Theses Doctoral

Legal Lives and Carceral Histories: Making the Uncontrollable Girl in Jamaica

Reinhart, Natalie Swan

This dissertation examines the question of girlhood as a social and legal category, within contemporary feminist frameworks. Turning to Jamaica today, girls are disproportionately apprehended by the law and sentenced to prison for a range of so-called deviant behaviors. Colloquially, they are known as uncontrollable girls, and the law that incarcerates them, the uncontrollable law. This dissertation examines how girlhood has long been a site of Jamaican governance. I argue that the figure of the uncontrollable girl and the uncontrollable law must be analyzed as a project of state building, revealing carceral and colonial logics from chattel slavery into the present. Further, I examine the perceived deviance or vulnerability that girlhood elicits—as a dissident body that transgresses, or an innocent class in need of legal protection.

Drawing across multiple discursive domains—from archival travelogues, colonial acts and amendments, to contemporary newspapers, legal documents, Jamaican literature, and ethnographic fieldwork—the dissertation situates girlhood as an analytic lens through which we might better understand how Jamaican citizenship, rights, and political futures are forestalled or qualified. The historical particularity of Jamaica exemplifies the role the state plays in discursively producing and surveilling the domestic—from the intimate register of the family to the everyday lives of girls.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Reinhart_columbia_0054D_18420.pdf Reinhart_columbia_0054D_18420.pdf application/pdf 1.68 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Scott, David A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 12, 2024