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Urban Poor Topic of Research|
By Political Science Professor
MAILED: July 13, 1998|
EAU CLAIRE Universities often are termed research or teaching schools because they emphasize one or the other.
But Obika Gray, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, is combining the two through a manuscript he is writing titled, "Social Power of the Urban Poor in Jamaica."
"It's a manuscript that builds on an increasingly scholarly concern with groups that are seen as politically relevant but don't have resources, connections and aren't socially advantaged," Gray said.
The manuscript focuses on how the urban poor in Jamaica use their marginality to gain power, he said. Politicians need the support the poor can offer, which gives the urban poor some bargaining leverage.
But this relationship is causing problems for Jamaica because as the urban poor have learned how to use their influence to bargain, they have rebelled against the social values of those whom they consider their oppressors, Gray said. The result has been an increase in lawlessness and crime and a rejection of such values as obedience and respect for authority.
"Those who hold political power don't dictate social values," he said. "Those who don't have power influence social values, and that has created a predicament and dilemma for our society."
Gray, who was born in Jamaica and lived there until coming to the United States in 1967, has traveled to Jamaica several times to research the project.
Gray will use his research findings in classes this fall such as "The Politics of Global Cultural Relations," which "looks at the class of cultures in international society."
The completed manuscript should be finished by the end of the year, although excerpts from it already have been published, Gray said.
Gray presented a paper based on his research at the 23rd annual Conference of the Caribbean Studies Association in Antigua, West Indies, last May.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: July 13, 1998