Niaah on Jamaican Dancehall

Click Image for Credit
Click Image for Credit

Niaah, Sonjah Stanley. DanceHall: From Slave Ship to Ghetto. University of Ottawa Press, 2009. 

Coming October 2009.

From the University of Ottawa Press Catalogue:

“The first extended study of Jamaican dancehall music and performance
culture. DanceHall combines cultural geography, performance studies and cultural studies to examine performance culture across the Black Atlantic. Taking Jamaican dancehall music as its prime example, DanceHall reveals a complex web of cultural practices, politics, rituals, philosophies, and survival strategies that link Caribbean, African and
African diasporic performance.
Combining the rhythms of reggae, digital sounds and rapid-fire DJ lyrics, dancehall
music was popularized in Jamaica during the later part of the last century by artists
such as Shabba Ranks, Shaggy, Beenie Man and Buju Banton. Even as its popularity
grows around the world, a detailed understanding of dancehall performance space,
lifestyle and meanings is missing. Author Sonjah Stanley Niaah relates how dancehall
emerged from the marginalized youth culture of Kingston’s ghettos and how it
remains inextricably linked to the ghetto, giving its performance culture and spaces a
distinct identity. She reveals how dancehall’s migratory networks, embodied practice,
institutional frameworks, and ritual practices link it to other musical styles, such as
American blues, South African kwaito, and Latin American reggaetòn. She shows
that dancehall is part of a legacy that reaches from the dance shrubs of West Indian
plantations and the early negro churches, to the taxi-dance halls of Chicago and the
ballrooms of Manhattan. Indeed, DanceHall stretches across the whole of the Black
Atlantic’s geography and history to produce its detailed portrait of dancehall in its
local, regional, and transnational performance spaces.”

Readings in Black Geographies

Carl H. Nightingale.  “Before Race Mattered: Geographies of the Color Line in Early Colonial Madras and New York.” The American Historical Review 113, no. 1 (February 1, 2008): 48-71.

First paragraph:

By the 1710s, British authorities at both Madras, India, and New York City had made, by fits and starts, more than a half-century of progress in their efforts to increase their power over people they categorized as “black.” Yet the residential color lines they drew in these two cities contrasted sharply. In Madras, known today as Chennai, stout stone walls separated a privileged European neighborhood from the city’s Asian districts. Similar arrangements existed in other colonial cities in the Eastern Hemisphere, but Madras was the first place in world history to officially designate its two sections by color: “White Town” and “Black Town.” In New York, by contrast, a small part of town outside the city wall sometimes called the “negro lands” was dismantled, along with the wall itself. In a pattern that New Yorkers would scarcely recognize today, but which was common among slave-importing cities of the Atlantic world, authorities forced black slaves to live inside the households of whites, especially the wealthiest ones. There, the politics of domestic life settled further questions of color and space.

More on black geographies:

Katherine Mckittrick and Clyde Woods, eds. Black Geographies and the Politics of Place. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007.

Table of Contents:

1. “No One Knows the Mysteries at the Bottom of the Ocean”
Katherine McKittrick; Clyde Woods

2. Towards African Diaspora Citizenship: Politicizing an Existing Global Geography
Carole Boyce Davies & Babacar M’Bow

3. “Sittin’ on Top of the World”: The Challenges of Blues and Hip Hop Geography
Clyde Woods

4. Memories of Africville: Urban Renewal, Reparations, and the Africadian DiasporaAngel David Nieves

5. “Freedom Is a Secret”
Katherine McKittrick

6. Henry Box Brown, an International Fugitive: Slavery, Resistance, and Imperialism
Suzette A. Spencer

7. “A Realm of Monuments and Water”: Lorde-ian Erotics and Shange’s African Diaspora Cosmopolitanism
Kimberly N. Ruffin

8. “The Lost Tribe of a Lost Tribe”: Black British Columbia and the Poetics of Space
Peter James Hudson

9.  Deportable or Admissible: Black Women and the Space of “Removal”
Jenny Burman

10.  Mapping Black Atlantic Performance Geographies: From Slave Ship to Ghetto
Sonjah Stanley Niaah

11. Urban Revolutions and the Spaces of Black Radicalism
James A. Tyner

12. Homopoetics: Queer Space and the Black Queer Diaspora
Rinaldo Walcott

Letter from the Rastafari Community of Shashamane to UN Secretary General
Kofi Annan, June 27, 2001.

Stephanie M. H. Camp. Closer to Freedom:  Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Press, 2004.