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.