This book is the result of a series of negotiations: with my students in West
Indian literature at the University of the West Indies, on whom I tested many
of the ideas presented here; with my colleagues in the Faculty of Arts and
General (Interdisciplinary) Studies, whom I brazenly forced into reading the
manuscript in various stages of evolution; with my collaborators in Women
and Development Studies in the wider University community, who have
helped me refine a gender perspective on Jamaican popular culture; with the
'massive' Jamaican street culture that I have used to 'big up' my academic
I must name Mervyn Moms and Nadi Edwards, with whom I work in the
Department of English at Mona, both of whom have contributed in great
measure to the development of this project. Mervyn, my former teacher,
and Nadi, my former student, have helped me define my own work as
issuing from a kind of Legba-like crossroads dialectic of africanistlpost-
modernist discourse. Mervyn's pioneering work on Louise Bennett, and his
on-going research in 'performance poetry'
I am indebted to him for that
liberated the territory of popular culture for academic exploration.
Nadi's generous sharing of his work on ethnopoetics and literary theory has
helped me establish areas of difference and similarity between my own
work and the more self-consciously theoretical research in popular culture
that proceeds from the margins of Western academia. I particularly appre-
ciated access to Nadi's extensive library
his trailerload of books
have the same amplitude and currency as Shabba Ranks' trailerload a girls.
I must also name my mother and first teacher, Modesta Riley Cooper,
who dragged me off to primary school with her when I was 3
because I was giving so much trouble at home; and my substitute mother,
Mrs Ivy Pryce
Lady P
whose witticisms and plain insights, issuing from
the 'unschooled' wisdom of largely oral Jamaicans, have continually guided
my research. I have tested many of my ideas on her for an authoritative
'folk' perspective. Lady P is an ideal 'informant', inter-actively structuring
the development of the project.
I am indebted to the British Council for a Commonwealth Academic Staff
fellowship which allowed me a year's leave from teaching to do much of the
recent work for this book. As Visiting Scholar in the Centre of West
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