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Sounds of the Citizens

Dancehall and Community in Jamaica

Anne Galvin

Publication Year: 2014

Dancehall: It's simultaneously a source of raucous energy in the streets of Kingston, Jamaica; a way of life for a group of professional artists and music professionals; and a force of stability and tension within the community. Electronically influenced, relevant to urban Jamaicans, and highly danceable, dancehall music and culture forms a core of popular entertainment in the nation. As Anne Galvin reveals in Sounds of the Citizens, the rhythms of dancehall music reverberate in complicated ways throughout the lives of countless Jamaicans.

Galvin highlights the unique alliance between the dancehall industry and community development efforts. As the central role of the state in supporting communities has diminished, the rise of private efforts such as dancehall becomes all the more crucial. The tension, however, between those involved in the industry and those within the neighborhoods is palpable and often dangerous. Amidst all this, individual Jamaicans interact with the dancehall industry and its culture to find their own paths of employment, social identity, and sexual mores.

As Sounds of the Citizens illustrates, the world of entertainment in Jamaica is serious business and uniquely positioned as a powerful force within the community.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

This project has been the result of the generosity of so many people that it is hard to know where to begin saying thank you. First I need to express my deep gratitude to the residents of the communities where I worked and the employees of Wicked Times who opened their lives, homes, and offices to me. I wish I could call you all out by name...

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pp. 1-24

During the summer of 2009, Martin, whom I had by then known for almost a decade, asked me to accompany him on some errands that took us down the narrow streets of downtown Kingston in his newly acquired passenger van. When I first met Martin back in 2001, in the Kingston garrison community I have named Guy Town, I was a graduate student and he was completing a postsecondary program in ...

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1. “Money Move”: The Sociality of Circulation, Violence, and Respect

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pp. 25-46

Giving and generosity in Jamaican ghetto communities are markers of reputation and respectability where other cultural markers, including the use of Standard English, European marriage patterns, and success through education, have been largely unattainable or deliberately rejected.1 These socialized values shaped by gender roles and access to employment are fundamental characteristics of ghetto culture, and, I would add, necessary ones, under circumstances in which the majority of the population is not...

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2. “Give thanks for that man deh fi di place”: Patronage, Power, and Shifting Burdens of Care

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pp. 47-75

Patronage, in Guy Town, is a multilayered system that includes different sorts of patrons who provide different kinds of resources. As background to the more detailed discussion of the patronage of Dads, the record pro-ducer, I will briefly highlight the activities of other patrons in Guy Town and the wider area. The first is a local entrepreneur who runs a retail shop ...

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3. Dancehall Dilemmas: Sounds from the Disquieted Margins

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pp. 76-110

Jamaican dancehall music exists at the interstices of race, class, nation, and postcolony. It is a popular yet controversial genre in Jamaica and abroad, which has been the subject of heated public debate owing to its ambiguous position. The music has been widely criticized for promoting promiscuity, disrespect toward women, homophobia, and criminality, traits that are often ascribed to Kingston’s black working...

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4. “Got to mek a living”: Dancehall as Industry

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pp. 111-141

Wicked Times, as a dancehall production company, exists at the intersection of a physical and ideological divide—Kingston’s uptown and downtown. In the minds of most Kingstonians, regardless of class position, the boundary between uptown and downtown, called Halfway Tree, signifies class and cultural differentiations among residents of the Kingston Metropolitan Area. A representational boundary has been fashioned from class-based residential settlement patterns, which shape the city’s social...

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5. The Contradictions of Neoliberal Nation Building in Jamaica: Community Development through Dancehall

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pp. 142-166

One of the development strategies adopted by P. J. Patterson’s People’s National Party government during the first half of the decade was to make more of the Jamaican people economic winners through the establishment of partnerships between public and private entities. This strategy, in part, aimed to incorporate, educate, and discipline the poor urban black populations that inhabit communities like Guy Town. These community development projects were part of a larger national development program...

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6. The Long View

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pp. 167-176

Looking back at the declining heyday of the Guy Town development projects ten years later confirmed many of the concerns I initially identified in the development programming back in 2002. Though Dads was unsuccessful in his election bid for member of Parliament, he has continued to rise through the ranks of the PNP, and the change in focus has caused him to withdraw from development activities in Guy Town. Dads’s withdrawal...


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pp. 177-188


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pp. 189-210


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pp. 211-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780826519801
E-ISBN-10: 0826519806

Publication Year: 2014