“Inna di Dancehall: Popular Culture and the Politics of Identity in Jamaica,” is undeniably a notably informative piece of literature which examines the socioeconomic and political factors that have been influential on Jamaica’s cultural identity. Donna P. Hope, author of ISBN 976-640-168-3, exploits the “dancehall” as a channel to define and categorize elements such as race, gender, sexuality and violence practiced in Jamaican culture. The novel was published in Jamaica in the year 2006 by the University of the West Indies Press.
“Donna P. Hope is presently a lecturer in Reggae Studies in the Institute of Caribbean Studies, at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Dr. Hope continues to engage in ongoing teaching and research on Jamaican music and popular music culture. Her areas of research interest include: Jamaican music and dancehall culture, youth development, black masculinities, black popular culture, gender, identity, and power.”
On writing “Inna di Dancehall,” Hope aimed to “ease the scarcity of accessible academic work on Jamaican popular culture generally and dancehall culture specifically” (Hope xviii). To assist her in accomplishing this, Hope divided her findings into five chapters, each of which explored a distinctive theme of Jamaica’s dancehall culture- “Setting the Dancehall Stage: The Historical Moment”, “Defining the Dancehall, “Love Punaany Bad: Sexuality and Gender”, “Bigging up Dons and Shottas: Violence in the Dancehall” and “Identity Politics inna the Belly of the Dancehall.”
Since the book is based on anthropological research, the approach upon reading the text was one with a methodical state of mind. The book takes a holistic approach in describing all aspects of Jamaican society, describing the class structure, gender roles, and values of the society.
Dancehall culture in modern-day Jamaican society is the focus of a constant dispute in the public sphere. It argues that throughout the culture, the symbols- race, gender, sexuality and violence- play a major role in Jamaica’s society through the use of the dancehall.
“Inna di Dancehall” deals with dancehall in the past couple of years. It is filled with historical information and references. The book is, therefore, not set in one time period, but spans decades. Though it may not deal with dancehall culture of the most recent past, the themes discussed in the text still bear significance to some of the music that originates from Jamaica today.
Originally, the term “dancehall” referred to a place that was used for the hosting of dances and similar events (Hope 26). However, dancehall today refers to that genre of Jamaican popular music that originated in the early 1980’s. Hope uses the term “dis/place” to impute sociocultural and political meanings to the dancehall space. The identification of this space as the dis/place provides a framework within which Hope locates overlapping symbols of power and domination and the ongoing struggles within the dancehall (Hope 25).
The rise in poverty and crime are said to be the causes of the birth of dancehall music and its culture. Its primary symbols- gender, sexuality, and violence- form the basis of a discussion. Hope utilizes these symbols to support her argument and to illustrate how the persons of the dancehall used it to reiterate their cultural identity. Furthermore, Hope suggests that the dancehall culture is considered to be an ongoing threat to the customary social hierarchy, because the dancehall challenges are mainly based on the fundamentals of class, colour and race.
Dancehall culture is usually disparaged. However, Hope argues that this “slack” culture has infiltrated the identity spaces and hegemonic foundation of Jamaican society. These themes have not only played a role in the music and lyrics of the dancehall culture but also the economic, social and political aspects of the country.
Hope further examines the categories of heterogeneous actors-...
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