Understanding a modern antique: challenges to representing Rastafari in the twenty-first century

in New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids
Open Access

Drawing increasingly upon digital technologies and the internet to assert a sense of community even as they cultivate an austere biblical persona, adherents of Rastafari can be thought of as simultaneously modern and antique. Their claim to antiquity is grounded in a collectively professed African-Ethiopian identity that has not only resisted the ravages of enslavement, colonialism, and European cultural domination but is seen to transcend local differences of culture and language. Theirs is a way of life organized around theocratic principles that begin with a recognition of the divine in all peoples and as the basis of all human agency. Rastafari assert the universal relevance of these principles to the conditions of modernity even as they persistently claim social justice on behalf of all peoples of African descent exploited by colonialism and the prevailing global capitalist-imperialist system. Based on these general themes, the Rastafari movement has come to represent a large-scale cultural phenomenon that has long since burst the chains of its colonial containment in Jamaica. From the late 1960s onward it has spread throughout the Caribbean and the Central and South American rimland to the major metropoles of North America and Europe as well as to many sites on the African continent.

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