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Lighten Up Yu Self!: The Politics of Lightness, Success and Color Consciousness in Urban Jamaica

Derron Wallace


This essay explores the practice, process, purpose and politics of skin lightening amongst Black youth in urban Jamaica. Through semi-structured, open-ended interviews, life histories and focus group discussions, the study reveals the complex, substantive and multilayered reasons for skin lightening. It also traces the development of colorism and spotlights the expansion of cosmetic bleaching in recent years. Informants maintain that skin lightening is a consequence of both historical and contemporary forces. It is, they suggest, a rational attempt to secure and maintain power.


colorism, skin lightening, genealogical bleaching, body modification

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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