Music, Memory, Power: Being Jamaican Maroon in the Past, Present, and Future

Author: ORCID icon
Stewart, Tracey, Music - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Dave, Nomi, AS-Music, University of Virginia
Gordon, Bonnie, AS-Music, University of Virginia
Miller, Karl, AS-Music, University of Virginia
Kisliuk, Michelle, AS-Music, University of Virginia
Otu, Kwame, AS-Inst-Afri-Am & African Stud, University of Virginia

During the First Maroon War which began in roughly 1655, Jamaican Maroons engaged the British in a campaign of guerrilla warfare that lasted more than eighty years. This war culminated in the signing of two peace treaties between the Maroons and the British. Today, both treaties are at the center of present-day debates over cultural ownership, ethnic distinction, sovereignty, and national belonging. This study reveals how Jamaican Maroon music, performance practice, and cultural icons are strategically deployed in those debates. Jamaican Maroons use music and performance to support their claims to a treaty documented status as sovereign-nations distinct from the Jamaican Nation. The Jamaican state recognizes this distinction, but only to the extent that it sees Maroon history and culture as valuable cultural assets to be subsumed as part of the Jamaican national culture. This is further complicated by the ambiguity of the terms sovereignty and nationhood as they relate to Jamaican Maroon communities; by the lack of resources that are necessary if they hope to attain economic independence; and by the social and political entanglements that have developed between Maroons and the Jamaican state which present obstacles to achieving their stated goals. I argue that while Jamaican Maroon music, performance practices, and cultural icons are useful in forming conceptualizations of what being Jamaican Maroon means, the spaces in which that conceptualizing happens often become sites of struggle and conflict. Jamaican Maroon Music and other cultural components are influential and valuable assets that can contribute to the economic and social development of Maroon communities. But they are also semantic conduits that can create and expose social, economic, and political vulnerabilities.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Jamaican Marronage, Music Narratives, Memory, Slavery in the Caribbean , Colonialism, Cultural Authority, Recognition
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