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Prince, Afrofuturism And The Danger Of Knitting With Author Eve Ewing

Knitting can be dangerous.

“I’m definitely a believer in what knitters consider ‘the sweater curse,’” says author, scholar, and (of course) knitter Eve Ewing on this week’s Nerdette

“The strictest definition of the sweater curse is that if you make somebody a sweater, they will leave you. … There is no amount of love or appreciation or gratitude that somebody can realistically give you that is commensurate with the amount of work that it took you to make the sweater. It’s actually unattainable.”

Ewing, who recently released a book of poetry called Electric Arches, is a sociologist of education at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on racism, social inequality, urban policy, and the impact of theoe forces on public schools. 

In addition to explaining the perils of knitting someone a sweater, Ewing talked to Nerdette hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen about the tenets of Afrofuturism and the late music icon Prince. Here are some interview highlights. 

On living and making art in a world without Prince

Eve Ewing: Of course we don’t truly live in a Prince-less world, because the spirit of Prince is all around us. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to leave a legacy as an artist, and what it means to so indelibly leave your mark on the world the way that he did, which is something that most of us can never realistically aspire to. 

But one of the things that came out about Prince was that he had also been materially supporting all these people and causes behind the scenes, so I think that’s something else for us to consider — that as an artist, it’s not just about the work that you make and the imprint that that leaves, but also the way you live your life and the people that you try to uplift along the way.

But it is a super bummer. I just thought Prince would live forever.

On Afrofuturism

Ewing: Afrofuturism is an idea that’s been around for a while now, but for some reason now is gaining some pop-culture traction, which I think is exciting.

It’s a term that you can read lots of essays and books about what it means aesthetically and historically. I always give a really simple definition, which is it’s the basic notion that black people will continue to be alive and exist into the future — which sounds like a really simple premise until you think about how much sci-fi you have consumed in your life where there are just no black people. 

It’s like, “Where did everybody go? Are we gone? Are we in the salt mines under the Earth of the dystopian future? And why is it that our society predicates a vision of utopian futures based on the presumption that people of color will cease to be?”

So it’s radical in the space of popular culture for that reason. And then it also has a political salience in the sense that America has been trying to control, destroy, or kill black people since the birth of this nation. And a lot of our cultural production is about our relationship to that fact. Everything from the blues to hip-hop to jazz music is entangling ourselves in that relationship.

On looking forward to a life after social media

Ewing: For someone who uses social media 35 hours a day, I try to establish some pretty specific boundaries around my personal life and my privacy, partially just for safety and to avoid harassment. I feel under no pressure to put my whole life out there. 

Actually I frequently look forward to when I can, as I call it, go “full Salinger.” I look forward to a future as, like, a grumpy recluse slowly covering the outside of my house with beads and sequins or something.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation, which was produced and adapted for the web by Justin Bull.

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