Rastafari: Roots and Ideology

Rastafari: Roots and Ideology

Rastafari: Roots and Ideology

Rastafari: Roots and Ideology

Synopsis

Interviews with 30 converts from the 1930s and 1940s are a component of Barry Chevanne's book, a look into the origins and practices of Rastafarianism. From the direct accounts of these early members, he is able to reconstruct pivotal episodes in Rastafarian history to offer a look into a subgroup of Jamaican society whose beliefs took root in the social unrest of the 1930s.

Excerpt

This study first traces the cultural roots of the Rastafari movement in Jamaica where it originated and then provides an ethnographic description of the movement in the city of Kingston. It argues that the worldview of the Jamaican peasantry, the direct descendants of "those who came" after Columbus, the Africans forced into slavery, resonates in the Rastafari. I call this worldview Revivalism from the religion of the same name and argue that the driving force in its formation was their determination to make the best of this new situation on their own terms, which meant resistance to European slavery and colonialism, both physical and mental.

The data come from fieldwork carried out in 1974 and 1975 for a doctoral dissertation at Columbia University. As much of the research was in the form of life-history interviews taken from thirty male and female informants, twenty-eight of whom joined the Rastafari movement no later than 1938 and two in the early 1940s, it is useful to clarify how the information was collected. It first took several months before I was able to find an informant of the 1930s vintage, who then put me in touch with others who in turn put me in touch with their acquaintances, and so on. This method is a form of network approach or what North American scholars call the snowball technique. As those who rely on this method would appreciate, there were many dead ends.

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