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Visions of the Caribbean Metropolis: Crime, Home, and the Aesthetics and Politics of Insecurity in Urban Jamaica


The popular and academic perspective on cities of the Global South like Kingston, Jamaica is that they are rife with violence. While crime in many ways does organize life in Kingston, the city, like many cities the world over, is very much shaped by a contemporary preoccupation with security and insecurity. A casual visitor to Kingston will notice how much concerns about security and insecurity permeate life in the city: metal Neighborhood Watch signs mark the entrances to various communities, billboards advertising electronic security dot the urban geography and stylized metal gates and burglar bars protect homes. My dissertation explores the socio-geographic and discursive practices that highlight the ways in which security and insecurity are currently organizing social life in Kingston. I suggest that in Kingston, contemporary ideas about security and insecurity are shaping and being shaped by long-standing narratives about the nation, race, citizenship, discipline and the home. Based on eighteen months of fieldwork conducted in Kingston between 2012 and 2016 with local residents, government officials, NGO representatives, metal artisans, and police and electronic security specialists, this research connects the practices of these actors and demonstrates how they discursively, socially, technologically and aesthetically envision and re-envision Kingston as they negotiate their aspirations of security and fears of insecurity in the city. Grounding this dissertation is an historical architecture, which seeks archivally and materially to connect Kingston’s contemporary security moment to a longer history of diasporic political and cultural practices that link black geographies across space and time. As such, this dissertation investigates Kingston as a Black Atlantic city; one whose securityscape lives with structural legacies of the past that continue to impinge on and interpenetrate the paradigm of security, surveillance and discipline of the present. This dissertation not only contributes to theoretical discussions of urbanity, security, and materiality and their relationships to emergent notions of citizenship, but also to newer Africana Studies scholarship that positions the transmission of Afro-diasporic cultural practices relationally within the context of broader cultural shifts.

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