Asian Ethnology 82-2 | article Savoring Slackness in Kingston Independent Japanese Tourists and Jamaican Dancehall

Paul Hansen

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dancehall identity Jamaica Japan slackness subculture tourism

This article focuses on Japanese travelers between the ages of twenty and forty years old who come to Jamaica driven by their passion for its dancehall music scene. They are working-class sojourners alongside a smattering of expatriates looking for an experience that they view as affirmative, authentic, and, at times, escapist. Slackness is a Jamaican vernacular concept underscoring a resistance to hegemonic cultural and social norms, especially in relation to sexuality and is central to dancehall. It plays a key role in drawing these Japanese visitors to the scene and ultimately Jamaica. While most men tend to view their stay in terms of acquiring subcultural capital, the desires of women are more diverse. Their varied expectations of and experiences in Kingston’s dancehall scene, and engaging with its many sites—the city, the hostels, and the clubs—are windows to questioning what Japaneseness and sociocultural belonging means to many of these individuals. Engagement with slackness ranges from a brief respite to a complete break from convention and national expectations in Japan. In the end, for the dedicated follower, dancehall acts as a resistance to or even insulates individuals from dominant cultural expectations.