Research Statement

Statement of Research Interests

As an Afro-Caribbean scholar, a substantial portion of my work has involved researching and teaching on international relations issues and on the patterns of development and underdevelopment of states within the global political economy. More specifically, by examining criminal controlled territories within Jamaica, called garrisons, my research explores the implications of, and joins the debate on, a deepening transnationalization of criminal groups within developing states as it relates to the organizational and power structures of developing societies, the use of violence, and the economic interests of these groups. Scholars from a wide range of different disciplines have addressed these important questions. Within Latin American and Caribbean studies, governance and political patronage scholars examine the trend of institutionalized non-state power structures evolving within criminal controlled territories (Stone 1983; Sives 2010; Gray 2004; Headley 1996; Figueroa, Harriott and Satchell 2008; Charles & Beckford 2012).[1] Meanwhile, other Latin American and Caribbean studies scholars, focusing on gang formation, emphasize the correlation between the expansion of transnational criminal activities and the economic expansion of Latin American and Caribbean gangs in the United States, Britain, and Canada (Arias 2006; Jaffe 2012; Gunst 2003; Sivas 2010; Rodgers 1999, Mainwaring 2007, Leslie 2010).[2] However, none of these works have addressed the central question of how criminal entities within small criminal controlled territories have been able to strengthen and maintain their power base in relation to the state—a central dimension of evolving patterns of development in small economically vulnerable states and societies.

Despite the excellent body of work on the themes of governance and gang formation with the Latin American and Caribbean region, scholars studying the criminal controlled territories within developing countries, such as Jamaica, have not yet fully explored the transnational nature of small-localized gangs. Rather, these small gangs are often seen as endemic to the urban slums and attention redirected towards larger criminal groups that shadow the state. Yet, without a better understanding of the multiple and complex global interactions that do take place within and across small local gangs, we are left with an inadequate analysis that leads to ill-informed state policy-making. In the case of Jamaica, this is evident in the May 2010 Tivoli incursion when the Jamaica security forces entered a well known criminal enclave to apprehend its alleged leader, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, for a 2009 extradition warrant. Prepared to defend their leader, criminal elements within the community initiated an attack against the state resulting in the death of 75 civilians and 4 police officers (Sheil & Davis 2010).[3] Despite the eventual capture and extradition of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke to the United States, and the Jamaican security forces taking control of the community and its surrounding area, there has been a resurgence of gang activity and violence among small localized gangs within the community (Ghunta 2014).[4] My research will address this gap in the literature by first refocusing attention to the under studied region of the Caribbean. Second, my research will examine how the conditions of globalization have allowed transnational criminal actors to enhance their control and authority over territories in many Latin American and Caribbean states—thereby strengthening the transnational power of criminal groups in many states and societies.


[1] Stone, C. (1983). Democracy and Clientelism in Jamaica. New Brunswick: Transaction Books Publishers; Sives, A. (2010). Elections, Violence and the Democratic Process in Jamaica 1944-2007. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers.; Gray, O. (2004). Demeaned Empowered: The Social Power of the Urban Poor In Jamaica. Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press.; Headley, B. D. (1996). The Jamaican Crime Scene: a perspective. Washington DC: Howard University Press.; Figueroa, M., Harriott, A., & Satchell, N. (2008). The Political Ecnomy of Jamaica’s Inner-City Violence: A Special Case? In J. Rivke, The Caribbean City. Kingston; Miami: Ian Randle Publishers.; Charles, C. A., & Beckford, O. (2012). The Informal Justice System in Garrison Constituencies. Social and Economic Studies , 61 (2), 51-72.


2 Arias, E. (2006). The Dynamics of Criminal Governance: Networks and Social Order in Rio de Janeiro. Journal of Latin American Studies , 38 (2), 293-325.: Jaffe, R. (2012). Criminal Dons and Extralegal Security Privatization in Downtown Kingston, Jamaica. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography , 33 (2), 184-197.; Gunst, L. (2003). Born fi’ Dead: a journey through the Jamaican posse underworld. New York: H. Holt.; Sives, A. (2010). Elections, Violence and the Democratic Process in Jamaica 1944-2007. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers.; Rodgers, D. (1999). Youth Gangs and Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean: A literature survey. The World Bank; Latin America and Caribbean Region Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development SMU. Washington: The World Bank.; Manwaring, M. (2007). A Contemporary Challenge to State Soverignty: gangs and other illicit transnational criminal organisations (TCOs) in Central America, El Salvador, Mexico, Jamaica, and Brazil. Strategic Studies Institute. Carlisle: United States War College.; Leslie, G. (2010). Confronting the Don: The Political Economy of Gang Violence in Jamaica. Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. Geneva: Small Arms Survey.


[3] Sheil, R., & Davis, C. (2010, May 26). Kingston Residents Trapped Inside Homes as Jamaican Death Toll Rises. Retrieved October 1, 2013, from theguardian:


[4] Ghunta, J. (2014, December 19). Boyne Misguided on Tivoli. Retrieved January 7, 2014, from The Gleaner:



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