Affective cosmopolitanisms in Singapore: Dancehall and the decolonisation of the self
From Ms Ann SHEN _ on March 19th, 2020
This paper advances a new understanding of cosmopolitanism; one that is rooted in the affective potential of the body. It argues that whilst the self is often projected onto the body, so too can the body play an important role in (re)imagining the self. In this view, the body is a space through which individuals can learn to realise a new, more cosmopolitan, understanding of the self, meaning the body can decolonise the self from the mind, from the expectations of society and culture, and from the normative epistemological underpinnings of academic knowledge production. I validate these theoretical arguments through an empirical focus on the practice of dancehall in Singapore. Dancehall is an emancipatory cultural movement that emerged in Jamaica in the late-1970s (and has since gained popularity worldwide), and, amongst other things, has become known for its sexually provocative representation of the human body. Singapore, on the other hand, is a conservative Asian city-state in which cosmopolitan self-fashioning is an elite, top-down process imparted by the government and educational system. By reconciling dancehall culture in/and the Singapore context, I demonstrate the ways in which Singaporean youths forge new, more affective, forms of cosmopolitan self-realisation. Through dancehall, they learn how to engage with the self on their own terms, and to forge new ways of being in the world.
Orlando Woods is Assistant Professor of Humanities at Singapore Management University. His work spans social and cultural geography, and engages with the socio-spatial transformations occurring throughout Asia. Orlando holds BA and PhD degrees in Geography from University College London and the National University of Singapore respectively.