Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Latin American Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

George Yúdice

Second Committee Member

Sallie Hughes

Third Committee Member

Belkys Torres


In 2009, increasingly violent and sexually explicit lyrics led the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica to issue directives severely censoring the broadcasting of dancehall music on radio and television. Dancehall music, a descendant of reggae, serves as a cathartic release for the working-class in Jamaica with lyrics and dances that focus on achieving primal pleasures. Since entering mainstream society, dancehall has been unappreciated by those outside of its following. This thesis seeks to understand the purpose of the offensive lyrics and the subsequent need for censorship by combining various gender theories with the analysis of lyrics, media, government documents, historical contentions surrounding dancehall, and a similar controversy involving Puerto Rican reggaeton. The main sources of disapproval for dancehall have been the transgressive gender standards promoted by the explicit lyrics. These standards socialize women to openly and explicitly express their sexuality and men to practice hypermasculinity by exaggerating traditional masculine traits. This divergence from traditional gender standards, which honor male dominance and female compliance, make uncensored dancehall unsuitable for mainstream airwaves. The censorship of dancehall forces artists to seek a balance between having artistic messages and creating radio-friendly lyrics. Additionally, the elite must attempt to address the source of unhappiness of the working-class, rather than attacking their cathartic performances in the dancehall.


dancehall; music; censorship; Jamaica; gender