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“Wining Specialists: Black Caribbean Women and the Public Pedagogy of Desire”

January 15, 2021 @ 4:15 pm

CSMC Poster (text on webpage)

The historically unprecedented diasporic popularity of wildersa genre of carnival music from the Eastern Caribbean islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, can be attributed to the entrepreneurialism of young Black women. Acting as public pedagogues, these women have used social media platforms such as instagram and Tik Tok as spaces for teaching the technical and kinesthetic distinctions between Afro-diasporic dancing styles. With some songs and riddims going “viral” within these circles, wilders, a previously unintelligible style of ultra-uptempo music, has become recognizable on the global scene as one kind of music specifically for wining: skillfully rolling, rocking, and isolating ones hips and backside. In the wake of a pop cultural moment when the term “twerk” has come to [mis]represent every kind of butt-shaking tradition in popular globalized discourse, these social media pedagogues are promoting Caribbean cultural productions, especially youth music and dance, in ways that are both resistive to the homogenizing impulses of neoliberalism, and heavily adapted to its monetizing logic. By contextualizing Black women’s social media pedagogy within the broader history of Black women’s bodily public performance in the Caribbean, I ask, how might understanding wining as a form of pedagogy shed different light on previous generations of Caribbean women and their relationship to music production? 

 Jessica Swanston Baker (The University of Chicago) is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in contemporary popular music of and in the Circum-Caribbean. Her research and critical interests include tempo and aesthetics, coloniality, decolonization, and race/gender and respectability. As a Caribbeanist, her work focuses on issues within Caribbean theory pertaining to small islands-nations such as representation and invisibility, vulnerability, and sovereignty. Her current ethnographic book project, The Aesthetics of Speed: Music and the Modern in St. Kitts and Nevis examines the relationship between tempo perception and gendered and raced legacies of colonization. Through historical and ethnographic analysis of polysemantic colloquialisms and music reception, she argues that colonial understandings of black femininity, and Enlightenment notions of musicianship frame local perceptions of wylers, a style of Kittitian-Nevisian popular music, as “too fast.” Her most recent article, “Black Like Me: Caribbean Tourism and the St. Kitts Music Festival,” takes up music tourism as a second area of research interest. This work centers on black diasporic travel between the United States and the Caribbean, and the performance and consumption of American soul music within the context of Caribbean music festivals. 

Jessica holds a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.M. in Vocal Performance from Bucknell University. Prior to her faculty appointment at Chicago, Jessica was the 2015-16 postdoctoral fellow in Critical Caribbean Studies at Rutgers University. 

For registration and the Zoom link for this event, please email Melissa Camp at

This lecture is part of the 2020-21 Carolina Symposia in Music and Culture lecture series.


January 15, 2021
4:15 pm
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