Old Boys and Badmen: Private Security in (Post)Colonial Jamaica

Rivke Jaffe, T.G. Diphoorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Racial profiling by the police is a common occurrence in many countries, and the racialized constructions of threats underlying such policing practices can often be traced to histories of colonialism and slavery. This essay seeks to draw attention to the role of private policing in relation to these legacies. Contemporary private security guards often identify suspicious or threatening persons based on racialized discourses similar to those prevalent among police officers. While the demographic make-up of private security professionals is not always the same as that of the police, they have similarly been implicated in profiling practices. How are the practices of private security companies related to colonial, racialized modes of policing? What colonial legacies and historical parallels can we recognize in contemporary private policing, and what are the most evident discontinuities? How do employees, managers, and guards grapple with these legacies? This essay focuses on the private security sector in Jamaica to address such questions. Drawing on interviews, focus groups and informal conversations with the owners and managers of private security companies, government officials, and security guards in the capital of Kingston, we discuss how historical formations of class, race, and gender are reflected in, reinforced by, and contested within the industry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-927
JournalInterventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2019


  • Jamaica
  • labour
  • policing
  • private security
  • racism
  • slavery


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