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Wakanda Over Everything: How the Fictional Country of ‘Black Panther’ Might Exist in Real Life (Bonus Podcast)

Let’s talk about ethnostates

What if there was an African nation that largely escaped the world’s notice, but produced a substance that powered cellphones, computers, and even electric vehicles? There is. But we aren’t talking about Wakanda, or vibranium.

“Black Panther” fired imaginations with its story of a fictional country that has evaded colonialism and exploitation by mining a fictional substance, vibranium, to produce the greatest technology on earth.

Vibranium has a real-life equivalent in cobalt, a mineral used to power everything from cell phones to electric cars. But Wakanda is only a dream.

In real life, the Democratic Republic of Congo produces massive amounts of cobalt, but the mineral has not saved the country from exploitation. Instead, it has caused it: CBS News reports that child labor is rampant in cobalt’s production, which has led companies like Apple and Tesla to work to remove children from their supply chains.

We talk about this and more in the brand-new “Low Key” podcast, which I host with fellow nerds Aaron Lanton and Keith Dennie. We look at pop culture through a racial lens, trying to make sense of low-key key things that may evade attention in most mainstream discourse. Our first episode, “Wakanda Over Everything” looks into the question of whether there’s such a thing as a good ethnostate — and whether Wakanda fits the bill.

You can listen here:

We’re offering this episode as a special bonus in the feed of “Shoot This Now,” the podcast where Matt Donnelly and I focus every week on a different story that should be a movie. Matt and I will be back in the next few days with a new episode.

And if you like “Low Key,” be sure to check out Aaron and Keith on “Meanwhile in the Multiverse,” in which they look at real-life events from the perspective of an alternate reality to help make sense of the world in which we actually live. Just like we do in the first “Low Key.”