Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Africana Studies

First Advisor

Deborah A. Thomas

Second Advisor

Timothy Rommen

Abstract

The recent explosion of Ghanaian Reggae Dancehall reflects the longstanding and still growing influence of Jamaican-inspired popular culture in Ghana today. This emerging genre has been nurtured by local Rastafarian communities and championed by youth from the zongos—sprawling internal migrant and largely Islamic unplanned neighborhoods. Suffering similar forms of economic and political alienation from mainstream Ghanaian society, emerging Reggae Dancehall artists from these groups have adopted similar socio cultural and politically rebellious postures as their counterparts in Jamaica—mirroring Jamaican Patois, 'Dread Talk' and Rasta, ‘rudebwoy’ and ‘rudegyal’ identities as counter hegemonic ways of being and knowing in Ghana today.

Neoliberal structural adjustment, patron-clientelism and state corruption follow histories of slavery and colonialism in both these spaces. Subject populations in these locations have now, largely through entertainment media and internet technology come to see similar plights in each other’s experiences. Popular youth cultures in these locations have to come to mirror each other; resounding extant socio-linguistic and cultural retentions that tie African Jamaicans to Ghana through the Atlantic Slave Trade. Novel iterations of diaspora inhere in these processes. On the one hand Jamaican musicians hail ‘Africa’ as source of inspiration, site of return and escape from ‘Babylon.’ Across the Atlantic Ghanaian artists and audiences look to Rastafari, Reggae, and Dancehall for strategies in culturally, politically and commercially mobilizing their increasingly urban African identities. Drawing heavily on Jamaican pop tropes which themselves owe a debt to the continent, Ghanaian artists reclaim Reggae Dancehall as broadly African and hence legitimately their own; brushing off charges of mimicry as they endeavor to uniquely indigenize the art form.

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