Fighting in Outer Space is Hard, Y’all

Wading through digital projects and readings, where are you finding your inspiration? What parts of things you’re reading and seeing resonate most with you? Where are the gaps in your research and what are you still looking for? What are your thoughts as you get started?

Y’all, grappling is an understatement.  Imagine me on Mars fighting a muscular, hungry grizzly bear that voted for Trump and then you’ll get a better idea of the kind of struggling in which I’ve been engaged for the past couple days.  I don’t know if I’m winning this fight, but I do know that the more I wrestle with some of the questions of my research is the more I feel encouraged to refine my scope, particularly because of the readings I’ve done and the projects with which I have engaged.   Due to lack of resources, my project has changed shape and will no longer examine folk songs (though I will be taking that project up very soon in the future), but rather, I will examine dancehall, a vibrant genre of Jamaican music and I have been particularly influenced by the readings I’ve done.  Most prominently, Carolyn Cooper’s Sweet & Sour Sauce: Sexual Politics in Jamaican Dancehall Culture, Donna Hope’s Man Vibes: Masculinities in the Jamaican Dancehall, Johannes Skjelbo’s Jamaican Dancehall Censored: Music, Homophobia, and the Black Body in the Postcolonial World,  various readings on Queer Theory and the tool Scalar have been most useful to me in discerning the direction of my project.

Cooper’s incisive analysis on the nuanced meaning that dancehall takes on in working class communities (and how it is perceived by middle and upper class Jamaica) has especially inspired me to ask questions about how women negotiate their sexuality and claim (sexual) agency in a space that is highly patriarchal.  She challenges readings of women in dancehall (which she said are afflicted by the Western gaze) as merely capitulating to patriarchal oppression and instead offers instances in which women exercise their agency in the choices they make in the music about their sexuality.  This is an area of interest for me that I think could be further illuminated.  The contemporary moment of dancehall has seen singers like Ishawna publicly (and perhaps privately) reclaiming a sense of their sexuality most tangibly by demanding that their male sexual partners to reciprocate oral sex (a taboo of massive proportions).  Reading Queer Theory has also helped me to identify a framework from which to examine the ‘abnormal’ in the dancehall music industry and what that might have to say about the social landscape.

I’m also particularly interested in using TimelineJS or Scalar (or both if possible).  I’m still a bit intimidated by learning how to use either tool, but I think Scalar especially would be a good platform (based on what John has showed me) to post videos, links to scholarly articles, interviews all organized around my main argument that is interested in identifying moments where women have used dancehall as a space of feminist engagement.  I also like that it allows for conversation from my users because studies of dancehall music are relatively new and feedback is necessary to enhance the quality of scholarship.  I also don’t like the idea of studying working class culture, but not ceding platform for those who are most directly influenced by it to weigh in on its effects.  Scalar seems to resolve those points of conflict.

In concluding, I am so excited that I’ve come closer to the questions I want to be asking and I look forward to continuous fights on Mars with the bear who voted for Trump which will hopefully lead to much more pertinent questions being posed (and perhaps, even answered) of intergalactic proportions.


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