Futurity as Praxis: Learning from Octavia E. Butler

This two-day conference explores Octavia E. Butler, how we have learned from her writing, and what her archive at The Huntington can help future generations discover.

The year 2024 marks the beginning of the critical dystopian future Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) envisioned in her groundbreaking novel Parable of the Sower. Her fiction and the story of her life compel us to reckon with power, leadership, creativity, the Earth, human relationships, and the unknown possibilities that await us in the stars. Now, intellectuals from different communities will gather to contemplate her legacy. This conference asks how we have learned from Butler’s writing and what her archive at The Huntington—a short distance from where the author spent her formative years in Pasadena, California—can help future generations discover.

Funding provided by The E.P. Mauk/D.B. Nunis Research Endowment.

Photo caption: Octavia E. Butler. Photographer unknown, August 2002. Octavia E. Butler Correspondence and Photographs, HM 80701. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

Conference Schedule

Thursday, May 23, 2024

9 a.m. | Registration and Coffee

9:45 a.m. | Welcome

  • Susan Juster (The Huntington) and André Carrington (University of California, Riverside)

10 a.m. | Session 1: Creativity as Praxis

  • Moderator: Sage Ni’Ja Whitson
    Queer & Trans anti-disciplinary artist and writer, Department of Dance and Department of Black Study at UC Riverside

  • Damian Duffy
    Author of the graphic novel adaptations of Kindred and Parable of the Sower

  • Steven Barnes
    Author of The Eightfold Path, Marvel’s Black Panther: Sins of the King podcast series, and Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror on Shudder

  • Sheree Renée Thomas
    Editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and the Dark Matter anthologies, poet, author of Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future

Noon | Lunch

1:30 p.m. | Session 2: The Books of the Living: Collection Researchers

  • Moderator: Ademide Adelusi-Adeluyi
    Historian, digital humanist, author of Imagine Lagos, Department of History at UC Riverside

  • Ayana Jamieson
    Educator, mythologist, depth psychologist, founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network

  • Alyssa Collins
    University of South Carolina professor, 2021–22 Octavia E. Butler Fellow at The Huntington

  • Lois Rosson
    Historian, Berggruen Institute Fellow, 2023–24 Octavia E. Butler Fellow at The Huntington

Friday, May 24, 2024

9:30 a.m. | Registration and Coffee

10 a.m. | Session 3: Mind of My Mind: Scholarship & Pedagogy

  • Moderator: Jasmin Young
    Co-editor of Black Power Encyclopedia; Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Riverside; Visiting Scholar in the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard

  • Gerry Canavan
    Author of Octavia E. Butler (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), Department of English at Marquette University

  • Ashanté Reese
    Anthropologist, author of Black Food Geographies, Department of African & African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin

  • Marisa Parham
    Director of the African American Digital & Experimental Humanities Initiative; Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at University of Maryland

  • Valorie Thomas
    Author, consultant, coach, Phebe Estelle Spalding professor emerita at Pomona College

Noon | Lunch

1:30 p.m. | Session 4: Earthseed: Sustainability & Activism

  • Syrus Marcus Ware
    Artist, activist, member of the Performance Disability Art Collective, co-editor of Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada, School of the Arts at McMaster University
  • Rasheedah Phillips
    Author of The Recurrence Plot, attorney, housing advocate, co-founder of Black Quantum Futurism
  • Elyse Ambrose
    Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Department at UC Riverside, author of the forthcoming book A Blackqueer Sexual Ethics: Embodiment, Possibility, and Living

4:30 p.m. | Closing Remarks

Day of Program

Parking Is free. There are two entrances to the parking lot: Oxford Road and Allen Avenue. Handicap parking and bicycle racks are conveniently located in the south end of the lot closest to the main entrance and admission windows.

Heading to registration. You'll check in with Security and then proceed to Rothenberg Auditorium for check-in at the registration table. Signage will direct you.

Attendee badges. We will provide you with two stick-on name badges, one for each day of the conference. Your badge grants you access to the Huntington grounds and galleries during normal business hours.

Continental breakfast. A complimentary continental breakfast is available during registration at 9 a.m. on Thursday and 9:30 a.m. on Friday. If you did not pre-purchase lunch, you can visit 1919 Cafe or Red Car coffee shop.