With the rise of the informal drug economy in the 1980s, the increasing economic constriction of the post-Independence Trinidadian welfare state, the re-routing of narco-trafficking through the Caribbean corridor; and an associated spike in the quantity of illegal guns and ammunition entering and remaining within the country, Trinidad and Tobago has seen an exponential increase in rates of gang violence since 2000—especially in its low-income urban enclaves historically racialized as black (this racialization often effacing the presence of historic Indo-descended populations in these areas). The twin island republic now ranks among the 20 most homicidal countries in the world according to UN reports. In 2017, the U.S. Department of State also announced Trinidad as the largest per capita exporter of Jihadist fighters in the western hemisphere and linked radicalization predominantly to urban poverty among young black men. This marked the official entry of Trinidadian urban enclaves into the U.S. anti-terrorism securitization matrix.
As state, and supra-state bodies continue to categorize “gang violence” as a Trinidadian national crisis with global reach, swaths of urban geographies are produced as “threats” to be managed. Not only are the residents of these areas marked as threats to the physical bodily security of fellow citizens, but also threats to political economic security. As a player in the global hydrocarbon economy (Shell, BP and BG all operate in Trinidad), the Trinidadian state and greater public fear that the darker face of this Manichean nation will endanger the favorable forensic profile the country relies on for foreign investment. This fear generates the insistence that, “We have to do something about crime.” As the production of threat reveals itself as a project of population management in a “war on crime/terror,” my research asks the following: what does it mean to be produced as threat and how does it feel to live as one? To explore this question, my dissertation research examines media discourse, security and development policy/programs, built urban landscapes, social relationships, and imaginations of alternative futures.