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African Diaspora Newsletter No.10
MAJOR RESEARCH PAPER YORK UNIVERSITY, SUMMER 2003:

RUDENESS IN THE FACE OF INVISIBILITY:

THE 'RUDE BWOY' PHENOMENON IN JAMAICA, 1962-1969

Mark V. Campbell

Rudeness in the Face of Invisibility is an attempt to grasp a segment of Jamaica's history that has largely been documented in songs but underrepresented in scholarship. The Rude bwoys emerged in West Kingston shortly after Jamaica's independence in August 1962. These youth, mostly immigrants from the countryside, represented a segment of Jamaican society who moved into the city in search of better lives. Marginalized and disposed, these 'boys', often between 13 and 24 years, expressed their emotions via 'exhibitionistic' behavior while maintaining an air of 'coolness'. A look at the social, political and cultural terrain in Jamaica during the 1960s, along with a methodology that utilizes Jamaican music as a primary source, provides the basis from which the Rude bwoy phenomenon is examined.
This paper utilizes documents already generated on some aspects of post-independence Jamaica such as youth culture, racism, politics, class bias, protest, migration and music to produce an understanding of the Rude bwoys. Several questions are addressed: Why did these youth exist? Were these youth conscious political actors? What was their position in urban Jamaica? How did the 1960s lend itself (or not) to the phenomenon? Was the Rudebwoy symptomatic of its particular historical moment and location? Why do we not see the Rude bwoy in contemporary society? The aim of the paper is to create a space where the Rude bwoy is not simply a figure of popular culture that exists all around us but who's existence is shrouded in misinformation and misunderstanding. At the present moment, common understandings of the Rude bwoy lay almost completely within popular culture. This paper attempts to expand this limited understanding to incorporate ideas of protest, politics, and music as a mechanism for democratic representation to create a more complex understanding of this particular phenomenon.
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Department of History, York University,  Toronto, Canada
Email: nigerian@yorku.ca
Fax: (416) 650-8173