Dancehall culture's explicit concerns with materializing identities via its politics of fashion, music, and dance remain a crucial component of sociocultural activity in the postmillennial realities of Jamaica. This presentation explores the cultural and social pathways via which cultural identity is materialized and curated within contemporary movements in dancehall dance. This work is specifically based on Hope's research on the movement of Jamaican dancehall dance into Europe and Latin and South America that seeded in 2009 but formalized in 2014 as Dancehall's Scattered Children.
Hope examines how the manifestation of dances—from the Jamaican streets and inner cities, and embodying the hopes and dreams of local dancers and a wider connected group—are materialized across popular cultural and technological networks such as Instagram and Facebook. Drawing on narrative interviews, participant observation at dancehall camps in Jamaica and Europe, and informal conversations with dancers and organizers—among other strategies—Hope assesses the social and cultural pathways from Jamaican street dances to European dance studios and the necessary return "home" to Jamaica that is incorporated in this cycle.
In the final analysis, she asserts that these interconnected networks of dance and technologies of materiality transmit a direct response to the harsh, marginalized conditions of local dancehall actors and others immobilized by the politics of identity in Jamaica. In so doing, these networks simultaneously create a renewed space of existence for agency and identity-making that locates indigeneous and nonindigeneous dancers and actors in an empowering and empowered cultural community that challenges Jamaica's social and cultural hegemonies."
Donna P. Hope is a senior lecturer at the Institute of Caribbean Studies and the Reggae Studies Unit at the University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica. Her publications include Inna di Dancehall: Popular Culture and the Politics of Identity in Jamaica (2006, UWI Press) and Man Vibes: Masculinities in the Jamaican Dancehall (2010, Ian Randle Publishers).