Author: Dr Rivke Jaffe, University of Amsterdam, NL

This working paper explores representations of security and policing in popular Jamaican music, offering an initial survey of themes and a preliminary analysis of this music as a creative negotiation of insecurity emerging from some of the Caribbean’s most precarious urban spaces. In the context of consistently high levels of violent crime, Jamaica has seen a pluralization of security professionals, with private security companies, neighborhood watches and informal “dons” complementing or supplanting state security forces. Drawing on an analysis of reggae and dancehall songs, this paper examines how these different policing agents are represented in reggae and dancehall lyrics, and specifically how their relationship to the urban poor is narrated. I build on previous analyses of urban violence and real or metaphorical gunplay in Jamaican popular music (e.g. Hope 2006; Cooper 2007) by emphasizing representations of security provision and protection rather than of aggression or “badmanism” per se, although these emphases are of course not mutually exclusive.

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