The Globalization Of Rastafarian Ideals Cultural Studies Essay

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"Globalization of Rastafari" is a highly rich historical and ethnographic work exploring Rastafarian from its origin in the early twentieth century to the world today. The book analyses the political, cultural, spiritual, geographical, political, sociological and psychological aspects of globalization on the rastafari movement, and provides a carefully weighed and richly illustrated assessment of the benefits and ills that have flowed from globalization as well as suggestions for steering it towards more positive outcomes in the future. It highlights the pursuit for change among an oppressed people and how they settled in other countries. This literary work serves to show how the Rastafarian movement created their own dogmatic ideology.

The articles in the book focus most particularly on the latter two concerns: first, how does the global context of Rastafari affect the dynamics of the movement and the forms the movement takes? Second, how do we understand the potential impact of Rastafari on the larger world when we view it in a global light? [1] 

As we link the inception of the Rastafarian movement in the 1930's to today's time, it can be implied that they are still trying to get global recognition of their unique 'syncretic' religion. There is still a struggle even now to regain their African heritage and cultural identity and ideologically distance themselves from what many perceive to be the misguided and unjust societies in which they live.' [2] 

The first chapter seeks to give an overview of the general content of the collection of articles that were used to create this literary work. R.C. Slater through his methodology gives us a very lucid explanation of the term "Globalization" as relates to the Caribbean and the wider world. He shows that since the time of Columbus, the population of the Caribbean has been a truly 'global' population, comprised of Africans, Asians, Native Americans and Europeans. [3] 

He postulates that Rastafari is a syncretic 'religion' derived from Christian and African sources continues to expand globally via foreign missionaries and as believers participate in a new Diaspora in search of work and livelihood. Not only do these religions spread 'religious' ideas and practices, but they also have become sources of inspiration for art, literature and music around the world.

He introduces the term 'Babylon', which can be definitively traced to Marcus Garvey's teachings, which liken the Afro-Caribs in the West to the Jews Exile into Babylon. The institution of slavery created tremendous suffering for those that were enslaved in both of these cases. The term Babylon is used in Rasta terms with much negative connotations. It is something that they are radically opposed to. Corruption, politics, police, laws, and cities are often referred to as "Babylon" [4] 

In chapter two, Richard Slater seeks in defining 'Who are the Rastafari?' stating the negative connotation that the world at large may label them. He writes that despite the many and confusing answers to the question, it is undeniable that people who identify themselves as Rastafari exist. He stresses the difficulty in defining Rastafari and states, "I do not believe it is possible to present an all-encompassing definition of 'Rastafari', but a workable minimum characterization of it will be helpful. My focus here will be on Rastafari 'I-consciousness' as an element of the movement." [5] He goes on to show how this 'I' indicator relates to the Rastafari identity and that the central features of Rastafari are not necessarily found in either beliefs or practices, but a set of unorthodox religious practices when compared to established religions.

He further mentions that there are major differences in the Rastafi core belief system with respect to Leonard Barrett's six tenets of Rastafarian beliefs. He writes, "I met many people who identified themselves as Rastafari, but who did not acclaim Haile Selassie to be the 'living god', others considers Selassie to have been a corrupt sham." [6] ; and also , 'no Rasta whom I have ever met would claim that it is by virtue of smoking 'ganja' that one is a Rasta. In fact, if one is reliant on 'ganja' - if one cannot exist without it - one certainly has been trapped by Babylon.'

In chapter four, Slater interviews Mutabaruka, who is a DJ for Jamaica's IRIE FM radio station, a poet and some consider him as an international emissary of Rastafari. Matabaruka is very unorthodox in his beliefs, he openly states, "As a matter of fact, you will hear purely negative things about Jesus when you come to I. Because I and I don't have anything good to say about Jesus, because Jesus… because Jesus became like the Devil." [7] 

Mutabaruka meticulously answers the questions put to him by Slater, and very candidly allude to the fact that the majority of Rastafari have deviated far from Rastafari true essence and way of life.

Mutabaruka attribute the spread of Rastafarism out of Jamaica is via the reggae music and that many reggae artists can only articulate Rastafari in the music but not outside the music. Also the culture of Rastafari can spread, can be identified with, can be lived true by anyone who identifies with oppression and anyone who feels disenfranchised by the colonial system or white supremacist system that maintains itself all over the world would gravitates towards Rastafari. Mutabaraka does not foresee Rastafari being decentralised from Jamaica due to globalization but rather he thinks Jamaica is almost like Jerusalem when it comes to experiencing Rastafari. He argues that Rastafari is not a religion but it's a way of life.

In chapter five, the article by Jan DeCosmo explores the shape Rastafari identity has taken in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, from its introduction through reggae music and its revaluation of African heritage, to its ambivalent relationship to Afro-Bahian spirituality. [8] DeCosmo shows that amidst the racial discrimination that Afro-Brazilians face in line with poverty, oppression, and social injustice, they still manage to keep alive their Rastafarian culture via the reggae music. 'Such poverty, constructed on the shoulders of a colonial and racist history, and supported by continuing legacies of that colonial and racist history, is one context in which Bahia's Rastafari community has arisen to resist oppression, to call for justice, and to revalorize Bahia's black African heritage.' [9] DeCosmo writes that some of the Rastafarians she interviewed were proud of having rejected the globalized world, or what they call Babylon and replace it with a divine order, an order of spirit, of love, of African roots. As such, Rastafari identity continues to be linked with cultural resistance and a desire to radically change the world.

DeCosmo further writes that there are differences between Bahian and Jamaican Rastafari.

'Thus, there are two differences between Bahian Rastafari and Jamaican Rastafari that deserve attention. First, among Bahian Rastafari there is much less emphasis placed on physical repatriation to Africa than in "ideal typical" Jamaican Rastafari especially in its early stages. Second, Bahian history has given Rastafari there a special relationship to the religion and culture of the orixas.' [10] 

With respect of the connation 'globalization of the Rastafari' as it applies to Bahian Rastafari, we observe the prevalence of distinctly African cultural practices in Bahia. One of the interesting differences between "orthodox" Rastafari and "cultural" Rastafari is the different levels of tolerance each has for the religion and culture of the orixas. Unlike "cultural" Rastafari, the orthodox stand opposed to indigenous forms of Afro- Bahian religion and culture, such as Candomblé and Carnival. Thus the globalized Rastafari in Bahia is far from being achieved since each group see their "roots" in a distinctively different location.

In chapter seven Michael Barnett explores from a Jamaican diasporic perspective, the impact that the migration of Jamaicans to England, the United States and Canada has had on the globalization of the Rastafari movement.

Barnett gives a clear picture of the reality that the Jamaicans faced when they migrated to England as recruits to help to rebuild England and its economy after the devastation it suffered during World War II. They were to be given the opportunity to improve and develop their social and economic life but they were greatly deceived. As Barnett writes, "There were in fact no institutions established in England to welcome and process the Jamaican newcomers. As a result Jamaicans had to learn to cope on their own in their new home, against a background of racial discrimination and prejudice. Notting Hill, West London was the scene of major race riots in England and gave birth to the now famous Notting Hill Carnival." [11] It is said that this incident gave birth to the Rastafari movement in England in 1950's. Black power movements soon developed over the next few years where we saw many Black power leaders emerged and some were imprisoned for inciting racial hatred after making what were considered inflammatory speeches to their audiences. After years of struggle, reggae had experienced its definitive breakthrough into the mainstream pop culture of England mainly due to effective marketing of Bob Marley's music. The popularity of reggae music during the seventies served to secularize the Rastafari movement, with many youths embracing the political, social and cultural message of Rastafari, and not necessarily the religious beliefs of the movement.

With respect to Rastafari groups in Canada,during the late sixties the Civil Rights struggle in the USA spread across to Canadian Blacks This helped to fuel the growth of the Rastafari movement. Rasta was seen as a bizarre cult and faced the same hardship as was in England. Two distinct Rastafari group emerged,the more politically oriented Rasta tended to participate in the general struggles of the Black community while those Rasta more steeped in religiosity tended to remain as mere spectators on the sidelines.

In the USA, the presence of the Rastafari movement is due to Caribbean migration. The Jamaicans have infiltrated the USA whereby in Brooklyn in New York is frequently referred to as Little Jamaica. They are well established having regular reggae concerts and setting up clothing and record stores. And similarly to the other countries, the Rasta is seen as criminals, thugs etc.

Barnett ends his article by mentioning two Rastafari services, Nyahbinghi Rastafari binghi and the Boboshante binghi. At the Nyahbinghi Rastafari binghi, the core of the activity was significantly at the Tabernacle where the drummers pounded away incessantly but rhythmically, lulling much of the crowd into a semi-hypnotic trance. The air was thick with the smell of ganja,and just in front of the tabernacle a group of brethren smoked their spliffs as they observed the proceedings. At the Boboshanti ceremony, they read Psalms from the bible, whereupon after every verse or so, everyone would say, "Holy Emmanuel I, Selassie I, Jah Rastafari" with the accompaniment of drums. Barnett commended the Binghis at both mansions for their authenticity and their Jamaican-ness., and it is fair to say that one could not tell that one was not in Jamaica.

The exposition and general discussion throughout the book have established and did justice to the term, "Globalization". We can clearly get an insight into how the Rastafarian movement has managed to extend its reach and influence throughout the Caribbean, from England to Zimbabwe and also as far north as Canada and as far south as Brazil and South Africa.

The book is well worth the price and I strongly recommend this book to anyone desirous of getting a deep insight into the historical development from early stages to modern times of the Rastafari and their struggle through racism, labelling, oppression and all such negative conations. The book clears any misconception that one may have about their rituals, beliefs, culture and most of all their music, reggae, which seems to be the one thing that formulates this whole idea of a globalized Rastafari.