My dissertation, “Being Maroon: The Role of Music in the Definition and Socio-Cultural, Economic, and Political Development of Jamaican Maroon Communities,” is an ethnographic project that draws from over two years of field research in Jamaica. I examine music as integral to economic and political mobility; to socio-cultural conceptualization, education, and preservation; and I identify it as a veritable historical archive that offers readings of colonialism from the point of view of Jamaican Maroons and other colonized communities influenced by ongoing present-day colonialist encounters. Jamaican Maroon music and cultural icons such as Grandy Nanny of the Maroons are used to make and to contest claims of being and entitlement that are linked to two eighteenth century treaties between Jamaican Maroons and British colonialists. These treaties are at the crux of often opposing conceptualizations of Maroon nationhood that are informed—in large part—by complicated historical trajectories which foment conflict in the socio-economic and political realms of present-day Jamaican Maroons, non-Maroon Jamaicans, and the Jamaican State.
This study was developed within the context of historical and current debates over issues of sovereignty, the definition and designation of indigeneity and marronage, the pre-emancipation and pre-independence extra-legal negation of what are inarguably legally binding and ratified treaties, and the post-independence question of the validity and enforceability of those treaties on and within the borders of a newly independent Jamaica. My work offers an innovative, comprehensive, and historically rooted ethnomusicological analysis of these present-day debates in contemplation of the possibilities for Jamaican Maroon futures and the futures of the colonized, worldwide. It lets music tell these very important histories.