Jahaji Bhai: The emergence of a Dougla poetics in Trinidad and Tobago

Jahaji Bhai: The emergence of a Dougla poetics in Trinidad and Tobago

Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power
Volume 5, Issue 4, 1999
Special Issue: Fight the Power: Changing forms of Consciousness and Protest
pages 569-601
DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.1999.9962630

Rhoda Reddock, Professor of Gender and Development Studies
University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago

This paper explores the issues of ethnicity and identity in the post‐colonial Caribbean with special reference to Trinidad and Tobago. As with other multi‐ethnic post‐colonial societies, the collapse of post‐World‐War II promises of unified national projects based on the nation‐state or class politics has seen the re‐emergence of racial/ethnic based trajectories. In the context of the contestations of ethnicity, class, and gender in Trinidad and Tobago, the voice of the “Dougla,” or those projecting “dougla identities” of mixed African and Indian ancestry, has been largely missing. Unlike in the North, conceptions of “mixed” identity have existed in the region for many decades. A concept of multiracial identity, however, is relatively new and underdeveloped. This paper explores tentative attempts through the popular culture to express such multiracial identities, especially through the medium of Calypso and Soca and the contestations that greet such an emergence. The dynamics of the changing social, political, and cultural context are also taken into consideration. It does so through the contrasting 1996 “hits” of two singer/songwriters in the Calypso/Soca genre, Brother Marvin and Chris Garcia.

Calypso fictions and narratives, fantasies and commentaries, venture into vitally important areas of social intercourse which, because of unspoken protocols of civil discourse, remain sensitive areas of darkness. Within the freedom of performance, a space hallowed by tradition,…

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