Afropolitan Detroit: Counterpublics, Sound, and the African City – Africa Today – article

Afropolitan Detroit: Counterpublics, Sound, and the African City

Sidra Lawrence | Africa Today

2019-10-22

This article explores the connections between blackness, Afropolitanism, and masculinity in Detroit soundscapes. Working at the intersections of critical geography, sound studies, and critical race theory, it interrogates the production of Afropolitanism through sound and spatial signifiers. It suggests that productions of black masculinities in this context generate counterpublics and indicate Afropolitan aesthetic values and identities. It discusses how Afropolitan cultural productions are manifest through soundscapes that intersect with located spatial narratives and histories. Proceeding from ethnographic work undertaken in the city, it examines two sound-sites as places through which men navigate the narratives of urban development, blackness, and Africanness. It asks what constitutes an Afropolitan sound aesthetic and how it emerges as a mode of sonically produced communal identity. In what ways can Detroit be understood as an African city by examining the genetics of urban geography, both historically and through contemporary social productions? What sonic-spatial strategies do black men use to reimagine the city as Afropolitan? Answering these questions requires an examination of the politics of labor and pleasure, ultimately to show that the ways in which people engage with space through sound can produce a distinct Afropolitanism.

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