Next week I begin teaching my second course at MIT. It’s a new syllabus, though it draws on certain materials I’ve used before. In contrast to previous offerings, however, this will be the first time I teach a class with a primary focus on reggae outside of Jamaica — on what I’m calling here “global reggae” or “reggae as transnational culture.”
No doubt we’ll encounter a good number of themes resonant with the inextricably related subject of global hip-hop. But I’m also keen to identify particular dimensions of reggae’s transmission and transformation abroad that might, for significant reasons, diverge from the reception and refiguring of hip-hop around the world. We’ll let you know ;)
Meantime, if you happen to know any MIT students to whom this sort of course would appeal, by all means point them this-a-way. And if you spot any conspicuous absences in the syllabus below — a work-in-progress, as always — please do point them out, make recommendations, & feel free to offer critiques, supplements, and blessings.
21F.035 / 21M.539 Topics in Culture and Globalization
Global Reggae: Reggae as Transnational Culture
Mellon Fellow in the Humanities
Foreign Languages and Literatures
Music and Theater Arts
Tuesday/Thursday 12:30-2:00 pm
Reggae is incontestably one of the most popular musics in the world. Despite its origins in the working-class urban culture of the relatively small country of Jamaica, reggae artists have powerfully projected their voices outward (in part via the imperial networks of the UK and USA) and one can hear reggae today in almost any corner of the globe—not just Jamaican reggae, but local versions and fusions with nearly every other conceivable genre. Reggae precedes the global reach of its progeny, hip-hop, but, in its dancehall guise, it has also in turn piggybacked on hip-hop’s own impressive international spread. As remix approaches and massive sound systems have become increasingly common worldwide, reggae stands as a remarkably influential template for world music, electronic dance music, and popular music more generally. Itself constituted by international flows of music and musicians but increasingly produced outside of Jamaica, reggae thus offers a rich resource for the examination of today’s global circulations of music and media.
This course considers reggae, or Jamaican popular music more generally—in its various forms (ska, rocksteady, roots, dancehall)—as constituted by international movements and exchanges and as a product that circulates globally in complex ways, cast variously as Jamaican, Caribbean, Afrodiasporic, and/or black, and recast through the cultural logics of the new spaces it enters, the new soundscapes it permeates. By reading across the reggae literature, as well as considering reggae texts themselves (songs, films, videos, and images), we will scrutinize the different interpretations of reggae’s significance and the implications of different interpretations of the story of Jamaica and its music. We will attend in particular to how reggae informs notions of selfhood and nationhood, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, religion and politics—in particular places and at particular times.
Although Bob Marley still serves as the most ubiquitous symbol of reggae (and, indeed, of Jamaica), the reggae tradition and repertory go far deeper and represent a great deal to listeners and practitioners. In its shifting shapes and forms the genre has served for four decades as a potent symbol of independence and social critique, communitarian commitment as well as rugged individualism. While certain core values appear regularly in reggae, the genre also offers a rather flexible palette for a wide range of ideological positions, from Pan-Africanism and other forms of transnationalism to utterly provincial nationalism, from peaceful and respectful postures to aggressive machismo and militancy, from tolerance to its own forms of oppression. Perhaps most notably, reggae has made such scripts of personhood and nationhood available not only to Jamaicans but to people around the world who have adopted the genre’s gestures as their own.
Beginning with a consideration of how Jamaica’s popular music industry emerged out of transnational exchanges, the course will proceed to focus on reggae’s circulation outside of Jamaica via diasporic networks and commercial mediascapes. Attending to how the genre’s pliable but distinct forms have been, in turn, transformed in particular localities, the course will help to illuminate ongoing dynamics between the global and local. Among other sites, we will consider reggae’s resonance and impact elsewhere in the Anglo Caribbean (e.g., Trinidad, Barbados), the United Kingdom (including British reggae styles but also such progeny as jungle, grime, and dubstep), the United States (both as reggae per se and in hip-hop), France and Germany, Panama and Puerto Rico and other Latin American locales (e.g., Brazil), Japan and Australia, as well as West, South, and East Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Uganda).
Bilby, Kenneth. “Jamaica.” In Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae, ed. Peter Manuel, 143-182. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995.
Veal, Michael. Dub: Soundscapes & Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2007. [Intro & ch. 1, p. 1-44]
Thomas, Deborah. “Modern Blackness; or, Theoretical ‘Tripping’ on Black Vernacular Culture.” In Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica, 230-62. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004.
Chude-Sokei, Louis. “Post-Nationalist Geographies: Rasta, Ragga, and Reinventing Africa.” African Arts, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Autumn 1994): 80-84, 96.
Patterson, Orlando. “Ecumenical America: Global Culture and the American Cosmos.” World Policy Journal Vol. 11, No. 2 (1994): 103-17.
Watch: excerpts from Roots, Rock, Reggae, Harder They Come, Dancehall Queen, Third World Cop, Shottas
Bennett, Louise. “Colonization in Reverse.” (1966)
Jones, Simon. Black Culture, White Youth: The Reggae Tradition from JA to UK. London: Macmillan, 1988. [ch. 2, 4, Conclusion, p. 33-56, 87-118, 231-40.]
Gilroy, Paul. “Between the Blues and the Blues Dance: Some Soundscapes of the Black Atlantic.” In The Auditory Culture Reader, ed. Michael Bull and Les Back, 381-95. Oxford and New York: Berg Publishers, 2003.
Hebdige, Dick. Cut’n’Mix: Culture, Identity, and Caribbean Music. London: Routledge, 1987. [ch. 11-12, p. 90-117]
Sharma, Sanjay. “Noisy Asians or ‘Asian’ Noise?” [p. 32-60] & Shirin Housee & Mukhtar Dar, “Re-Mixing Identities: ‘Off’ the Turn-Table” [p. 81-104]. In Dis-Orienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music. London: Zed Books, 1996.
Quinn, Steven. “Rumble In The Jungle: The Invisible History of Drum’n’Bass.” Transformations, No. 3 (May 2002): 1-12.
Chang, Jeff. “Making a Name: How DJ Kool Herc Lost His Accent and Started Hip-Hop.” In Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. New York: St. Martins Press, 2005. [ch. 4, p. 67-88]
Kenner, Rob. “Dancehall,” In The Vibe History of Hip-hop, ed. Alan Light, 350-7. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.
Marshall, Wayne. “Follow Me Now: The Zigzagging Zunguzung Meme”
Marshall, Wayne. “Hearing Hip-hop’s Jamaican Accent.” Institute for Studies in American Music Newsletter 34, no. 2 (2005): 8-9, 14-15.
Koppel, Niko. “New Roots in the Bronx for a Lion of Reggae.” New York Times, April 12, 2009.
Faraone, Chris. “Reggae Revival.” [on reggae in Boston] Boston Phoenix, May 21, 2009.
Stephens, Michelle A. “Babylon’s ‘Natural Mystic’: The North American Music Industry, the Legend of Bob Marley, and the Incorporation of Transnationalism.” Cultural Studies Vol. 12, No. 2 (1998): 139–167.
Watch: excerpts from Sound Class, Marked for Death, Belly, Predator 2
Putnam, Lara. “The Weekly Reggee: The Greater Caribbean Jazz Age and Youth Dances in Limon, Costa Rica, 1930-1932.” Unpublished/forthcoming.
Bishop, Marlon. “Spanish Oil.” Wax Poetics 43 (September 2010).
Worfalk, Clayton. The Roots. Big Up Magazine, 2008.
Twickel, Christoph. “Reggae in Panama: Bien Tough.” & “Muévelo (Move It!): From Panama to New York and Back Again, the Story of El General.” In Reggaeton, ed. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 81-88 & 99-108. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.
Nwankwo, Ifeoma C. K. “The Panamanian Origins of Reggae en Español: Seeing History through ‘Los Ojos Café’ of Renato.” In Reggaeton, ed. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 89-98. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.
Giovannetti, Jorge L. “Popular Music and Culture in Puerto Rico: Jamaican and Rap Music as Cross-Cultural Symbols.” In Musical Migrations: Transnationalism and Cultural Hybridity in the Americas, ed. Frances R. Aparicio and Cándida F. Jáquez, 81-98. New York: Palgrave, 2003.
Flores, Juan. 2004. “Creolité in the ‘Hood: Diaspora as Source and Challenge.” Centro 16, no. 2 (Fall): 283-289.
Marshall, Wayne. “From Música Negra to Reggaeton Latino.” In Reggaeton, ed. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 19-76. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.
Davis, Samuel Furé. “Reggae in Cuba and the Hispanic Caribbean: fluctuations and representations of identities.” Black Music Research Journal Vol. 29, No. 1 (Spring 2009): 25-50.
Hansing, Katrin. “Rasta, Race and Revolution: Transnational Connections in Socialist Cuba.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 27, No. 4 (2001): 733 – 747.
Baker, Geoffrey. 2009. “The Politics of Dancing.” In Reggaeton, eds. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 165-99. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.
Fairley, Jan. 2008. “How To Make Love With Your Clothes On: Dancing Regeton, Gender and Sexuality in Cuba.” In Reggaeton, eds. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 280-96. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.
Behague, Gerard. “Rap, Reggae, Rock, or Samba: The Local and the Global in Brazilian Popular Music (1985-95).” Latin American Music Review 27, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2006): 79-90.
de Araújo Pinho, Osmundo. “‘Fogo na Babilônia’: Reggae, Black Counterculture, and Globalization in Brazil.” In Brazilian Popular Music & Globalization, ed. Charles A. Perrone and Christopher Dunn (New York: Routledge, 2001), 192-206.
dos Santos Godi, Antonio J. V. “Reggae and Samba-Reggae in Bahia: A Case of Long-Distance Belonging.” In Brazilian Popular Music & Globalization, ed. Charles A. Perrone and Christopher Dunn (New York: Routledge, 2001), 207-219.
Neate, Patrick and Damian Platt. Culture Is Our Weapon: Afroreggae in the Favelas of Rio [ch 3, 4, 7, 8].
Goodman, Steve. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009. [ch. 31, p. 171-5]
Watch: excerpts from Favela Rising, Favela on Blast
WEST, EAST, AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
Akindes, Simon. “Playing It ‘Loud and Straight’: Reggae, Zouglou, Mapouka and Youth Insubordination in Côte d’Ivoire.” In Playing with Identities in Contemporary Music in Africa, ed. Mai Palmberg & Annemette Kirkegaard, 86-103. Nordic Africa Institute, 2002.
McNee, Lisa. “Back From Babylon: Popular Musical Cultures of the Diaspora, Youth Culture and Identity in Francophone West Africa.” In Music, Popular Culture, Identities, ed. Richard Young, 213-228. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002.
Savishinsky, Neil J. “Rastafari in the Promised Land: The Spread of a Jamaican Socioreligious Movement among the Youth of West Africa.” African Studies Review Vol. 37, No. 3 (Dec 1994): 19-50.
Remes, Pieter. “Global Popular Musics and Changing Awareness of Urban Tanzanian Youth.” Yearbook for Traditional Music, Vol. 31 (1999): 1-26.
Gilman, Lisa and John Fenn. “Dance, Gender, and Popular Music in Malawi: The Case of Rap and Ragga.” Popular Music Vol. 25, No. 3 (2006): 369-81.
Watch: excerpts from Living the Hiplife, Buchaman
Sterling, Marvin D. Babylon East: Performing Dancehall, Roots Reggae and Rastafari in Japan. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010. [Intro, ch. 1, 3, 5, 6]
Dresinger, Baz. “Tokyo After Dark.” Vibe, 2002.
Wood, Joe. “The Yellow Negro.” Transition 73 (1997): 40-67.
AUSTRALIA & BALI
Maxwell, Ian. “Sydney Stylee: Hip-Hop Down Under Comin’ Up.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell, 259-79. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
White, Cameron. “Rapper on a Rampage: Theorising the Political Significance of Aboriginal Australian Hip Hop and Reggae.” Transforming Cultures eJournal, Vol. 4 No 1 (April 2009): 108-130.
Baulch, Emma. Making Scenes: Reggae, Punk, and Death Metal in 1990s Bali. Durham: Duke University Press, 200 [ch. 3, p. 73-90]
That’s it, for now. There are plenty of holes that I’m aware of (anything on roots reggae in Cuba, say [update: after one day of comments, that's been ameliorated; new readings now above!]), and surely plenty more that I’m not. Then again, I’m finding the extant literature on local reggae scenes outside of Jamaica fairly impoverished at the moment. (Nothing on Italian sound systems? Really?) The course can’t exactly be comprehensive — we only have so much time — but I would love for this post to serve as a spot for collecting some good materials. So, as they say inna di dancehall, send on!