Theses Doctoral

The Evolution of Poltical Violence in Jamaica 1940-1980

Williams, Kareen

By the 1960s violence became institutionalized in modern Jamaican politics. This endemic violence fostered an unstable political environment that developed out of a symbiotic relationship between Jamaican labor organizations and political violence. Consequently, the political process was destabilized by the corrosive influence of partisan politics, whereby party loyalists dependent on political patronage were encouraged by the parties to defend local constituencies and participate in political conflict. Within this system the Jamaican general election process became ominous and violent, exemplifying how limited political patronage was dispersed among loyal party supporters. This dissertation examines the role of the political parties and how they mobilized grassroot supporters through inspirational speeches, partisan ideology, complex political patronage networks, and historic party platform issues from 1940 through 1980. The dissertation argues that the development of Jamaican trade unionism and its corresponding leadership created the political framework out of which Jamaica's two major political parties, the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) and People's National Party (PNP) emerged. Within the evolution of their support base Jamaican politicians such as Alexander Bustamante utilized their influence over local constituencies to create a garrison form of mobilization that relied heavily upon violence. By investigating the social and political connection between local politicians and violence, this dissertation examines how events such as the Henry Rebellion in 1960, the 1978 Green Bay Massacre, and the public murder of the PNP candidate Roy McGann in 1980 demonstrate the failure of traditional Jamaican political patronage to control extremist violence among grassroot supporters, giving rise to a general public dissatisfaction with the established Jamaican leadership. This transformation of the political system resulted in the institutionalization of political violence by the late 1960s, and a pattern of general elections destabilized by vicious conflicts between JLP and PNP gangs. This political violence was reflected in the rise of gang dons such as Jim Brown and Wayne "Sandokhan" Smith who became independent of the patronage system through their exploitation of the drug trade. Consequently, modern Jamaican politics in the twenty-first century is fractured and local political leaders have lost control of the gangs.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Scott, David
Blackmar, Elizabeth
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 20, 2013