Psychology program to host discussion on violence in Jamaica

On Thursday at 5:30 p.m. the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program of University of Massachusetts will be hosting a seminar on conflict and violence in Jamaica.

Titled “Class, Culture and Violence in Jamaica: What We Don’t Know Can Hurt Us,” the event is the latest feature of the Interdisciplinary Seminar on Conflict and Violence featuring Dr. Glendene Lemard. Lemard is a Research Assistant Professor in the Health Policy and Management Program within the School of Public Health and Health Services at UMass. She also is the Managing Director for the Greater Springfield-University of Massachusetts Amherst Partnership.

The seminar will feature a 30-minute presentation by Lemard on the current state of affairs on the small island of Jamaica. With one of the highest murder rates in the world, Jamaica’s violence is often attributed to drug and gang-related activity, robberies and the motivation of revenge. The presentation will focus on the last 45 years of violence and how it has affected health and developmental issues.  Lemard will also speak of the reasons behind the violence, highlighting patterns of killings she believes are not acknowledged by society.

The event will further discuss underlying elements of Jamaican society and how they affect the current state of affairs.  The issues of class structure, inequality and the lack of access to educational and occupation opportunities will all be addressed. Lemard plans to show how these believed “nonsensical killings” are actually the result of a culture that promotes violence and social norms. Following the presentation will be a 30-minute discussion between faculty and students in attendance.

Past ISSCV seminars have featured different professors on topics of conflict, violence and peace. In October, Dr. Andrew Papachristos, a UMass Assistant Sociology Professor, analyzed gang violence by studying inter-group conflict and the effect of geographic “turf.” The seminars also featured Dr. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, a Psychology Professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, who spoke on her book, A Human Being Died That Night, which discussed mass violence and political conflict in South Africa.

The Psychology of Peace and Violence Program at UMass is a doctoral program which, according to its website, “is designed to facilitate research and intervention regarding group relations and conflict.”

“We are especially interested in understanding why group relations become hostile and how to promote cooperation and peaceful resolution,” the site goes on.  It is the academic program’s goal to decrease violence and promote peace through the efforts of psychology. The program has hosted ISSCV seminars since the fall of 2006.

Michelle Williams can be reached at mnwillia@student.umass.edu.

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