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Jamaican Dons, Italian Godfathers and the Chances of a ‘Reversible Destiny’



For close to 50 years, so-called ‘dons’ have positioned themselves as civic leaders in Jamaica, gaining acceptance among poor urban communities and (tacit) political recognition in the wider society. The dons' systematic, coercive organisation of the ghetto community and the counter-hegemonic, executive-style bureaucracy and culture entrenched here resembles the ‘godfather’-led criminal culture and power of the (Italian) Mafia. However, over the last ten years the Mafia has faced a considerable decline in its omnipotence, due to increased state intervention and resistance within civil society, particularly by women in the local Italian communities. This article attempts to ascertain if such a ‘reversible destiny’ is also thinkable in Jamaica.