Spectral Vibrations

Discovering and Recovering Lost Bodies through Jamaican Sound

Authors

  • Trishauna Stewart Independent researcher

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jwpm.43093

Keywords:

Jamaican sound, hauntology, sontology, migration, colonial history

Abstract

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.

References

Anderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.

Bass, Alan. 1978. “Translator’s Introduction”. In Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, ix–xx. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Braithwaite, Kamau. 1978. The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770–1820. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Brown, Vincent. 2020. Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674242081

Browne, Patrick. 1789. The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica. London: White & Son.

Butler, Judith. 1988. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory”. Theatre Journal 40/4: 519–31. https://doi.org/10.2307/3207893

—2004. Undoing Gender. New York and London: Routledge.

Cheah, Pheng. 2003. Spectral Nationality: Passages of Freedom from Kant to Postcolonial Literatures of Liberation. New York: Colombia University Press. https://doi.org/10.7312/chea13018

Cooper, Carolyn. 1995. Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender and the “Vulgar” Body of Jamaican Popular Culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780822381921

—2004. Sound Clash: Jamaican Dancehall Culture at Large. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Derrida, Jacques. 1994. Specters of Marx: The State of Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International. New York and London: Routledge Classics.

Fanon, Frantz. 2008. Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto.

Fisher, Mark. 2013. “The Metaphysics of Crackle: Afrofuturism and Hauntology”. Dancecult: The Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 5/2: 42–55. https://doi.org/10.12801/1947-5403.2013.05.02.03

Foucault, Michel, 1976. Society Must be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France 1975–1976, edited by Francois Ewald. London: Allen Lane.

Gilroy, Paul. 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. London: Verso Press.

—2005. “The Critique of Capitalism”. In The Subcultures Reader, edited by Ken Gelder, 460–68. London: Routledge.

Gopal, Priyamvada. 2019. Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent. London: Verso.

Hall, Douglas. 1999. In Miserable Slavery: Thomas Thistlewood in Jamaica. Kingston: University of the West Indies Press.

Henriques, Julian. 2011. Sonic Bodies: Reggae Sound Systems, Performance Techniques and Ways of Knowing. New York and London: Continuum.

Hitchins, Ray. 2016. Vibe Merchants: The Sound Creators of Jamaican Popular Music. Surrey: Ashgate. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315548357

Hope, Donna. 2010. “From Stage to Grave: Exploring Funerals in Dancehall Culture”. International Journal of Cultural Studies 13/3: 254–70. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877909359733

Mbembé, J.-A. 2003. “Necropolitics”. Public Culture 15/1: 11–40. https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-15-1-11

McKittrick, Katherine and Alexander G. Weheliye. 2017. “808’s & Heartbreak”. Propter Nos 2/1: 13–42.

Merzoeff, Nicholas. 2011. The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822393726

Reinelt, Janelle. 2002. “The Politics of Discourse: Performativity Meets Theatricality”. SubStance 31/2-3: 201–15. https://doi.org/10.1353/sub.2002.0037

Roughley, Thomas. 1823. The Jamaica Planter’s Guide; Or, A System for Planting and Managing a Sugar Estate, Or Other Plantations on that Island, and throughout the West Indies in General. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown.

Sheller, Mimi. 2012. Citizenship from Below: Caribbean Agency and Erotic Freedom. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822393825

Spivak, G. 1988. “Can the Subaltern Speak?”. In Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, 271–313. Illinois: University of Illinois. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-19059-1_20

Stanley Niaah, Sonjah. 2010. Dancehall: From Slave Ship to Ghetto. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.

Stolzoff, Norman C. 2000. Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1995. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Media and Discography

Beckford, Stanley and The Starlights. 1980. ‘New Jamaica (Come Sing With Me)’. https://open.spotify.com/album/3gfFQ28fmauXSuwYrG23ir

Browne, Danny. 1998. ‘Filthy Riddim’. Filthy Riddim. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YACllsEOj0

Buccaneer. 1998. ‘Tek It Easy’. Da Opera. https://open.spotify.com/album/1CMExKPhwGCmPqMLrzSyvO?highlight=spotify:track:6mwGoQFNOqbWKz1M4vAX54

Minaj, Nicki. 2019. ‘MEGATRON’. MEGATRON. https://open.spotify.com/album/4PsIFkX5QIvAI0xB7qHugW

OnstageTV. 2019. “Popcaan Literally Flies onto his Unruly Fest 2019 Stage”. YouTube video, 22:33. 22 December 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aan7NLXkkdY

Pelpa Time Production. 2019. “Popcaan when Flying Like a Superman, Attack the Crowd from the Air Performance at Unruly Fest 2019”. YouTube video, 16:28. 22 December 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKvaXkf_d4A

RBFilmsJA. 2010. “Jim Screechy [Official Video]”. YouTube video, 3:59. 2 October 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvKLefL7UV0

Spice. 2010. ‘Jim Screechie’. Ragga Ragga Ragga 2011. https://open.spotify.com/album/1U5D9QrLf64GVzkEL5nEUz?highlight=spotify:track:0hmtXCDKqZ38V0IOQuE0sU

Published

2021-08-13

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

Issue

Section

Articles