Virtually there… watching, sharing and remembering the International Dancehall Queen Competition online

PoP Moves committee member Celena Monteiro is working towards a PhD focused on transnational dancehall queen culture, in particular the contemporary relationship between European and Jamaican queens and the various dancehall ‘sites’, both virtual and concrete. Last year Monteiro travelled to Jamaica to conduct fieldwork during the International Dancehall Queen Competition in August 2014. This year, on 2 August 2015, she tuned in to watch the competition live once again, but this time via the International Dancehall Queen Competition website. Engaging this year via a screen was treated as an opportunity to compare the virtual viewing experience to the memory of viewing in-person last year.

Below is a reflexive abstract about her research experience:

“I woke up at 5am, hurrying to turn on my computer; I wanted to feel involved and was desperate for my physical distance to not hold me back. The virtual encounter, however, was rife with technical hiccups from the outset, which stunted my feelings of connectedness. For a while the audio played without any visual. The booming sounds of heavy base and plastic horns conjured the embodied memories I so desired, yet the blank screen juxtaposed like a sore reminder that I could only experience the event this year with the senses that technology would permit.

As a consequence of the technical difficulties, I, alongside other online viewers, began sharing advise and frustrations via the competition Facebook page and website forum. This felt significantly personal and I realised that my disconnection from the here-and-now of the event, was being substituted by my sense of immersion within the virtual dancehall queen community.

The hampered virtual experience was in many ways very different from the immediacy of being at the event last year. Involving myself in the online community left me feeling affected by the togetherness of relating to others who were equally invested, and realising this complicity was uplifting. Despite the distance, my experience was simultaneously thrilling and draining and the intensity of this emotional rollercoaster generated a nostalgic sense of connection to the memory of the year before. ”

Monteiro’s forthcoming PhD, is set to position virtually embodied experience within the discussion around transnational feminine networks within dancehall. For more on her research interests click here.

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