#tessnation: Nation, and Diaspora in the 21st Century




#tessnation: Nation, and Diaspora in the 21st Century by Sheri-Marie Harrison

March 3rd, 2014 reset - +

 The case of a singer, a superstar, and a bobsled team

IN RECENT MONTHS, a related yet disparate set of events involving Jamaican citizens took place in the spotlight of the international media. Together, these events make up a compelling narrative about how the iconic yet economically embattled nation of Jamaica is currently financed extra-nationally by its diasporic citizens and emigrants. Foremost among these events was Tessanne Chin’s victory on Season 5 of NBC’s Los Angeles-based talent show The Voice. On its own, Chin’s victory offers new insights into the contemporary realities of citizenship and diaspora. In particular, it allows us to think about how nation is imagined and mobilized conceptually, and deployed for profit in the 21st century.

I would also like to bring the Sochi Olympics into this discussion, to examine the power microenterprise and microfunding offer citizens of developing nations. In January, the Jamaican bobsled team thrilled the world again by qualifying for the winter Olympics, but was at risk of not being able to compete because they didn’t have the money to go to Russia. In four days, perhaps bolstered by memories of Disney’s 1993 film Cool Runnings, two different online crowdfunding campaigns (Crowdtilt and Dogecoin) raised $184,000 USD (the equivalent of $18.4 million Jamaican dollars) on the team’s behalf, more than twice what they needed to get to Russia. This case, like Tessanne’s, offers a case study of what it means to represent a nation in global competition when the nation being represented cannot fund its representatives, but the irie affect surrounding the nation remains nonetheless pivotal to the transnational attraction of supporting microfunds.

Bearing this in mind, I offer one final related event. In the time between Chin’s win on The Voice and the bobsled team’s success in Olympic qualifying, reggae superstar Orville “Shaggy” Burrell (who is also credited with encouraging Tessanne to enter The Voice) recognized the incredible success of the social media campaigns that supported Tessanne and also tapped into the international financing pool. Through an expanded partnership with the telecommunications company Digicel, Shaggy produced a live internet broadcast of the annual concert fundraiser for his Jamaica-based nonprofit foundation. Beginning in 2009, Shaggy has staged this benefit concert to raise money for the Bustamante Children’s hospital in Kingston, Jamaica. Bustamanteis the Caribbean’s only pediatric hospital, and over the years Shaggy’s philanthropic efforts have been responsible for equipping it with the basics necessary for any hospital that offers specialized health care for children: its two specialized ventilators, an EEG machine, a table top sterilizing machine, and funds to upgrade the medical oxygen system.

In conjunction with Digicel, Shaggy’s foundation also partnered with local media outlets The Gleaner and The Observer to broadcast the 2014 staging of the Shaggy and Friends benefit concert online. Online donations via Food for the Poor were heavily promoted throughout the broadcast with the hashtag “#teamshaggy4kids”. Locally, Digicel customers could also donate $50 JMD with each text message. These efforts in turn raised $700,000 USD for the hospital, including $20,500 USD via Food for the Poor online donations and $38,000 USD via the Digicel text line.

In each of these three instances, the concept of the “nation-state” appears to have undergone a mutation: the Jamaican state as the body that governs the nation may be bankrupt, but Jamaican — a national designation — in its various permutations of cultural iconicity is not at all bankrupt, but rather generative and lucrative. Jamaican, or Brand Jamaica as I will refer to this particular version of commodified Jamaican culture, attracts international capital in informal ways, primarily through social networking. As Chin’s victory on The Voice, the successful funding of the national bobsled team, and Shaggy’s efforts to support the Bustamante Children’s Hospital all suggest, there are other things besides inequity made visible by the way that nations function collectively in the globalized world, within and without the state or the geographical constraints of national borders. For me, Chin’s victory on an American talent show is the most compelling of these three instances of the promotion of Brand Jamaica, and I will use it here as the main frame for my thoughts on what it means to identify such capital-driven campaigns as Jamaican.

Throughout the last season of The Voice, any and every mention of Tessanne online was rapidly aggregated and disseminated through social media for the consumption of Jamaicans at home and abroad. Supporting her while she competed on the show, as with supporting Jamaican athletes in international competition, became a patriotic exercise. What was different this time, however, was that in the context of The Voice “support” meant not just cheering but, more actively, phoning in and texting votes and purchasing singles from iTunes. The show’s official narrative of superstar mentoring aside, the contestants who succeed are the ones who sell the most iTunes tracks and garner the most votes. I will talk more about the implications of Jamaicans actually purchasing music legally shortly, but for now, suffice it to say that though the efforts of Team Tessanne included the global Jamaican and Caribbean diaspora, this mobilization was explicitly marked as a Jamaican (popular) national one. For example, T-shirts worn to support her often featured her name superimposed over the Jamaican flag. When Digicel flew her home to Jamaica after the competition, it was in a company jet emblazoned with “The Voice of Jamaica,” a Jamaican flag, and the popular hashtag “#TeamTessanne,” conveying how Jamaica and Jamaicans can function as corporately sponsored, moveable, and internationally marketed products of Brand Jamaica.

From #TeamTessanne to #tessnation

Social media such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have been central in expanding and solidifying a sense of community among various nations and their diasporas. Prior to the fifth season of The Voice, the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Summer Olympics ushered in an era of communal cyber event watching for Jamaicans everywhere. I can recall watching the 2012 100M men’s track and field finals via an internet stream on my laptop while sitting on a plane waiting for takeoff, and posting to Facebook my hope that the race would be over before I needed to shut down the computer. Jamaica Olympics began as a Facebook group dedicated to posting updates about the Jamaican team’s progress throughout the summer games for fans like me who were simply rabid in our support of all things team Jamaica, and has since become a more general resource dedicated to all sorts of news about the island and its diaspora. Despite its titular focus on athletics, the page’s posts now often extend beyond this space into all things Jamaican that appear in the mainstream (US) media. Along with its athletics coverage, it has also featured posts about the Jamaican-descended Brit Naomie Harris (the film Skyfall’s Bond Girl) and, more recently, Tessanne’s progression through The Voice. Two things are noteworthy here: first, that social media has developed into a formidable platform for experiencing and acting collectivity beyond national borders; and second, that versions of diasporic Jamaicanness such as Harris’s and Chin’s exemplify how the concept of nation itself is deployed, mobilized, and ultimately transformed by social media.

In the case of The Voice, where success is based on the votes of those who reside in the US and its territories, a Jamaican base’s ability to foster support for Tessanne outside of Jamaica was critical. This is not to say there weren’t ways to bypass the technologies that tried to restrict Jamaicans in Jamaica from voting. Usain Bolt (inadvertently) told Carson Daly in an interview on the show itself that Jamaicans at home were voting for Tessanne. It would be indiscreet of me to divulge any details about how Jamaicans at home were able to vote via talk, text, and webpage, so I will focus instead on the votes garnered by iTunes purchases. It is here, I think, that we can see some of the more interesting dynamics of present day cultural nationhood as it is being shaped and reshaped by social media. When their voting eligibility was significantly curtailed, Jamaicans began to vote by purchasing the music produced by the competition.

This is interesting for two reasons. First, Jamaica’s thriving illicit mixed tape and bootleg CD culture has been lamented by artists since before the time of CDs. Despite being an almost century-long enterprise, the sale of music among Jamaicans has yet to yield significant economic benefits for artists. This of course is at the heart of Chin’s decision to radically shift her stage to a more global one. Shaggy’s and Sean Paul’s commercial success is due in large part to their crossover into mainstream (non-Jamaican) musical markets. Second, the proceeds of the sales of her iTunes Voice singles do not go to Tessanne herself, but rather to the enterprise that is The Voice. This enterprise is owned by NBC Universal, and is essentially Tessanne’s and the other contestants’ employer for the duration of the competition (and in a different way afterwards for the winner). Yet despite its complicated relationship to Tessanne’s own career, casting votes for her via purchasing her iTunes singles (five votes for every $1.29 USD song purchase) was a resolutely populist act. Three of the songs she performed on the show made it into the top three on the iTunes singles charts (which is ranked by number of purchases) in the last two weeks of the competition; her final two singles at one point occupied the #1 and #3 spots on the day of the finals. Jamaicans bought music when Tessanne’s success on an American syndicated global stage depended on it. Tessanne’s music was, in fact, bought in volumes that placed her Voice singles ahead of her more well-known and commercially successful pop contemporaries, like Rihanna, Ke$ha, or Chris Brown.  Jamaicans, it seemed, could be motivated to buy music for the purposes of expressing their national pride and solidarity on an international stage.

Miss Chin

Chin’s celebrity is anomalous in a field that is typically dominated by Afro-Jamaicans. Indeed, Jamaican music is a raced and classed industry dominated by the black working-class majority. Jamaican in general is also raced internationally as black, for instance in Volkswagen’s recent “Get Happy” advertising campaign. In the campaign’s 2013 Super Bowl commercial, a white actor speaks with a perfect Jamaican accent while he interacts with his colleagues at work, even though he is from Minnesota, “the land of ten t’ousand lakes,” in a manner that conflates a sense of the (perceived) carefree “no problem mon” lifestyle in Jamaica with the car being advertised. Numerous US media outlets (including Good Morning America on NBC) denounced the commercial as racist, and tantamount to minstrelsy or blackface, on the implicit grounds that a white man could not possibly be speaking with this “black” accent. Among Jamaicans — who are a multiracial and ethnic population — there was confusion about the invocation of racism, but there was also happiness and national pride in yet another moment of the celebration of their culture in the international media.

Thus the global audience has enough knowledge of Jamaica’s culture that companies can use it in advertising campaigns geared towards non-Jamaicans,[1] but it doesn’t know enough about Jamaica and its people to know that its conflation of Jamaica with a single race misunderstands that nation’s racial makeup. We can, of course, put some of the responsibility for this ignorance on the cultural agendas of various generations of colonial managers and later nationalists who saw the progress of the colony/nation as contingent on the development and fostering of specific and official versions of local popular culture. This in part accounts for some of the dissonance that occurred when Tessanne appeared on American television screens looking as she does and speaking with a distinct Jamaican accent.

While Chin’s Chinese ancestry is obvious, as Collin Channer notes, she would be regarded in Jamaica as an “uptown browning,” a possessor of a privileged racial and (middle- to upper-) class status. In Channer’s words, Tessanne is “a lighter skinned Jamaican whose colour translates crudely into class privilege.” Yet her appearance on The Voice made her into a national, and even regional, icon.

During those three months — with the 2012 summer athletics championships over and the next summer Olympics another two years away, the Jamaican team out of competition for the next World Cup, intra-regional conflicts that saw Jamaicans barred from entering other CARICOM member nations like Trinidad and Barbados, and a proliferation of comparisons between Jamaica’s and Greece’s international debt — Tessanne’s talent and grace buoyed the nation in previously unfathomable ways. Indeed, the varied versions of “yes, we can actually unite” that have been pouring out of blogs and print editorials in response to her success refer not only to Jamaica’s deeply rooted political, race, and class fissures, but also the Anglophone Caribbean’s in general. As if caught by surprise, Jamaica, the Caribbean region, and the diaspora seemed captivated by the sheer talent and grace of a representative like few others before her.

Chinita Goodaz

This can in part be explained by the history of the Chinese presence in the Caribbean. The Chinese were introduced to British Caribbean colonies as indentured laborers during the 19th century. Their position across the region was an unsettled one, insofar as they constituted a sociopolitical buffer zone between the estate and colonial managers and the newly emancipated ex-slaves whose labor they were brought in to supplement. Though there was little to no variation between the working and living conditions of Chinese indentured laborers (or Indian indentured laborers, for that matter) and Afro-Jamaican laborers, the visible acquisition of wealth by the Chinese — once released from their period of indenture, through shops and other merchant ventures — further enhanced their liminal status between the subjugated black masses and the ruling white minority. In the 21st century, Chinese Jamaicans remain a visibly prosperous community — Google Michael Lee Chin — but their history on the majority black island is one punctuated by resentment and hostility. That Tessanne is a Chinese uptown browning makes her victory, and the role played in it by populist mobilization in Jamaica, the Caribbean, and the diaspora all the more remarkable. No, it doesn’t portend that we are all finally getting along, but it does suggest that notions of belonging are expanding in productive ways.

Her informal moniker “Chinita Goodaz” sheds some light on these expansions. Tessanne was dubbed Chinita Goodaz by a now very popular Jamaican vlogger, Russhaine “Dutty Berry” Berry. Berry began uploading comedic video recaps of Voice episodes shortly after the competition’s first Battle Round. In one of his earliest videos, he described Tessanne’s stage presence in terms of the Chinita Goodaz alter ego. This moniker highlights the facets of Chin’s performance on the show that seemed out of character for a genteel upper-class light-skinned singer, and is more in keeping with the street stylings of hardcore dancehall artists like Lady Saw or Cecile. Bolstering Tessanne’s Chinita persona was her Mohawk hairstyle — one reminiscent of the elaborate dancehall hairstyles of the 1990s — which in Berry’s commentary she had gotten styled on Princess Street in Downtown Kingston, where hairdressers literally ply their trade on the sidewalk.

The Chinita Goodaz moniker, and its suggestions of an alter ego, thus translates the elements of Chin’s person that seem incongruous with a successful and popular Jamaican performer — her gender, race, and class — for populist consumption. The term “goodaz” (or “goodas”) was popularized through dancehall music in the mid-2000s. It is typically used in reference to an attractive woman, and is a truncation of the expression “as good as gold.” To Dutty Berry’s credit, Chinita Goodaz perfectly blends, in the language of dancehall culture, Tessanne’s Chineseness (Chinita) and her solid position as a popular and attractive performer who can dominate in any dancehall (Goodaz). This isn’t the first time an uptown browning has been translated for the appreciation of the popular dancehall audience: the first woman to be given the title Dancehall Queen, Carlene Smith, is also a browning who hails from Barbican, an uptown suburb in the urban parish of Saint Andrew. My point here isn’t that a dancehall moniker (or, in the case of Carlene, skimpy costumes and sexually explicit and lithe dance moves) allows for the inclusion of those who are not black and/or working class. Dancehall and dubstep producer Diplo and his dancehall project Major Lazer, to provide another example, need no such translation. My point is rather that an insistence on framing Jamaican culture within raced, classed or even national boundaries, does not even begin to get at its contemporary dynamism.  

In a different way, Tessanne’s Jamaicanness became a facet of her marketability within the competition itself. Christina Aguilera, one of the show’s coaches, commented on her accent during her first appearance on the show. Later in the season, Aguilera complimented what she heard as Tessanne’s “Jamaican flavor” in one performance, and asked to hear more of it. It seemed like a fair suggestion, but then Tessanne performed Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross,” Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” and Gwen Stefani’s “Underneath It All” on three consecutive shows. All are classic reggae and reggae inflected mega hits that Chin delivered flawlessly and made her own. They nonetheless left me, and other Jamaicans who responded on social networks, a little uncomfortable at what we saw as a touristic pigeonholing of an artist who entered the competition for the opportunity to expand beyond the Jamaican reggae horizon. We were thus pleased when Aguilera’s colleague Blake Shelton, whose team had won the previous three seasons of the show, declared himself  “frustrated with the fact that she’s been kind of held to a reggae sound. Just because she’s from Jamaica, people expected her to do a specific sound from that country.” For Shelton, “Tessanne should never be limited. She should never feel like she could only do one thing. She can do everything. This has nothing to do with her accent or where she’s from.”

Aguilera’s more typical treatment of a perceived Jamaican sound, and her insistence that Tessanne trot it out more obviously and continuously throughout the show, resonated with my own discomfort whenever I have been asked by a foreigner to perform some idea they have of Jamaicanness. This is not to say that Tessanne failed to perform Jamaicanness; if anything the self she presented to the cameras was unabashedly Jamaican, from the absence of the twang that sometimes inflects the speech of Jamaican celebrities when they appear in the foreign media, to the liberal peppering of everyday Jamaicanisms, like “chru?” or “geezam” in her interviews. The insistence, however, that she perform a version of Jamaican that American audiences know through tourism, reggae and media-filtered versions of Rastafari, was problematic on at least two counts. First, it fetishized her as an object upon which some of The Voice coaches[2] and American audiences in general could project a specific image that reflected a narrow version of her and her talent. Second, of course, the demand for these kinds of native performances for the entertainment of foreigners has a long, sordid, and ultimately disenfranchising geopolitical history. Tessanne herself signified her desire to be seen in more than just these ethnographic terms by entering the competition. For instance, Jamaicans immediately recognized her excitement and trepidation at performing on the final show with Céline Dion, who, as few outsiders knew before the show, is a Jamaican national icon on par with few other singers. Chin’s ability to thus expand the parameters of Jamaicanness with the backing of campaigns beyond, yet constantly centered on, Jamaica is another remarkable facet of her win. “#TeamTessanne” functioned in this way as its own internet-produced nation, generating not only the votes and iTunes purchases that clinched Chin’s victory, but also its own autochthonous existence as a representation of Jamaica and Jamaicans at least partially distinct from touristic stereotypes.

Digicel: The bigger, better network?

It perhaps goes without saying that Digicel’s support of Jamaica’s current sweetheart Tessanne at this high point in her success and popularity is a brilliant public relations strategy for its operations in Jamaica and the Caribbean region. Yet Digicel’s cultivation of a sense of brand loyalty in its employees and customers — as such public gestures suggest — stands in contrast to its opposition to the unionization of its employees. In a nation whose independence politics were indelibly shaped by mid-20th century trade union activism, Digicel must create alternate strategies for continuing to operate in Jamaica successfully, while employing its workers on a contractual basis to avoid unionization. It does this, I think with proven success, through the sponsorship of a variety of social and infrastructructural development projects and cultural activities. In addition to its partnership with Shaggy’s Foundation, its philanthropic arm also recently launched early childhood and primary literacy initiatives. Returning to Tessanne’s post- Voice homecoming, though, putting “#TeamTessanne” on the jet was itself a testament to the phenomenal support of social media efforts in garnering Chin votes and promoting her iTunes singles during the competition. In this way, it reflects Digicel’s own recognition of this social media support and its awareness of the possible gains to be had from partnering with this particular diaspora-financed superstar.

Digicel is owned by an Irishman, incorporated in Bermuda, and based in Jamaica. When it began operating on the island in 2001, Digicel ingratiated itself to Jamaicans by providing cellular coverage to sections of the population that had neither landline nor cellular service. This simple model of providing coverage to neglected areas secured the company’s success not only in Jamaica, but also in 31 similar markets across the Caribbean, Central American, and Oceanic regions. Through its philanthropic support of social, cultural, and educational development in its countries of operation, Digicel also firmly established itself as a significant corporate underwriter of national culture.

Tessanne, as Digicel brand ambassador and Jamaican winner of The Voice, thus arguably represents a new convergence of corporate capital and national identity in the global south. Examples of this convergence abound in Jamaica’s local landscape. Perhaps most iconic is the massive photographic mural that stretches across the length of a wall facing the tarmac at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. The mural depicts everything considered to be iconic and picturesque about Jamaica: beauty queens, athletes, musicians, fruit, smiling school children, flora, fauna, and carnival, among other scenes. Every passenger who boards a plane in Kingston sees this mural, which appeals in different but no less powerful ways to both tourists and Jamaicans: in my own experience, it never fails to make me second-guess every decision that brought me to that hall on my way out of the island. It is breathtaking, but it also bears the Digicel logo, and thus testifies to some of the more uncomfortable convergences between the corporate and the national, and the blurring of the lines previously distinguishing the two. This blurring, long present in the first world, is particularly troubling in nations that struggle economically in some of the ways that Jamaica struggles. Digicel parlays support for Jamaican icons like Tessanne and Shaggy for the cultivation of brand loyalty in ways that sustain it as a popular and profitable entity. It cultivates its own brand loyalty among Jamaicans by framing Brand Jamaica for Jamaicans at home and in the diaspora, and then grafting itself into that frame. Perhaps most interestingly, the company indelibly links itself to Jamaica’s global iconicity, while ironically not supporting its Jamaican employees’ rights to collectively bargain for their own welfare.

Before this exploration of the relationship between Digicel and Jamaicans becomes construed as another narrative about the helpless and exploited citizens of developing nations, however, I would like to shift the stakes to think about how Chin herself epitomizes an entirely new version of Jamaican identity. This new vision of Jamaicanness healthily turns on its head much of what both onlookers and Jamaicans themselves think about as Jamaican — an effort that is, I think, productively facilitated by companies like Digicel. While Tessanne is Jamaican, and unofficially represents Jamaica — unlike the bobsled team, whose members are official athletic representatives — her support spreads far beyond national boundaries by also insisting on Jamaicanness.

#tessnation

While the intersections between corporate sponsorship of national culture and national identity leave much room for contemplation, I cannot stress enough that this narrative is not only about disenfranchisement in a developing nation. Ultimately, what I hope this discussion conveys is a nuanced set of shifts in how nation in general is imagined and functions. The dynamism that underlies the disruption of longstanding typologies of Jamaicanness, moving them beyond a focus on race or a history of subjugation, exemplifies this transformation. Nor is this transformation merely cultural. What the transnational financing of Tessanne’s Voice victory, the Jamaican national bobsled team, and the Caribbean’s only pediatric hospital, all together suggest is that there are ways of securing funds for national purposes; ways that bypass the governing bodies tasked with, but currently unable to fulfill, this role.

I’ll use a recent column in the Caribbean’s oldest newspaper The Gleaner to illustrate what I mean by this. In the column, local playwright and actor Keiran King described Jamaica’s “Tessanne-mania” as a “national embarrassment.” The public watch party of the finals on a Jumbotron in the capital city’s most trafficked transportation hub, Chin’s trip home on the private jet, her triumphant headlining slot at Shaggy’s fundraiser, the free concert set up in her honor at the Kingston waterfront, the awards she received from every entity that had awards to give — all constituted entirely too much feting of Tessanne for King. In his scathing address to Jamaicans, which appeared on February 5, he says:

We are used, in short, to being irrelevant. Our sights are so low that one woman moving from modest to outright success is cause for mad celebration. And that, clearer than anything else, is the sad revelation of Tessanne Chin’s fame. That, louder than anything else, is the embarrassing message we broadcast to the world with our irrational exuberance, punctuated by the prime minister’s congratulations.

King is perhaps rightly outraged by the celebration of “one woman moving from modest to outright success,” because it doesn’t translate to any institutional change that could meaningfully improve the lives of Jamaicans struggling under a corrupt and ineffectual state. The rocking back on the state here nonetheless reflects the myopia that plagues understandings of how nation-states actually function in the 21st century. This myopia naïvely assumes that states, particularly ones in developing nations in the decades-long death grip of multilateral debt and structural adjustment programs, are actually in charge of their nations’ welfare, or could execute much-needed infrastructural changes if they wanted to. In 2012, Jamaica recorded a Government Debt to GDP of 145.80%. Democratically elected governments do bear certain responsibilities to their citizenries, but in our austere neoliberal reality, how much could even the best-intentioned Jamaican state do for its nation?

Depressing as this is, however, lambasting citizens for not uniting to demand better from the government bypasses entirely how political power works, and how capital is actually being procured by Jamaicans who take advantage of transnational funding for their own endeavors beyond the island itself. For King, the solution to becoming “great, individually and as a nation” is to “stop ‘supporting’ them [celebrities like Chin], and start lifting ourselves.” In my estimation, it is wrongheaded to think that lifting the country is somehow linked to rescinding support from the citizens who are successful internationally. If anything, the nation should watch such citizens all the more closely.

Moreover, understanding that corporations like Digicel wield more power than the governments of massively indebted nations is one step towards recognizing alternate funding sources for growth and development. The Jamaican state’s inability to capitalize on Brand Jamaica in the profitable ways that companies like Digicel, PUMA, and even luxury goods manufacturer Christian Dior have, marks a kind of archaism that insists on outdated modes of cultural nationalism in its attempts to hold the nation together. What Tessanne, Shaggy, and the bobsled team tell us is how powerless as a state Jamaica actually is to capitalize on a nation of extremely talented people for their own benefit and independent welfare. They also tell us how lucrative Brand Jamaican continues to be for everyone but a few Jamaicans. I thus say, with some ambivalence, that these three also model the outward look Jamaicans must take for much needed capital and advancement. My point here is not that transnational microfinancing or crowdfunding can or even should be sources of capital for entire national economies. What I am suggesting is that if Tessanne Chin was able to get Jamaicans to buy her music, developing nations should pay careful attention to the dynamics that make such a shift possible. Nation as means of organizing political sovereignty no longer works as it did in the wake of global events like the end of World War II or the Cold War, particularly for those nations that gained political independence in the middle of the 20th century. Nation is nonetheless very much alive and well, making transnational capital for those who will look beyond the old frames to find it. Rather than (only) opposing this phenomenon via an increasingly nostalgic reliance on the nation, we also need to think about what other, better things it might enable us to make, not for the few but for the many.


[1] Saturn Electronics, a German telecommunications company, also had a commercial last year that harnessed Jamaica’s global iconicity to sell a product, albeit in far more offensive ways. The now banned commercial featured an accidental burning of the Jamaican flag, which triggered global outrage that was fueled/given momentum by the power of the network being advertised. http://vimeo.com/61202005

[2] CeeLo Green, like Aguilera, often referenced his own professional and personal experiences with Jamaica and its music, although in a way that opened him to ridicule from the Jamaican audience when he referred to a trip to “Port Antone” instead of Port Antonio. 

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Sheri-Marie Harrison is an assistant professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she teaches courses in Caribbean and African Diaspora literary and cultural studies.

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