“Dancehall as a matrix of resistance to living realities of street dancers in Jamaica”

Author: Cyrielle Tamby, Visiting Scholar – PhD Program at the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies,
University of California Berkeley, USA


Jamaican Dancehall appears as a mirror of black people’s lives in the inner-city of Kingston, a sociocultural puzzle articulated by various politics of fashion, music and dance. In this presentation, I highlight how vernacular modes of resistance and practices of street smartness are performed by dancehall dancers in Jamaica to challenge postcolonial living realities reflected in socio-spatial immobility. I examine how different diasporic imageries of blackness, social status and mobility are emulated across space and time through three postcolonial concepts of resistance, projects of a national identity and body politics. In doing so, resisting processes are materialized by the politics of aesthetics and representation in technologies such as Instagram to acknowledge dancehall as a cultural space of existence. Additional mechanisms focus on liminal boundaries of blackness in dancehall (such as diasporic formations of home, labor and mobility) to challenge national ideological forms of belonging materialized by the values of respectability and creolism. While engaging with how the entanglement of neoliberal politics, public spaces and creativity refashion street parties into black queer spatialities, I am equally interested in encompassing the commodification of sexualized processes among dancers and query how Jamaican black women are socially inscribed by a halo of silence and invisibility. The archipelago as a matrix of resistance offers a counter-response to the structural conditions of poverty, a form of correction regarding the hegemonic understanding of being black in the Caribbean that Frantz Fanon verbalized as a “zone of non-being”.


This paper will be presented at CARISCC’s 4th Postgraduate Research Conference on Caribbean In/Securities and Creativity, University of Amsterdam, Roeterseiland Campus, The Netherlands, Wednesday 13 June 2018. Please feel free to participate in CARISCC’s online conference discussions by using the “Leave a Reply” space, shown below, to submit any questions, comments and feedback.