“On a Walking Tour of Trench Town:
Sensing Violence in Downtown Kingston, Jamaica”

Author: Alana Osbourne, PhD Candidate 
University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Tourists who visit Trench Town, the “inner-city community” in downtown Kingston where Bob Marley grew up, are drawn in by the neighbourhood’s rich musical heritage. But music alone doesn’t explain why there is an increasing number of travellers interested in visiting the low-income, high-crime community, where the small Culture Yard museum is located. The neighbourhood is repeatedly portrayed by popular culture and (inter)national media as a dangerous, lawless and gang-controlled area. These spatial imaginaries are part of the reasons outsiders venture to the Culture Yard: they want to experience first-hand the struggles and strife that fuelled Bob Marley’s music, in a “real”, corporeal way. However, local tour guides and residents ensure that outsiders are shielded from the spectacular incidents that sometimes punctuate life in Trench Town. Instead, violence is alluded to, brushed against, toned down, infusing the backdrop of tours in the community.

In this paper, I present the gap that exists between touristic expectations of violence and the way in which violence is addressed and felt by local guides and residents. By highlighting the notions of (in)visible and (in)audible violence, I explore how the area’s visitors and locals sense this violence. Here I argue that the way violence is sensed and narrated shifts existing discourses around the nature of the violence that affects Trench Town, and its perpetrators.


This paper will be presented at CARISCC’s 4th Postgraduate Research Conference on Caribbean In/Securities and Creativity, University of Amsterdam, Roeterseiland Campus, The Netherlands, Wednesday 13 June 2018. Please feel free to participate in CARISCC’s online conference discussions by using the “Leave a Reply” space, shown below, to submit any questions, comments and feedback.