The structure of this thesis is fourfold, yet intrinsically intertwined. Firstly, it identifies and examines in detail Jamaica’s strong and highly identifiable worldwide image and symbolic narrative. On the one hand, Jamaica is the home of Bob Marley, reggae and Rastafarianism, as well as being a tropical sultry island-dream boasting sun, sand and sea. On the other hand, Jamaica is also associated with violent crime and virulent homophobia. Based on the romanticized and imaginary notion that Jamaicans are dreadlocked and laze on the beach under a coconut tree smoking ganja while listening to reggae music, the symbols and cultural expressions that have emerged from and are indigenous to Jamaica are readily identified and analyzed within the discourse of the mythical construction of images. This discussion suggestively argues that the somewhat dichotomous and stereotyped cultural representations of Jamaica may in fact be an external, discursive reading of prominent internal Jamaican cultural cues in a manner detached from its original signifiers.
Secondly, based on the narrative placement of Jamaica, the thesis looks at possible nation branding strategies for Jamaica. Simultaneously, specific cases of nation brand strategies are scrutinized. Looking at Jamaica’s strong name, yet apparent inability to transform this into real revenue, the discussion suggestively argues that Jamaica may be lacking a centrally administered or holistically implemented nation brand strategy, and that such an approach may put Jamaica in a more progressive mode in the realm of nation branding. It becomes apparent – through examples being proffered – that Jamaica could greatly improve its strategic position vis a vis a more structurally governing of its cultural products and intangible resources. However, certain nation branding policies have recently been implemented, and the Brand Jamaica strategy geared at attracting businesses to Jamaica, is just now assuming an early form of success.
Thirdly, grounded in the analysis that Jamaica has been reluctant to see the potential economic value of its own cultural symbols, possible approximations to proactive intellectual property (IP) governance are discussed. It becomes apparent that Jamaican stakeholders can better ensure that Jamaican cultural and symbolic expressions are appropriated and projected in a manner that serves Jamaican interests and the Jamaican people as a whole. This discussion scrutinizes the economic and judicial viability of a more structured approach to IP governance, primarily suggesting that it may be the attitudes towards Jamaica’s benefit of IP that represent the biggest challenge.
Fourthly and finally, this thesis scrutinizes the consternating proclivity of Jamaican symbols and cultural expressions being misappropriated and may have their meanings diluted, devalued or be associated with unwarranted (and unsolicited) connotations. This argument seeks to suggest that Jamaican interests can indeed be secured through adequate intellectual property rights’ protection and that this might be achievable for Jamaican stakeholders so as not only to reclaim moral but also economic and judicial ownership of their own symbols and culture. The discussion suggests and argues that this may be a consequence of the unlucky combination of external stakeholders’ economic interest in Jamaican symbols, combined with Jamaica’s propensity to undervalue its own symbolic capital. Jamaica may, however, be able to reclaim ownership of its own symbols and narrative through proactive deployment of identity politics. This must be cleverly done so that the nation itself is able to yield economic return on its symbols and narratives; and that when the symbols are externally appropriated this does not corrupt the symbols, drain the symbols for meaning and prevent Jamaica from creating revenue. Furthermore, it is decisive to understand the potential consequences for the national identity when Jamaican symbolisms are externally appropriated, and how this may impact on the Jamaican narrative construction and have a detrimental impact on the Jamaican national identity formation.