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The Rastafarians Paperback – 1 Feb 1992
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Removes the aura of bizarre mystery from the Jamaican messianic movement whose members smoke marijuana for ritual purposes and believe that Ethiopia is the Promised Land for all blacks. Setting the Rastafarians in the context of . . . colonial exploitation, Barrett shows how the cult has been nourished on grinding poverty, examines its belief system, dynamics, rituals, art and music, and its 'ambivalent routinization' within Jamaican society. . . . Students of religion and sociology, fans of reggae music, and the general reader will gain much from this unusual study. --Publishers Weekly"The most thorough, careful consideration of the Rasta phenomenon available to the general reader." --Boston Phoenix "Barrett's account is authoritative and original; it is a work for the serious student of culture, religious sects and Caribbean studies. . . . An important contribution." --Folklore Review "Leonard Barrett's The Rastafarians stands as the most solid, complete treatment available in this country to date." --New Age
About the Author
Leonard E. Barrett, Sr., is emeritus professor of religion at Temple University. His previous works include Soul-Force: African Heritage in Afro-American Religion, which was nominated for a National Book Award, and The Sun and the Drum, an examination of the African roots of Jamaica's folk culture.
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Top customer reviews
and a black history it supplies in detail, particularly the events and societal conditions that led up to the the first rastafarians setting up the pinnacle camp, and it's brutal destruction by the establishment. as the writer takes up the story, the rastas are still outsiders in jamaican society, and his study (as involved as a non-rastafarian could possibly be) outlines outlines changing times regarding better and more effective organisation and initial political forays. it is a fascinating story, and a bonus that it is written in such a compelling manner. the old adage of it being a labour of love would certainly apply here.
this book has left very little (for me) unanswered, and has served well as the bas(s)eline for further reading! excellent!
The faltering first steps of the movement are detailed - the founder member who ended up in Kingston Mental Hospital, and Claudius Henry's aborted repatriation to Africa which nurtured and then smashed many people's dreams - through to the recognition at the beginning of the 60s by both people and government that the RasTafari movement held out a legitimate potential for reform, by the 70s becoming a viable force for social change. The author analyses the principal beliefs and practices of the Rastafarians and includes fascinating interviews with Rastas involved in politics and/or spirituality and/or music and/or painting and/or sculpture and/or poetry. The creativity of the movement is extensively explored.
The main part of the book takes us up to 1975. This is an incompleteness rather than a weakness because it makes the Rastafarian struggle to become both a spiritual force and a politico-cultural rebellion all the more vivid. The author then adds two chapters to cover the period 1975 to 1983. Here he explores reactions to the death of Haile Selassie I and the enormous success of Bob Marley. He looks at the spread of Rastafarian culture and beliefs both within and beyond Jamaica and also focuses on interesting developments such as the rise of the Twelve Tribes Of Israel and the changing position of women.
This is a tremendously informative and entertaining book which is essential reading for all those interested in the subject.
Barrett looks at the theme of Rastafari as an outsider, an academic, rather than someone already "converted". As a result his study comes across as more objective and carries more weight than much other writing on the rastafarians, which can feel sycophantic and a little irksome.
Having said that, the author does come out strongly in favour of the movement- but you feel it's a fair assessment, the product of a great deal of bona fide study.