imagining hybrid cities

imagining hybrid cities

The State

Tiana Reid

I started this series on crossing and mixing by considering temporality and its hold on how we imagine hybridity. The recent discourse centered on the unshakable ‘browning’ or ‘beiging’ of mostly urban populations in the decades to come offers itself up through the prevailing ‘hybrid futures’ narrative. In The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory, NYU professor Tavia Nyong’o made it clear that his 2009 book was not “yet another attempt to claim mixed-race America as a utopian future that ‘will’ just happen ‘in time,’ as Theodore Tilton held.” And last month, still, a claim against this mixed futurism persisted in my writing for The State as I drew on Lee Edelman to consider the “figural Child” as the ultimate citizen.

What is in the background of this, all of this, but also undergirding it, is the hybrid city. The urban and the cosmopolitan. While ‘hybrid cities’ isn’t necessarily an accepted or used concept at large, a quick Google and Google image search shows a technology-based, almost people-free imaginary. We know, too, that hybrid cities come synonymously with hybrid cars, that is, ‘pure’ innovation and more recently perhaps, the ‘White entrepreneurial guy.’ And, what’s more, they’re Jetsons-esque, a projection in which jokes are made to signify that the future is White.

Here, I’d like to think again about hybrid futures. And, broadly speaking, how race codes the city without falling into what, say, the contested terrain of afrofuturism at large attempts to counter, i.e. that blackness and technology (/future) do not make sense together. The city, more so than the country, is emblematic of everything new. The hybrid future, then, is a decidedly urban one…

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