The Sensorial Apparatus of the Reggae Sound System

Henriques, Julian F.. 2015. 'The Sensorial Apparatus of the Reggae Sound System'. In: Beyond Biopolitcs SLSA 2015 Houston. Houston, Texus, United States. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

This presentation describes the operation of the Jamaican reggae dancehall sound system session as a popular cultural laboratory for understanding the biopolitics of sensation. The paper explores the sensorial apparatus (Agamben) or dispositif (Foucault) of the open-air street sound system session. This engineers the supra liminal excesses of sensorial experience in the biopolitical economies of pleasure that constitute thedancehall scene at the heart of the island’s popular culture. The set of equipment amplifies intensities and accentuates rhythmic patterning, thereby serving as a means of subjectification (Lazzarato, Guattari) under popular control, sustained on the margins of police and state hegemony. The sound system set of equipment produces tens of thousands of watts of music power that is subject to the engineers’ manipulation (a sonic knowledge developed over generations) to balance, fine-tune, spatialise and mix the audio frequencies. The sensory surfaces of the entire corporeal envelope of the bodies of the crowd operate in multi-sensory flux (Gibson), in parallel and synaesthetically, outside the conventional Aristotelian five-fold sensory hierarchy, as well as reciprocally (with leading and following dance moves) and antiphonically (between MC and crowd). The dancehall culture further configures the rhythmic dynamics of the session from dance choreography to nightly, weekly and seasonal patterns of activity. The biopolitics of this sensorial apparatus contrasts with that of Virtual Reality by configuring the actual embodied reality of the experience of affective intensities. In contrast with personalised digital monitoring technologies of the quantised self, those of the sound system configure a shared multi-sensory sociality.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


knowledge systesm, reggae dancehall sound system, multi-sensory, biopolitics

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies
Media, Communications and Cultural Studies > Topology Research Unit


13 November 2015UNSPECIFIED

Event Location:

Houston, Texus, United States

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Aug 2016 16:35

Last Modified:

21 Aug 2019 10:15


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