Behind the music: Dr. Daniel Arbino leads workshop exploring influence of postcolonialism in reggae music

Posted by Centre News in Academics, CentreTerm, News, Research 13 Aug 2014

reggaeWhen most people think of summer research at Centre College, they often picture students and professors working in laboratories, hovering over microscopes. However, research at Centre occurs across all academic disciplines and on a diverse array of topics—including reggae music.

This summer, Assistant Professor of Spanish Daniel Arbino led rising sophomores Jeremy Walker, Jared Thompson, Emma Breitenbach, Brandy Orth Becker and rising junior Teal Wrocklage in a three-week workshop examining the influence of postcolonialism in reggae music.

The goal of the research workshop was to delve into postcolonial theories as a framework for understanding reggae.

“We sought to move beyond notions of reggae as ‘beach music’ to understand ideas of cultural trauma stemming from slavery, displacement and fragmented Caribbean societies as articulated in the music,” Arbino explains.

“My goal was that the students could take these postcolonial theories and become familiar with them and apply them to other studies,” he adds.

Students immersed themselves in the topic mainly through reading and discussion. Each night, students would complete reading assignments that focused on postcolonial theories.

“We did readings on all sorts of areas like Africa, the Middle East, even some on Native America,” says Arbino. “But reggae music was always our home base for framing everything.”

Arbino and students would meet in the morning to discuss the readings. After about an hour of discussion, the group would listen to music and analyze the songs based on what they had talked about.

Students completed individual projects outside of group discussion, and they presented their projects to Arbino at the end of the workshop.

Several students pointed to previous classes at Centre for fostering their interest in postcolonial issues.

“I was in [Arbino’s] Race and Society in Literature class this CentreTerm,” says Walker. “This summer workshop was a little add-on to the course.”

“My CentreTerm was a little different but it focused on African postcolonialism, so it was just an extension of what I was already interested in,” explains Thompson.

Overall, Arbino hopes the biggest takeaway for students from this workshop is the newfound knowledge they can apply to topics far beyond reggae music, particularly in their travels abroad.

“Centre students are going to travel. When they come across conditions that are different or that they don’t understand, I want them to think about why the conditions are the way they are and have the tools to be able to ask those questions,” says Arbino.

by John Ross Wyatt ’15