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CLACS Caribbean Studies Seminar Series actively promote intellectual engagement and knowledge exchange by providing scholars - including postgraduate students and early career researchers - with the opportunity to present their interdisciplinary, comparative and integrated research on the Caribbean.

A Crisis of Legitimacy: Assessing the Decivilizing Process of the State of Trinidad and Tobago 

Speaker: Melissa Mendez  (Cardiff)

This paper assesses the legitimacy of the young, post-colonial nation-state of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago has a history of slavery, independence, oil, and austerity. It is against the backdrop of the country’s post-independence successes and failures that this paper discusses the rise of a radical Islamist group – the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen (the JAM) – which attempted a coup d’état in 1990. The attempt failed, but this proved a turning point for safety, security, and legitimacy within the twin-island Republic. This paper argues that the impunity enjoyed by the JAM in the aftermath of the attempted coup d’état strengthened the group’s power, both within the criminal underworld and with successive governments. Since 1990, there has been an increase in the number of gangs within the country, an increase in the number of serious crimes committed, and a decrease in the support for state institutions, in particular, the police. This paper argues that the rise of the JAM was the catalyst for the delegitimation of the State in a Weberian and Eliasian context. 

Melissa Mendez is a Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University and previously taught Criminology at Swansea University. Melissa is originally from Trinidad and Tobago and completed her PhD at Cardiff University in January 2019. Her doctoral thesis explored the subjective lived experiences of detained young male offenders in Trinidad and Tobago in the context of social justice, state legitimacy and procedural justice. 

In addition to a PhD, Melissa holds an LLB from the University of the West Indies, a Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School, an LLM from UCL, and an MSc in Social Science Research Methods from Cardiff University. Melissa is an attorney at law qualified to practise law in the West Indies since 2006. Her research interests include legitimacy, race and ethnicity, decolonisation, stigma, masculinities, penology, social justice, and youth justice. 

Seminar Programme

Autumn term
4 October   
1 Nov            
6 Dec            
Winter term
10 Jan           
14 Feb          
14 March     

Organisers: Eve Hayes de Kalaf (ICwS) and Jack Webb (Manchester)

The Caribbean Studies Seminar Series is organised by the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) in collaboration with Race, Roots and Resistance (University of Manchester)

All are welcome to attend this free seminar, which will be held online via Zoom at 16:00 GMT. You will need to register in advance to receive the online joining link. Please click on the Book Now button at the top of the page to register.

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