Notes on the Etymology of the World: Sun Ra, Geology, Poetry


This essay explores affinities between etymology and geology by way of Sun Ra’s poetry. The first part suggests that geology and etymology share a methodological and metaphorical potential for apprehending unconformities, that is, for understanding the contradictory ways in which time, space, and history can converge together in a single site or sound. The second part approaches Ra’s Afrofuturist poetics as a creative practice of etymology and geology, arguing that Ra locates his critical-utopian vision in an Earth-scale reckoning with an idiosyncratic etymology. The third part shows how Ra situates race on his etymological landscape.

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