From Browning to Cake Soap: Popular Debates on Skin Bleaching in the Jamaican Dancehall1

This paper explores the cultural debates on skin lightening or 'bleaching' in Jamaica through the lens of popular music, in particular dancehall music culture. Social debates on skin lightening in Jamaican often identify this practice as a form of mental slippage, and as a solely epidermal manifestation of low self-esteem generated by white supremacist ideals that negate the black, African self. Yet, progressive dancehall debates and popular slang suggest that a progressive move towards contemporary manifestations of skin bleaching are associated with contemporary modes of fashion and ungendered rites of beauty. As such, the paper draws on the lyrics and slang of dancehall artistes and delineates a path from Buju Banton's Browning to Vybz Kartel's Cake Soap as it attempts to flesh out the overlapping cultural debates that surround skin bleaching. Keywords: dancehall, Jamaica, cake soap, skin bleaching, Browning.

© Itabari Zulu Jun 2011. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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