Challenges to Civil Society: Popular Protest & Governance in Jamaica

by Hume Johnson


“This book is lucid and powerful in analyzing the uncivil aspects of civil society, disentangling the dynamics between protesters, the mass media, the general public and government in Jamaica. The book also demonstrates that female researchers such as Hume Johnson—like Nobel Prize–winning female political actors and activists—pair intelligence and persuasive power with pragmatism and courage.” — Joseph Soeters, Netherlands Defence Academy/Tilburg University

“Hume Johnson’s book is an elegant and timely exploration into the incivility of civil society in Jamaica. The book is a pioneering work that reconceptualises civil society to examine the nature and consequences of popular protest in Jamaica. It juxtaposes the importance of political and social structures and institutions with the role of individual agency and responsibility of citizens to chart the dimensions of often unruly citizen politics in Jamaica. Through insightful and methodical analysis of the media as well as criminal donmanship, Johnson makes an impassioned and cogent case to understand civil society in its entirety, warts and all. This is a welcome contribution to the field, which will be invaluable to our rethinking the concept of civil society, and adds much to our knowledge and understanding of Jamaican society and politics.” — Priya Kurian, University of Waikato, New Zealand

“In the aftermath of the upsurge of popular protests against perceived economic injustice in various parts of the globe, classic dilemmas about appropriate stratagems of popular resistance have forced their way back to the hub of academic discourse. Prime among these is the question of violence, posed thus: what is the right relationship between popular protest and violence, and can civil society’s claims to civility be maintained even if the former resorted to violence? As Hume Johnson cogently argues in this thoughtful and amply illustrated monograph, these questions are best answered within specific socio-historical frames. In her analysis, Johnson nudges us to rethink our assumptions about civil society, violence, the state, the mass media, and those controversial social agents we are liable to label as ‘outlaws’. Johnson’s speculations are intriguing, not just because they trouble our assumptions about particular social categories, but because the author also offers an alternative explanatory model to reimagine the interface of grievance, protest, and coercion within a given formation. Though Johnson’s primary focus is Jamaica, the political history of which she expounds with uncommon brio, the utility of her arguments for societies in the throes of social unrest cannot be overemphasized. This is an important book that pushes the frontiers of the debate on civil society, protest, the media, and the state. I cannot speak highly enough of its many merits.” — Ebenezer Obadare, University of Kansas


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