“Jamaican” as Synecdoche for Black Male Identification: Performing Blackness in Toronto


  • Andrea Davis York University


Findings from youth focus groups in Jamaica and Canada between spring and summer 2013 elucidate the ways in which the construction of Jamaican masculinity is both deployed and challenged by Black youth in Toronto. In Toronto, where Jamaicans make up the largest share of Black communities, Jamaica and Jamaicanness are made to stand in for a homogenous Blackness that satisfies two competing desires. On the one hand, “Jamaican,” as a powerful sign of cultural difference, is used to entrench racist discursive narratives that collapse Blackness into a fixed and fearsome category. On the other hand, Black youth of various cultural backgrounds deploy Jamaica and Jamaicanness as modes of community and resistance, even as they challenge efforts to collapse their racialized intersectional differences into a Black nonparticularity. Black youth thus unsettle the city’s racist narrative by centring modes of identity formation grounded in their own political agency and practices of survival.

Author Biography

Andrea Davis, York University

Andrea Davis is Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities at York University.