Spectral Vibrations

Discovering and Recovering Lost Bodies through Jamaican Sound


  • Trishauna Stewart Independent researcher




Jamaican sound, hauntology, sontology, migration, colonial history


This article researches the linkages between processes of colonialization/self-colonization, the de facto nationalization of ubiquitous sound and the structural processes of identity formation within the Jamaican Diaspora. I theorize that the Jamaican sound system is a spectral unit—through which emancipatory, liberationist and identity struggles can be heard and measured. In considering the “living-on” of such struggles, I draw from Jacques Derrida’s theory of “hauntology”, highlighting the hauntological “traces” of the colonial past found in the present and future of the Jamaican dancehall and its culture. In thinking “through sound”, I draw from Julian Henriques’ work, Sonic Bodies. Considering Henriques’ assertation that “sonic bodies” are bodies “saturated” in sound, I question whether sound (that of Jamaican dancehall music) can be considered to have a body (ghostly) and an actual life; being of a form, alike the bodies it impacts. I conclude that the presence of a sound-life allows us to speak of dancehall music sontologically, of being and bodily presence (subject to control and restraint). Such being is relative to those absent—the bodies of those lost but discovered/recovered in migration. I present an analysis of dancehall culture, dancehall participation and live performance while exploring such ideas. 

Author Biography

Trishauna Stewart, Independent researcher

Trishauna Stewart is an independent researcher from Manchester, UK. Her current research interests are situated within multiple disciplines including politics, philosophy/Caribbean philosophy, cultural studies, critical studies, history and literature. In her examination of political, social and cultural systems, she is currently contemplating the presence of spirit(s) and how they are captured. The peculiarities and paradoxes which appear in Jamaican dancehall culture, allow her to explore such intriguing ideas. Her work is often critical in its engagement with concepts such as diaspora, migration, decolonization, dependency and national identities.


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How to Cite

Stewart, T. (2021). Spectral Vibrations: Discovering and Recovering Lost Bodies through Jamaican Sound. Journal of World Popular Music, 8(1), 141–155. https://doi.org/10.1558/jwpm.43093