IDS working papers;297

Making and unmaking the young ‘shotta’ [shooter] : boundaries and (counter) -actions in the ‘garrisons’

Published on 1 January 2008

This paper comprises a patchwork of conversations and life-stories from two of
Jamaica’s reputedly violent ‘garrison’ communities. The stories come from a variety
of sources, grandparents to the very young; however, the principal focus is on the
children and, specifically, on how some among them – those labelled as ‘young
shottas’ [shooters] are cultivated. Our storytellers expose the effects of deeprooted
economic and social inequalities; the perception that gun violence is a
means to personal liberation and ‘power’, particularly among males; and the
concentration of conflict within and across like neighborhoods. There are stories
about social conditioning and manhood, the role of families and peers and of how
children are forced to grow in contexts where there are little or no opportunities
for exit and restricted spaces for change.
There are also accounts of how some actual and potential ‘shottas’ are attempting
to contest the physical, material and socio-psychological boundaries within and
outside of their immediate communities, through what Hayward (2000) describes
as ‘action upon boundaries to action’. Notably, contestation does not always
comprise those productive social actions that are considered crucial for participation
and vibrant citizenship; it is often much more complex, combining non violent and
violent actions, ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ measures. It is important to dissect how
perceptions, such as of legality and illegality, legitimacy and illegitimacy are framed
for the stories indicate that in these communities such concepts can have different
meanings and that what is considered indefensible in some areas may be both
justified and regarded as normal practice in others. Through these forthright and
compelling accounts, readers will be exposed to the routes to and experiences of
different citizenships as well as the substantial challenges to transformational
change, particularly for the children who were born and cultivated in these
particular violent environments.
Keywords: inequality, children, power relations, violence, garrisons, social conditionings,
boundaries, psychology, spaces, transformation.

Publication details

published by
Moncrieffe, Joy


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