HILD 12 Discussions

Angela Lee
3 min readApr 10, 2021

How might paying attention to sound/soundscapes help us think about all of the ways that capitalism destroys our relationships to each other, as well as about how people continue to form new relationships with each other? Think about this question by engaging Goffe’s concept of extra-coloniality.

The Jamaican sound system is recognized for its effective means of gathering communities and indirectly forming a relationship with the social world and capitalism. In particular, the establishment of “Chiney” shops in Jamaica came hand-in-hand with the birth of reggae music to attract consumers and non-consumers alike. Geoff’s “Bigger Than the Sound: The Jamaican Chinese Infrastructure of Reggae” observes the emergence of the Chinese community in Jamaica, and how soundscapes represent the effect of capitalist desires can build and ruin socioeconomic relationships.

Jamaica is one of many locations that was under British colonial rule before the Chinese began immigrating. Despite their small population, the Chinese contributed much of the economy due to the emergence of a variety of small businesses that stood out against colonialist powers. Much attention was brought to these infrastructures due to sounds of music, which will come to be known as reggae, that attracted crowds with or without the need to shop. In this sense, capitalism indirectly created a cultural exchange between the Afro-Jamaican and Jamaican-Chinese communities. The Chinese were gaining higher status in the economy which appears to have increased tensions towards the Chinese.

Soon, the community was divided into “Afro-Chinese” and “Afro-Jamaican”. In relation to the music industry, artists, such as Thomas Wong who was Afro-Chinese, were discriminated due to his heritage. I also see the discrimination as a product of the Chinese claiming to benefit the most from reggae and music in terms of profit. This unbalanced gain for the Chinese is perceived to be sourcing from mostly the black population. Furthermore, the concept of sound comes back to divide the Chinese and Jamaican community in the form of radio. Now that music can be accessible anywhere, less interactions were seen in Chinese businesses.

How can you use the concept of settler colonialism to construct a new map of East Asia that links the histories of Hawaii and China to US and Japanese imperialism? What happens when you add the Caribbean and British imperialism to the mix (think back to Goffe)?

Dean Saranillio defines “Settler Colonialism” as a form of colonialism that aims to exploit indigenous resources with “settlers who are discursively constituted as superior” (2). He studied the way the Chinese were used by the US to replace native Hawaiians for plantations. The chance for high earnings was a big appeal for the Chinese and the surplus of immigrants created a Chinatown in Honolulu. This is reminiscent of San Francisco’s Chinatown as well. Another contributing factor to the movement of the Chinese was Japanese imperialism. The US took notice of Japanese imperialism and used it to instill fear, aka the Yellow Peril, to make it seem as though the East Asian population was the one trying to colonize indigenous regions. The Japanese extended this argument by stating that native Hawaiians were lazy, which then put natives in a position to challenge immigrant workers. This allows the US to maintain control over their territories.

In comparison to British colonial rule in Jamaica, similar patterns can be observed. The fear the US instilled to put native Hawaiians and East Asian immigrants against each other is similar to the division between the Jamaican and Chinese communities because of the perception that the Chinese were exploiting foreign resources for their own benefit. The reason for the Chinese to immigrate to Jamaica is also parallel with the hope of a profitable future through business. Additionally, Tao Leigh Geoff points out in “Bigger Than the Sound: The Jamaican Chinese Infrastructure of Reggae” that the East Asian population were portrayed to be above the “lazy black majority” (6). Even at another part of the globe, the trend of settler colonialism is mirrored and linked to the movement of the Chinese.