuturism, Octavia Butler, Kindred, Blackness, whiteness, anti-racialist, race, slavery, racism, white supremacy
Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority
© Brad C. Kelly
Kelly, Brad C., "Revisiting History: Anti-Racialist Afrofuturism in Octavia Butler's Kindred" (2023). MSU Graduate Theses. 3881.