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  • Acknowledgments xi

    Introduction: "Out of Many, One (Black) People" 1

    Part 1: The Global-National 27

    1. The "Problem" of Nationalism in the British West Indies; or, "What We Are and What We Hope to Be" 29

    2. Political Economies of Culture 58

    Part II: The National-Local 93

    3. Strangers and Friends 95

    4. Institutionalizing (Racialized) Progress 130

    5. Emancipating the Nation (Again) 158

    Part III: The Local-Global 193

    6. Political Economies of Modernity 195

    7. Modern Blackness; or, Theoretical "Tripping" on Black Vernacular Cultures 230

    Conclusion: The Remix 263

    Epilogue 271

    Notes 279

    Bibliography 311

    Index 341
  • Modern Blackness is an important book. It is well written, it puts forth a creative theoretical apparatus, and it displays Deborah A. Thomas’s keen ethnographic eye. It is on a topic of extreme importance to the discipline of anthropology as well as to African diaspora and Caribbean and Latin American studies, engaging as it does some of the effects of neoliberalism and structural adjustment in today’s world.”—Kevin A. Yelvington, author of Producing Power: Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in a Caribbean Workplace — N/A

    “In its critique of creole respectability, Modern Blackness challenges established views of Jamaican nationalism and the nation-state. Deborah A. Thomas argues that the young and black who live in Kingston have forged social values and transnational links that reflect their disillusion with education and aspirations to the middle class. She confronts the reader with the reality of life among the ‘lower sets’ and provides a provocative agenda for rethinking blackness.”—Diane Austin-Broos, author of Jamaica Genesis: Religion and the Politics of Moral Orders — N/A

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  • Description

    Modern Blackness is a rich ethnographic exploration of Jamaican identity in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first. Analyzing nationalism, popular culture, and political economy in relation to one another, Deborah A. Thomas illuminates an ongoing struggle in Jamaica between the values associated with the postcolonial state and those generated in and through popular culture. Following independence in 1962, cultural and political policies in Jamaica were geared toward the development of a multiracial creole nationalism reflected in the country’s motto: “Out of many, one people.” As Thomas shows, by the late 1990s, creole nationalism was superseded by “modern blackness”—an urban blackness rooted in youth culture and influenced by African American popular culture. Expressions of blackness that had been marginalized in national cultural policy became paramount in contemporary understandings of what it was to be Jamaican.

    Thomas combines historical research with fieldwork she conducted in Jamaica between 1993 and 2003. Drawing on her research in a rural hillside community just outside Kingston, she looks at how Jamaicans interpreted and reproduced or transformed on the local level nationalist policies and popular ideologies about progress. With detailed descriptions of daily life in Jamaica set against a backdrop of postcolonial nation-building and neoliberal globalization, Modern Blackness is an important examination of the competing identities that mobilize Jamaicans locally and represent them internationally.

    About The Author(s)

    Deborah A. Thomas is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University.

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