Memory, Urban Violence and Performance in Jamaica
Over the last ten years, there has been an explosion of interest in inner city violence internationally. Governments operating in places as varied as Kingston, Jamaica; Bogota, Colombia; London, England and Toronto, Canada have created instruments to measure, surveil and intervene in the problem. There are growing financial investments in addressing the problem (as in the case of Plan Colombia) and in developing transnational approaches to its management.
This study is about the side of inner city violence that escapes the official reports. How I ask, do victims of violence from different social and political locations in Jamaican communities mourn, remember and forget the losses inflicted by violence? I look for answers to this question in the tensions and conflicts underlying performances such as protests against violence, vigils, elite social spectacles, dance and drama. What might we learn from these shifting and embodied images about how communities and individuals simultaneously justify and resist the reproduction of inner city violence and how might this inform efforts to address the social injustices underlying it in the contemporary context?
In 2005 Jamaica reported a murder rate of 62 per 100,000, the highest in the world. Though the rate has fallen somewhat, in 2007, Amnesty International condemned the Jamaican record on homophobic violence and police killings, and expressed concern about rampant violence against women (http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/Regions/Americas/Jamaica). The US state department human rights report in 2006 echoed Amnesty’s concerns and expanded the list of abuses to include mob violence and vigilante killings (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61733.htm). Jamaicans are extremely anxious about crime and violence which is mainly confined to inner cities that have expanded within the spatial legacies of colonization that Fanon (1963) long ago analyzed as alienating (Kipfer, 2007).