Rastafari. The word immediately conjures a host of strong, disparate images. To some, the Rastafarian Movement, which emerged from the ghettos of Jamaica in the 1930s, is embodied by a dreadlocked youth in a haze of marijuana smoke. To others, it represents an authentic, organic expression of working-class culture, a vibrant movement that has expanded to North America, the British Isles, and Africa. Ennis Barrington Edmonds moves beyond simple stereotypes to provide a compelling portrait of the Rastafarian phemen and chronicle how a once-obscure group, much maligned and persecuted as an internal threat to Jamaican society, became an international cultural force. He focuses in particular on the internal development of Rastafarianism as a social movement to track the process of this strikingly successful integration. He also demonstrates how African and Afro-Christian religions, Ethiopianism, and Garveyism were all fused into the Rastafari posture of resistance, organised as it is around charismatic figures. Rastafari presents an intimate account of a unique movement, which over the course of several decades institutionalised itself to become the international cultural, political, and musical force it is today.
Born and raised in Jamaica, Ennis Barrington Edmonds is Director of Multicultural Affairs at Barnard College.