Postcolonial Structural Violence: A Case Study of School Violence in Trinidad & Tobago

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2013

Department 1

Africana Studies


The Caribbean region, per capita, is one of the most violent in the world. Trinidad & Tobago (TT), an economic powerhouse, has been bedeviled by violence. Unsurprisingly, school violence has escalated; however, there is a paucity of data. In this case study, I employed a critical peace education and postcolonial studies framework to examine how school violence is conceptualized. The research site--a product of postcolonial educational expansion--is a co-educational secondary school in TT, and is nationally stigmatized for its violent notoriety and persistent academic underperformance. Observations, 33 semi-structured interviews, and 9 focus groups/classroom discussions (with a total of 84 students) were conducted over a 7-month period in 2010, with a 3-week follow-up in 2013. My data illustrate how youth are the main analytic unit in the discourse around school violence; a discourse from which the structural role of the school is mostly omitted, as well as the lingering impact of a contemporaneously bifurcated educational system that was created during the colonial era. These omissions may serve to reinforce/perpetuate TT's class-stratified society; this constitutes discursive violence, but more specifically, as its iteration in this case study, postcolonial structural violence. Such discursive violence is both a neocolonial product and enabler of the structural violence that maintains educational inequity in TT.


Original version is available from the publisher at: http://www.gmu.edu/programs/icar/ijps/Vol18_2/cover18_2.htm