Abstract

Abstract:

This essay explores the intersections and conflicts between the antiracist projects of West Indian decolonization and dance anthropology in 1930s Jamaica through an analysis of the Afro-Caribbean social dance spaces at Edelweiss Park. Edelweiss Amusement Park was a multimedia entertainment venue and nightclub in the heart of Kingston that Pan-Africanist leader Marcus Garvey opened in 1929. The Black fad dances, or "shay-shays," executed on the dancefloor made visible working-class ideas of citizenship as control over leisure and work hours and generated a form of embodied Black internationalist politics. Still, shay-shays' cosmopolitan optics are understudied because they disrupted African American notions of the Black Caribbean culture's pure Africanist "authenticity." To understand further shay-shays and the impact of the ethnographic gaze on their legacy, the essay turns to African American concert dance-maker Katherine Dunham's 1935 films and ethnographic descriptions of social dance in Kingston. Shifting from a US-centered history of West Indian dance that forefronts foreign researchers' experience and methodology, this historical ethnography reimagines how the politics of Garveyism informed how West Indians moved and communicated local visions of freedom.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-332X
Print ISSN
0192-2882
Pages
pp. 59-75
Launched on MUSE
2022-04-09
Open Access
No
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