The politics of ‘connective marginalities’ in Italian reggae culture

2017-10-11T04:19:31Z (GMT) by Stevenson, Mathias Sutherland
In this thesis I discuss how the subaltern roots and counter-hegemonic messages of reggae have resonated rhizomatically across linguistic, cultural, and geographical frontiers to connect with marginalized groups and inspire counter-hegemonic forms of communication and social engagement ‘from below’. Using this ‘connective marginalities’ framework, I argue that the transculturation and glocalization of reggae in Italy during the 1980s and early-1990s led to new and creative forms of inclusive, grassroots, and non-institutional political practice and cultural opposition, which resisted and challenged the social and political disengagement of the so-called ‘riflusso’, and reinterpreted and reinvented Italy’s counter-cultural youth practices of the 1970s. Through an analysis of personal interviews with key figures and other primary textual and contextual data, I establish a historic and thematic narrative focusing on the socially and politically tumultuous period between 1980 and 1994. I maintain that, during this period, which represented the most innovative and influential phase of reggae’s evolution in Italy, reggae was used as a means of challenging the nation’s hegemonic politics, culture, identities, and racisms. To this end, I pay particular attention to the profound resonance of reggae in Italy’s South, where it was synthesized with local dialects, perspectives, and cultural elements to create a ‘resistance vernacular’ that resisted Southern marginality. Despite the particular significance of these Southern connective marginalities, I also discuss the translocal and ‘national popular’ posse era of the late-1980s and early-1990s, when reggae and rap were popularized throughout Italy, within both non-hegemonic and hegemonic contexts, as a form of counter-information, social commentary, and intercultural/interregional solidarity.