Abstract: Marvel Studios’ film Black Panther (dir. Ryan Coogler, 2018) is getting a great deal of buzz among academics—both in the US and in Africa—for rekindling optimism around continent-diaspora relations. This attention has been both laudatory and critical. After giving an overview of critical approaches to Black Panther, this paper will sketch a genealogy of the film that draws on older critiques of “return to the roots” movements in black studies, with an emphasis on the francophone canon. Major points of reference in this genealogy might include Senghorian Negritude, Sembène, Sartre, Glissant, Condé, and Mbembe. I will attempt to historicize accusations of excessive romanticism and capitalism in the film by situating them in relation to these thinkers. I will conclude by asking what is the current state of “roots imagination” today: can transatlantic black solidarity exist other than in a romantic or capitalist mode?
Bio: Jonathon Repinecz is an Assistant Professor of French at George Mason University. He also serves as Affiliated Faculty in Global Affairs. A specialist of West African literature, he is the author of Subversive Traditions: Reinventing the West African Epic, forthcoming at Michigan State University Press. His work has appeared in a variety of journals and blogs.