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Sonja Stephenson Watson
University of Texas, Arlington (Arlington, TX 76019-9800)
Globalization, Transculturation, and Hybrid Identity in Panamanian Music: Reggae en Español

Preparation of a book-length study of the musical genre reggae en español and national and black identity in Panama, 1970s to the present.

Research on Panama has primarily focused on the Canal and the United States’ relationship to the construction of the “eighth wonder of the modern world.” The Canal brought to Panama not only international recognition but also thousands of black English-speaking laborers from Jamaica and Barbados. West Indian workers labored on the Canal, made Panama their permanent home, and in turn transformed the ethnic, racial, and linguistic composition of the nation. This project inserts black West Indian heritage into the Panamanian nation-state by analyzing the emergence and continuing influence of a black musical genre (reggae en español) as emblematic of national identity in Panama. Specifically, it interrogates Panamanian reggae en español artists’ engagement with the Panamanian nation-state and their articulation of national and black identity in a nation with a long history of exclusion of blacks.

Project fields:
Latin American Studies

Awards for Faculty

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$8,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2019 – 7/31/2019