Wah Eye Nuh See Heart Nuh Leap: Queer Marronage In The Jamaican Dancehall
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This thesis explores the interweaving of colonial and post-colonial British and Jamaican Laws and the interpretive legalities of sexuality, compulsory heterosexuality, and queerness. The research project begins by exploring the ways in which the gendered colonial law produces black sexualities as excessive and in need of discipline while also noticing how Caribbean peoples negotiate and subvert these legalities. The work then turns to dancehall and its enmeshment with landscape (which reflects theatre-in-the round and African spiritual ceremonies), psycho scape (which retains African uses of marronage and pageantry as personhood), and musicscape (which deploys homophobia to demand heterosexuality), in order to tease out the complexities of Caribbean sexualities and queer practices. I couple these legal narratives and geographies with interviews and ethnographic data and draw attention to the ways in which queer men inhabit the dancehall. I argue that queer men participate in a dancehall culture—one that is perceived as heterosexual and homophobic—undetected because of the over-arching (cultural and aesthetic) queerness of the space coupled with the de facto heterosexuality afforded all who ‘brave’ dancehall’s homophobia. Queer dancehall participants report that inhabiting this space involves the tactical deployment of (often non-sexual) heterosexual signifiers as well as queering the dancehall aesthetic by moving from margin to centre. In so doing, I argue, queer dancehall queers transition from unvisible (never seen but always invoked) to invisible (blending into the queered space) while also moving across and through, as well as calling into question, North American gay culture, queer liberalism, and identity politics.
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