Dancehall Queens: Using Embodied Resistance & Nation Language to “Chat” Back to the Postcolonial Nation
Patricia Ann-Marie Abraham
Carole Elizabeth Boyce Davies
Thesis DT 3.5 2015 A273
xiv, 157 leaves : illustrations ; 29 cm.
This thesis is driven by a fight against the ramifications of slavery, colonialism, and patriarchy in Black women's lives. The questions that drive this thesis are: If de-colonization is seeking to remove and free one's body from colonialism, how do women of the African Diaspora, especially Caribbean women, work to decolonize their minds and bodies? How do women operate as anti-colonial figures? How do postcolonial subjects, specifically Afro-Caribbean Black women, answer back to the neo/colonial elements of history that has coded their African languages and bodies along lines of inferiority, undesirability, and debased humanity? How do they write themselves into history and rewrite racist, sexist ideologies that have carried over into the contemporary period? How can Afro-Caribbean Black women operate in ways that bring forth Black consciousness and pride as Black women?
As a way to explore these concepts, I operate through the frame of Dancehall music and Jamaican culture. I frame this thesis with the anti-colonial politics of Jamaican Maroon woman Queen Nanny and go forward to examine the politics of prominent women in Jamaican culture/ history who "answer back" in two ways, through the embodied politics of sexual citizenship and embodied freedom, concepts elucidated by scholar Mimi Sheller, and through using Nation Language, as elucidated by scholar Kamau Brathwaite. Historically, it is Black women who have suffered from the triple jeopardy of race, gender, and class issues that result from the processes of racism, sexism, and classism. Through viewing the Afro-Caribbean's body as a text which actively rejects Europhile standards of aesthetics, sartorial practices, dancing, and language, the erotic dancing of Dancehall Queens becomes a means to showcase a politics against Puritanical views of sexuality.
This thesis is a qualitative research project that was developed through engagement with scholarly written texts, as well as musical and visual texts. In order to do this research, I focused primarily on the work of numerous Dancehall, Postcolonial, Caribbean, and Gender studies scholars. The texts of the most valuable groundbreaking scholars such as Carolyn Cooper, Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Mimi Sheller, Donna P. Hope, Bibi Bakare Yusef, Beth Sarah-Wright, Andrea Shaw, Tracey Skelton, Denise Noble and Marvin D. Sterling were integral to my research. Also applicable was the work of Honor Ford Smith in gathering stories of Jamaican women in Lionheart Gal. Primarily visual texts important to my work include the phenomenon of YouTube, Carol Tulloch's Black Style, the 1998 film Dancehall Queen, and the short documentary Ragga Gyal D'bout. The sonic portion of my thesis comes from the one and only Lady Saw.
I conclude my thesis by privileging the power of the Black female body, in all manners- from movement to adornment, as a decolonizing force. The hardest aspect of colonial history and enslavement is that it was meant to permanently leave one in a psychological state of self-effacement. The Dancehall Queens embody an anti-colonial way of life. The cultural work of Dancehall artists and Dancehall Queens, is, if nothing else, a counter to the psychological damage of very traumatizing histories.