The spirituality of reggae dancehall dance vocabulary: a spiritual, corporeal practice in Jamaican dance

PhD Thesis

Patten, H. 2019. The spirituality of reggae dancehall dance vocabulary: a spiritual, corporeal practice in Jamaican dance. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Arts And Humanities
AuthorsPatten, H.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification namePhD

This research explores the genealogy of Jamaican dancehall, questioning whether dancehall is underscored by spirituality. Pulling focus on the performance of dancehall ‘corporeal dancing bodies’ to identify, describe and reveal the complex, hidden, embodied spirituality within dancehall dance vocabulary, through ethnographic and auto/ethnographic methodology, this study employs participant observation to foreground the issues and concerns of dancehall dancers presented through their own voices/bodies. Emerging from a history of intersectional sociopolitico-economic forces of oppression and resistance, Jamaican reggae/dancehall has been established as a secular musical genre featuring slack (lewd, crude, sexually explicit) and violent lyrics within much reggae/dancehall scholarship, press and media coverage and electronic/social media platforms. Conversely, for many marginalised working class individuals occupying the lower strata of Jamaican society, dancehall not only represents a mode through which their concerns and needs are voiced, but crucially, a means for economic, physical and spiritual survival and upliftment. Through dancehall’s informal economy many disenfranchised individuals earn a living, affording them the chance to feed and send their children to school. Numerous dancehall dancers gain opportunities to develop their skills, profile and status, elevating themselves, their families and communities through their ‘God given’ artistic talents. Juxtaposing dancehall against Jamaican African/neo-African spiritual practices including Jonkonnu masquerade, Revivalism and Kumina, alongside Christianity and post-modern holistic spiritual approaches, this study identifies the performance and performative (behavioural actions) that may constitute spiritual ritual practices within dancehall dance. It delves beneath dancehall’s established paradoxical slackness and violence trope in establishing its existential/hermeneutic resources, dancehall’s ‘ritual paraphernalia’, through which dance practitioners organise and live their lives. The social spiritual functioning of dancehall is investigated regarding community cohesion, kinship, individual personhood and liberation, as precursors and facilitators to transformation and transcendence into the spiritual ‘myal possession state’, as corporeal dancing bodies become ‘spirit bodies’ within the dancehall space.

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Publication process dates
Deposited01 Oct 2019
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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