Damion Blake of Portmore, Jamaica, a doctoral student in Virginia Tech’s Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought program in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, has been awarded a Latin American Security, Drugs, and Democracy Fellowship for dissertation fieldwork research. 

Blake will return to his home country to study the place and power of the Jamaican don in the country’s inner city communities. Blake says his goal is to better understand the social welfare, communal security, and political protection provided by these social forces in Jamaica’s poverty-stricken urban neighborhoods. 

“'The Don' wields considerable political and financial power,” says Blake “and they appear to have strong support from residents inside garrisons.” Communities are referred to as garrisons in large part because of their homogeneous voting patterns.

Blake says that he chooses to do this research “because of its current relevance to crime control strategies in Jamaica and the need to better understand the socio-economic and political contexts within which organized crime bosses (dons) and their syndicate groups evolve and take root in the small island state of Jamaica.” Blake describes Jamaica as being in the “cross currents of the international organized network of drug and arms trafficking.” In his fieldwork, Blake will explore the impact of organized crime on the practice of governance and democracy in Jamaica.

The Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought, also known as ASPECT, is an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program. While enrolled in this program, Blake has taught in the Department of Political Science as well as the Department of History. Blake will conduct his research in Jamaica during the 2011 fall semester.  As part of his grant, which totals about $11,000, he will attend a post-fieldwork session in summer 2012 in Bogota, Colombia.

Blake is in prestigious company as many Latin American Security, Drugs, and Democracy fellowship awards go to junior level faculty. The fellowship is jointly administered by the Social Science Research Council, the Open Society Foundation, and the Universidad de los Andes (Colombia).

Blake has undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.



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