- From Maroons to dons: Sovereignty, violence and law in Jamaica
- Critique of Anthropology
- Volume | Issue number
- 35 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
At different historical junctures and under different conditions, the Jamaican state has allowed armed "insurgents" to rule over specific spaces within its territorial control, condoning or actively facilitating the development of multiple legal orders as a mode of "outsourcing" sovereignty. Analyzing two contrasting cases, this article provides new insights into the role of violence and law in the context of multiple sovereignties. In the eighteenth century, after several unsuccessful military missions against Maroons, the colonial state signed a treaty granting them a significant portion of the Jamaican interior and partial political autonomy. In return, the Maroons provided military assistance to the British, capturing and returning the enslaved who escaped the plantations, and, decades after Emancipation, helping the British suppress the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion. In contemporary Jamaica, many inner-city neighborhoods are controlled by criminal leaders known as "dons". While various elements in the Jamaican state combat the power of the dons, many politicians and bureaucrats are entangled in a relationship of collusion and divestment with these extra-state leaders. In exchange for access to electoral blocs and suppressing urban unrest, dons receive lucrative government contracts and a measure of protection from judicial scrutiny. The article contrasts these colonial and postcolonial cases of collaborative or collusive relations between states and "outlaws", emphasizing the role of violent pluralism and legal pluralism in multiple sovereignties, but also complicating the distinction between formal/legal and informal/de facto sovereignty.
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