The Gendered Politics and Violence of Structural Adjustment: A View from Jamaica

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Since 1978,1 have observed and conversed with Oceanview residents about the social, economic, and political conditions shaping their lived experiences and strug- gles for survival in this neighborhood (e.g., Harrison 1987a, b; 1988; 1991a, b). The late 1970s was a time of economic hardship and political turbulence, a time when the People’s National Party’s (PNP) democratic socialist path to economic devel- opment and social transformation was vehemently contested, blocked, and destabi- lized by political opponents both within and without the country and by the concerted economic force of an international recession, quadrupled oil prices, and a massive flight of both domestic and foreign capital. Life was certainly hard then, but, as one resident commented, “Cho, mahn [sic]; tings worse now.�? Despite the bright promises of political and economic “deliverance�? made by the Jamaica Labour Party QLP) and its major backer, the Reagan and later Bush administra- tions of the U. S. government, the 1980s and early 1990s-under the leadership of a much more conservative PNP-brought only a deepened poverty to the folk who people the streets and alleys of slum and shantytown neighborhoods like Oceanview. This deepening poverty is reflected, for example, in a serious decline in the conditions of public health. The implementation of structural adjustment policies has brought about alarming reductions in government health-care expenditures and promoted the privatization of more costly and less accessible medical care (Phillips 1994, 137). Those most heavily burdened by the impact of these deteriorating social conditions and capital-centered policies are women (Antrobus 1989) who serve as the major “social shock absorbers�? (Sparr 1992, 31; 1994) mediating the crisis at the local level of households and neighborhoods. Nearly 50 percent of all Kingston’s households are female-headed, giving women the major responsibilities for making ends meet out of virtually nothing (Deere et al. 1990, 52-53). Concen- trated in the informal sector of the economy, these women along with their chil- dren are most vulnerable to the consequences of malnutrition, hunger, and poor health: rising levels of morbidity and mortality (Phillips 1994, 142; Pan American Health Organization /World Health Organization 1992).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSituated Lives
Subtitle of host publicationGender and Culture in Everyday Life
EditorsLouise Lamphere, Helena Ragoné, Patricia Zavella
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781135250447
ISBN (Print)9780415918077
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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