Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor's Name

Heather Russell

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Ana Luszczynska

Third Advisor's Name

Steven Blevins


English, Cultural Studies, Skin Bleaching, Jamaica, Reggae Studies, Reggae, Dancehall, Colorism, Queer, Postcolonial, Colonial, Performance Culture

Date of Defense



This thesis examines how skin bleaching can be understood within the cultural context of Jamaican dancehall. I argue that as a cultural practice, skin bleaching can be viewed as a critique of the concomitant structural inequalities precipitated by colorism, which is a by-product of racism. In proposing skin bleaching as a queer performance of color, I attempt to illustrate the manner in which the lightening of the skin exposes the instability of racism and colorism as socially constructed, discursive regimes. If race and skin color are biological and embodied facts dictated by social reality, then bodies, which are racially marked and colored subjects, can be used to project counter discourses that challenge these specific regimes. The space of discursive limit imposed on the racialized or colored body-subject is a space from which critiques of dominant discourses can be projected, and bleaching does precisely that. I conclude therefore, that skin bleaching is performed resistance which challenges the dominating discourses on race by first destabilizing the notion that skin color is an immutable biological fact, and second by contesting subsequent discourses that are contingent on the “facts” of color and race.





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