Ok, so I've heard a lot on the origin of the backbeat. Some say it came from African voodoo and others say from the Middle East. Where did it actually come from? Also, people say it was expressly made for moving your hips and dancing? But what about folksy Irish songs? Those definitely make you want to dance......
I don't remember where I read this, but some scholarly music history article traced the back beat to the early 1920s or so and claimed it originated with the country music (then called "hillbilly" to distinguish it from "race" music) guitar strumming patterns. It does seem to be common in US developed music, jazz, country, rock, etc.
Edit: I found a nice reference: http://tagg.org/xpdfs/TamlynPhD2.pdf
This is the appendix to a thesis (now a book) on the origins of the backbeat. I didn't find the book online.
Another article: http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.14.20.2/mto.14.20.2.biamonte.html