In this essay, I focus on soca, a music that has been criticized by numerous journalists, academics, calypsonians, politicians, and listeners for not engaging the political. Instead of dismissing soca as a legitimate critical public discourse, I address soca in relation to its politics of pleasure and the cultural work that live soca performances achieve through the creation of what I refer to as intimacies. Drawing on Lisa Lowe's critical insights, I use the word “intimacy” in two ways: to speak about the spatial proximity soca helps create, and to address the variety of contacts among people that it makes possible. Based on these definitions, this study focuses on the public intimacies enabled by live performances of soca by examining how they unfold among artists on stage, between the artists on stage and their audiences, and among audience members during the performance. This study shows how the pleasures and public intimacies enabled by these live performances do not come free, but rather work at times to reformulate long-held cultural understandings of things such as race, class, gender and sexuality, and at other times, to reinforce them.

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