Journal of Romance Studies

Keepin’ it real?

Engaging with language politics in Réunion through the juxtaposition of English and Réunionese Kreol in dancehall music

Journal of Romance Studies (2015), 15, (1), 111–130.

Abstract

Despite having originated over 15,000 km away in Jamaica, dancehall music has become a popular medium of cultural expression in the Indian Ocean French overseas department of Réunion. Young people in particular appear to identify with dancehall songs written in the local vernacular, Réunionese Kreol, in spite of the genre’s foreign origins. New musics such as dancehall have been accused of disavowing the radical politics of previous forms of black musical expression. However, analysis of the language politics of Réunionese dancehall music arguably reveals a critical engagement with dominant discourses regarding language, prestige and global modernity. In particular, the juxtaposition of Réunionese Kreol with English within popular dancehall songs appears to affirm the place of the Kreol language – and by extension, that of its speakers – within global modernity. The music thereby combats prejudicial relationships between French and Réunionese Kreol which imply that the latter is (temporally) backward- and (geographically) inward-looking.

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Bremner, Natalia