European countries have always used gendered concepts and stereotypes to legitimize and perpetuate their colonial governance and their exercise of command and subordination. Metaphors of masculinity and femininity have often been used (by the colonizers and the colonized) to underscore relations of authority/obedience, or of strength/weakness, on the basis of the equation between racist supremacy and the loss of black masculinity. This article explores how reggae performers and audiences responded to this colonial strategy. Whether identifying black liberation with virility, and male control on women’s bodies, therefore coming to perpetuate sexist images and concepts, and homophobic attitudes; or, re-visioning their struggle for freedom in forms which do not support or perpetuate phallocentrism and patriarchal control.

This article analyzes gender representations in reggae music within postcolonial Europe, in the context of the process of global consumption of reggae music and the international appropriation, by white musicians, of a musical genre which was usually identified with black identity. The author considers reggae music produced in the UK as a result of the encounter between white youth subcultures and the massive black immigrant community from Jamaica and compares it with reggae music spread through sound systems in Italian social centers by white youth countercultures. In both contexts, the postcolonial encounter between black and white youths has given rise to complex reactions grounded in the diverse historical, cultural, religious, social and political backgrounds.