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Friday, March 18 • 9:50am - 10:30am
PS28.0 Power by the People: Why Law-Abiding Citizens Support Criminal Organizations?

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Why did ordinary citizens protest rather than celebrate the incarceration or killing of a leader of a criminal organization? From the late 1990s to 2010, the social power of criminal organizations in Jamaica’s urban communities has been dramatized by a series of protests and violent demonstrations, primarily led by women, in response to law enforcement’s attempts to arrest leaders of criminal organizations. The bulk of recent research on the politics of urban-based criminal organizations focuses on the inadequacy of state institutions and directs theoretical attention to relations between the state and criminal organizations or state and society. While this provides insights into the social, political, and economic context in which urban criminal organizations emerge, it tells us very little about the social structure of communities governed by criminal organizations or the relational dynamics between residents and criminal organizations. The research project is a comparative analysis across and within parishes and urban neighbourhoods in Kingston, Jamaica, over the past thirty years. This paper examines the motivations and decision-making processes that result in ordinary citizens risking their security in support of criminal organizations through qualitative analysis of data gathered from secondary sources (police records, government documents, newspapers etc.), participant observation, and ethnographic interviews with community members, agents involved in criminal organizations, law enforcement officials, and local authorities. The preliminary research findings move beyond the predominantly structural approach to understanding criminal organizations and theorize how criminal organizations develop social power and legitimacy at the community level.


Lahoma Thomas

University of Toronto

Friday March 18, 2016 9:50am - 10:30am PDT
Indigo West Foyer