Rastafari: From Outcasts to Culture Bearers / Edition 1

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Since its emergence from the ghettoes of West Kingston, Jamaica in the 1930s, the Rastafarian Movement has been transformed from an obscure group of outcasts to a vibrant movement that has not only become firmly entrenched in Jamaican society, but has successfully expanded beyond the Caribbean to North America, the British Isles, and Africa. Ennis Barrington Edmonds provides a compelling portrait of the Rastafarian phenomenon and chronicles how a once-obscure group, much maligned and persecuted, became a dominant cultural force in the world today.
Edmonds charts the evolution of the relationship between Rastafari and the wider Jamaican society. In the early years of the movement, there was outright confrontation and repression, as Rastas were seen as a threat to Jamaican society. This evolved into a grudging tolerance and eventually an aggressive appropriation of Rastafarian symbols in the 1970s and 1980s—as evidenced by the veritable coronation of reggae artist Bob Marley—resulting in the "culture tourism" of the late twentieth century. Edmonds focuses in particular on the internal development of Rastafarianism as a social movement, with its network of "houses" (small, informal groups that form around leading Rastas) and "mansions" (larger, more communal associations), to track the process of this strikingly successful integration. He further demonstrates how Rastafarian artistic creativity, especially in fashioning the music and message of reggae, was a significant factor in the transition of Rastas from the status of outcasts to the position of culture bearers.
Rastafari presents an intimate account of a unique movement, which over the course of several decades had entrenched itself in Jamaican society and has become the international cultural and political force it is today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ennis Edmonds provides a lucid and thought-provoking argument for how Rastafari has become established as a mainstay in Jamaican culture. Modifying Weberian notions of routinization and charisma, Edmonds demonstrates how Rastafari symbols have permeated Jamaican society, ensuring the continued existence of the movement despite its minimal formal structure. Rastafari is important not only to scholars of Caribbean religions, but to anyone interested in how new religions find a stable place in society."—Richard C. Salter, Department of Religious Studies, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

"Not only does Edmonds' work provide an engaging introduction to the history, cosmology, structure and ritual of Rastafari, it also presents a strong framework for understanding how this religious movement grew from its roots among a group of "denigrated outcasts" to a world religion without developing the institutional forms that scholars generally associate with religions. With a sophisticated reworking of Max Weber's theory of charisma and routinization, Edmonds sheds light on the development of this particular movement but also poses challenging questions about the histories of religious movements more broadly. Edmonds' work is essential reading for anyone interested in Rastafari and in theoretical approaches to religious movements."—Judith Weisenfeld, Department of Religion, Vassar College

"Edmonds's work sounds a new depth in the maturing of the scholarship on Rastafari. Not simply another general introduction, this book adapts Weber's theory of charisma and rountinization to analyze Rastafari, thereby breaking new scholarly ground and yielding many intriguing insights to our collective knowledge of this globally-impacting two-thirds world identity movement. As such, this study is a welcome contribution."—William David Spencer, author of Dread Jesus and co-editor of Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari Reader

"Ennis Edmonds's Rastafari is cogently written and persuasive. I am undecided as to which is more valuable, its contribution to the literature on charisma and routinization or its contribution to the literature on Rastafari. In truth it is a fine introduction to Weber's thesis on the institution of religion and at the same time an excellent explanation to anyone trying to understand how it is that after seven decades Rastafari is such an integral part of the Jamaican mindscape but must still fight for its legitimacy."—Barry Chevannes, author of Rastafari: Roots and Ideology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195133769
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/26/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Born and raised in Jamaica, Ennis Barrington Edmonds is a sociologist of religion and was Director of Pan African Studies and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Barnard College from 1996-2001.

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