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Sun Ra's ChicagoAfrofuturism and the City$
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William Sites

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226732077

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226732244.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 26 September 2021

African Space

African Space

(p.166) 7 African Space
Sun Ra's Chicago

William Sites

University of Chicago Press

During his final years in Chicago, Sun Ra fully took on the role of leader of a musical collective exploring other worlds—utopian spaces where ancient and future, home and abroad, might creatively collide. This chapter examines the late-1950s musical development and performative identity of Ra and the Arkestra in the context of Chicago’s dramatic metropolitan restructuring. At a moment when America’s “space dreams” were rooted in suburban fantasy, urban renewal and outer-space conquest, Sun Ra and his colleagues drew on Ethiopianist religious utopianism as well as South Side styles and entertainment culture to fashion a musical geography where ancient Africa and outer space might come together. Presenting themselves as cultural emissaries charged with conveying the experience of an idealized future to a local audience of the present, Ra and his Arkestra members now performed utopia, not by modeling the life of a new society but by furnishing a suggestive musical vehicle for new dreams of collective freedom.

Keywords:   Sun Ra, Arkestra, Chicago, South Side, suburb, urban renewal, outer-space conquest, ancient Africa, utopia, Ethiopianist

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