Fi Wi Cultural Studies: Film, Culture and Identity by Kam-Au Ron Amen

Who speaks for us? Can they speak for us? Can we relate to what they say?

The motivations of this study are the concerns for identity assertion and representation through theoretical lens such as race, class and culture broken down into specific anthropological concerns to evolve a “Jamaican Cultural Studies” framework. I examine the notion that improvements of a worthwhile nature to the Jamaican society will revolve around the phenomenon of a “Jamaican-ness” – identifiable Jamaican cultural experiences; one that is of necessity heterogeneous and comfortable with its reality of predominant diaspora “African-ness”. In this case, it is a “Jamaican-ness” constructed on a base of Anancy narratives and Reggae aesthetics.

I use the narrative and genre analysis methods on the films The Harder They Come (1972), Dancehall Queen (1996), and Babymother (1997) for this study. I give greater focus to those films that seek to capture some popular urban experiences inclusive of the dancehall phenomena. The reason being that within Jamaican society many urban experiences are informed by both rural and foreign influences. In addition, the urban space provides an impetus for more impacting assertions in the modern “globalized” environment.

Among the study’s limitations is its focus only on the film medium despite the work’s location in the wider media and culture debate. It discusses only three films and therefore many Jamaican themes are not encountered. The work is a cultural analysis and avoids crossing into an under studied film industry analysis.

The study’s principal finding affirms the paradoxical “multidimensional monolithic” nature of the Jamaican society as earlier observed by theorists like Stuart Hall and Rex Nettleford. It concludes that it is from this diversity, the many, that the one emerges and gives birth to the “Jamaican-ness” that is truly a national and trans-national identity, an identity that dynamically changes its form but maintains its integrity moment after moment.

Keywords: Kam-Au Ron Amen; Cultural Studies; Jamaican Film; Identity; Media and Culture; Cultural Industries.

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