Cultural and social aspects of Rastafarianism


The meaning of Rastafarianism is largely dependent on the understanding of the historical as well as the cultural and social aspects that have influenced the rise of this movement. The Rastafarian faith is one which is deeply intertwined with social and cultural dissatisfaction and the search for an identity and consciousness that was particular to disenfranchised and dispossessed Black people. The roots of Rastafarianism also are deeply connected with the symbolism and the example of Ethiopia and the figure of Haile Selassie.

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
Cultural and social aspects of Rastafarianism
Just from $9/Page
Order Essay

Rastafarianism therefore should be seen in the context not only of historical and social events and the search for freedom from oppression among the people of Jamaica, but also as an expression of the human search for religious meaning and cultural identity. The following paper will provide an overview of these central aspects and attempt to examine the links between the various cultural, social and philosophical aspects of the Rastafarian Moment.


The methodology employed in this paper was discursive research. Sources across a broad range were consulted. These included articles and database sources online as well as journal articles and books pertaining to the subject. While there is a plethora of information on this topic, the focus of the research was on the religious aspects of the movement and the way that that this related to the cultural and social dimensions.

2. The Rastafarian faith and Ethiopianism

In terms of cultural and social anthropology, the foundations of the modern Rastafarianism religion and culture lie in the poor and economically deprived areas of Jamaica. “Rastafarianism is a religion that was created in the early 1900 hundreds due to the social and poor economic conditions of the Black people in Jamaica.” (Pettiford E.T.) However the Rastafarian religion has deep and complex roots in both social and political events as well as in theology and philosophy.

The Rastafarian faith claims Tafari Makonnen as its symbol and originator. This is the pre-coronation title of His Imperial Majesty

Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. (Rastafarianism) In reality the foundations of the modern Rastafarian faith and movement in Jamaica and elsewhere can be traced back to the official coronation of Ras Tafari Makonnen as the new emperor of Ethiopia in 1930. (King, 1998, p. 39)

All true Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, is the true and living god, at least of the Black race. A member of the Rastafarian Repatriation Association explained it this way: We know before that when a King should be crowned in the land of David’s throne, that individual would be Shiloh, the anointed one, the Messiah, the Christ returned in the personification of Rastafari. (On his vesture and on his thigh is a name written, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”)

(Barrett, 1997, p. 104)

However the literature also points out that, “Selassie was more the embodiment of the Rasta faith than the actual founder of the religion. In actuality, he was known to have been devoted to Ethiopian Orthodox faith, which is more Christian-based in its theology.” (Rastafarianism)

In understanding the Rastafarian religion as both a faith and a culture it is important to take into account the influence of “Ethiopianism.” This point is emphasized by Barrett (1997). “The emergence of the Rastafarians will remain a puzzle unless seen as a continuation of the concept of Ethiopianism which began in Jamaica as early as the eighteenth century.” (Barrett, 1997, p. 68) In essence this refers to the attraction to and the “enchantment “that Ethiopia had for many people throughout the world – particularly for the Black people of Jamaica.

Ethiopia is also steeped in Biblical history and associations. These images and the history of the Ethiopian people have had a profound effect on the “Blacks in Disapora.” As Barret (1997) states;” The enchantment with the land and people of Ethiopia has had a long and interesting history.” This extends from “… biblical writings through Herodotus to the medieval fantasy with the mythic King Prester John right down to our day, Ethiopia has had a hypnotic influence on history, which has been retained by the imagination of Blacks in Diaspora.” (Barrett, 1997, p. 68)

The above view relates historically and culturally to the loss of identity and the oppression of Black people though slavery in the nineteenth century. The symbol of Ethiopa therefore became a social and religious ideal that many Blacks saw as an image of freedom and salvation from oppression. In other words, the symbolism of Ethiopia and its connections to the Biblical Scriptures acted as an antidote, as it were, to the distortion and oppression of Black consciousness and identity in the depressed and undeveloped regions of the world and Jamaica. This is an essential aspect in understanding the cultural as well as the religious significance of Rastafarianism. The following quotation clearly describes the importance of Ethiopia as a cultural and religious symbol of freedom for the Jamaican people.

When confronted by stalwarts of religion, philosophy, and science who sought to falsify history in the service of Western slavery, Black preachers — though for the most part unlearned — discovered in the only book to which they had access (the Bible) that Egypt and Ethiopia were in Africa, and that these countries figured very importantly in the history of civilization.

(Barrett, 1997, p. 68)

This was to lead to an internalization and interpretation of the scriptures that suggested the existence of a ” Black God”; which was seen in opposition to the God of the White people and colonialists. This is a fundamental aspect that lies at the root of Rastafarian theology. “…they believe that numerous biblical texts support the doctrine. From Jeremiah 8:21 they are convinced that God is Black: ‘For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold of me.’ A Black god to the Rastafarians is of the greatest importance, because “Blackness is synonymous with holiness.” (Barrett, 1997, p. 105) In this sense the God of the White people is “…actually the devil, the instigator of all evils that have come upon the world, the god of hate, blood, oppression, and war…,” whereas the Black God is a God of “Peace and Love.” (Barrett, 1997, p. 108) This dichotomy in racial terms is a significant aspect of Rastafarianism and must be seen in the context of the social and political situation of the Black people in Jamaica, which will be discussed in more depth in the following section.

This view leads to the centrality of the figure of Haile Selassie, whose status and importance for Black people is also verified by scripture for the Rastafarians.

His Ethiopian birth further strengthens the belief, for the Bible clearly states that their god would be born in that country. So, according to cultists, Psalm 87:3-4 is unquestionable proof: Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah. I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there.

(Barrett, 1997, p. 105)

There are many other references in Rastafarian theology to the importance of this figure; including references in the Book of Revelation, and in the new Testament, where Jesus is purported to have associations with the figure of Emperor Haile Selassie.

In the context of the dominance of white theology is also follows that the Rastafarians believed that some parts of the Bible were distorted or amended by….” ‘ Babylon’ which has come to represent the white power structure.” (Rastafarianism) However there are many parts of the Holy Bible where are retained and seen as sacred. In order to deal with these perceived intrusions and interferences in the Holy Text, the Rastafarians created their own “black man’s Bible” known as the Holy Piby. (Rastafarianism)

3. General characteristics and beliefs

There are a number of estimates of the extent of the Rastafarian movement in the world.

One general estimate is that there are approximately between 3,000 and 5,000 Rastafarians in the United States. A problem with the estimate of Rastafarianism is that many individuals who dress or adopt the outer appearance of Rastafarianism are in many cases not true Rastafarians. (Rastafarianism) This is partly due to the popularity that this movement has acquired through its views and music since the 1960’s. Worldwide, the estimate of those following the Rastafarian faith is approximately 1,000,000 people. (Rastafarianism) In terms of further significant demographic facts, it is also clear the majority of the members are male.

Traditionally, women have played a very minor role in Rastafarianism,” (Rastafarianism) and “Women’s role in the Rastafarian movement is at best a subordinate one…” (Barrett, 1997, p.78)

Another important demographic is that until fairly recently most of the members of the Rastafarian movement were from poor or socially disenfranchised backgrounds. However since the increased popularity of the movement in the 1960s and 70s, this is no longer seen to be the case. There is also no longer the sheer racial and ethnic divides that characterized the early years of the movement “…the Rastas have now penetrated the middle class. At present, the overwhelming majority of members are African, but there are also Chinese, East Indians, Afro-Chinese, Afro-Jews, mulattoes, and a few whites. Rastafarians are predominantly ex-Christians. “(Barrett, 1997, p. 2-3)

One of the early innovators and leaders of the movement,

Leonard Howell, stated a number of principles that have been the hallmark of Rastafarianism and still apply to a large extent today. These include the following:

1)hatred for the White race; (2) the complete superiority of the Black race; (3) revenge on Whites for their wickedness; (4) the negation, persecution, and humiliation of the government and legal bodies of Jamaica; (5) preparation to go back to Africa; and (6) acknowledging Emperor Haile Selassie as the Supreme Being and only ruler of Black people. (Barrett, 1997, p. 85)

Another essential aspect which is of cardinal importance in Rastafarianism is the concept of I and I. This is explained as “an expression to totalize the concept of oneness. ‘I and I’ as being the oneness of two persons. So God is within all of us and we’re one people in fact. ‘I and I means that God is in all men.” (Branch R).

Among the many outer characteristics of the movement is the wearing of the “dreadlocks” hairstyle. There is also an emphasis on the smoking of marijuana, which is seen as a holy sacrament. Their music is highly distinctive and the success of musicians such as Bob Marley has been largely responsible for the increased popularity of the movement. “… exponents such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh became international stars. Reggae has immensely helped in the legitimization of Rastafarian life and ideals.” (RASTAFARI: ACCORDING TO THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN RELIGIONS)

4. Social and philosophical aspects

There is a strong tendency in the literature to see Rastafarianism as being deeply intertwined with social and political issues as well as a predilection tendency towards” negritude” that has been a dominant force in world of Black politics and culture in the past century.

This view also links Rastafarianism to “liberation theology.” (Royackers, 1999, p. 387)

As have been mentioned briefly, Rastafarianism emerged among the lower and working classes of Jamaica partly as an outcry against poverty, injustice and discrimination. This cultural view “delegitimizes forms of racism and domination.” (Hadden, 1984, p. 131) In essence Rastafarianism developed as a response to the search for a social and cultural sense of place and identity among the Black people to Jamaica. This is still the case today as one study points out… “… their theology is having a profound effect on Jamaicans’ understanding of themselves and their history of external domination. And in a broader context, Rastafarianism is impacting the consciousness of most of the peoples of the Caribbean. (Hadden, 1984, p. 131)

As a Black Nationalist Movement one of the foremost leaders and political activist in the history of Rastafarianism was Marcus Garvey. He was the founder of “…Universal Negro Improvement Association, who, among other endeavors, promoted a steamship company that would provide transportation for blacks going back to Africa.” (RASTAFARI: ACCORDING TO THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN RELIGIONS.)

Garvey also propounded the view that a Black King would be crowned who would lift the yoke of white domination. This was a reference to the 1935 coronation of Haile Selassie as emperor of Ethiopia. (RASTAFARI: ACCORDING TO THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN RELIGIONS.) In the 1920s; Garvey founded the “back-to-Africa” movement. (Branch R.)

It is also significant that Garvey would blend his politics with religious and biblical imagery. This would very often refer to the possibility of the return or “exodus” back to Africa. “We have gradually won our way back into the confidence of the God of Africa, and he shall speak with the voice of thunder that shall shake the pillars of a corrupt and unjust world and once more restore Ethiopia to her ancient glory.” (Cashmore, 1996, p. 142)


From an anthropological and cultural point-of-view it is obvious from the above discussion that the religious and philosophical elements are intimately bound up with the economic, political and socio-cultural aspects in Rastafarianism. As one study states: “Rastafarian theology is based upon a dialectical projection of a symbolically mediated presence that negates the specific subjective absences generated by the processes of marginalization and stereotypical redefinition.” (Pettiford E.T.) The marginalization of Black people in Jamaica was a central motivation of the development of the philosophical and theological aspects of Rastafarianism.

Rastafarianism has shown an intensified growth in recognition and acceptance since the 1970’s, largely due to the “…acceptance of reggae as an avenue of Rastafarian self-expression,” (Barrett, 1997, p. 213) The movement has grown beyond the confines of Jamaica and there are branches in many countries, including England, Canada, the Caribbean islands and America. (Branch R.)

However studies also note that there has been a decline in the theological and religious aspects of the movement. Many purists complain that there has been a split between the religious and the political aspects of the movement.

On the other hand, international reggae also exacerbated the split between “religious” and “political” Rastafarians. While., more traditional, religious Rastafarians seemed appalled by what they considered the commercialization and secularization of the movement, more politically oriented Rastafarians hoped to exploit reggae’s new popularity to further the cause. (King, 1998, p. 39)

Rastafarianism can thereof be discussed from both a socio-political perspective as well as from a religious point-of-view. However, any attempt at truly understanding this movement and religion requires that these two aspects be seen as coterminous and strongly integrated in the history of the Jamaican culture.

Reference List″Barrett, L.E. (1997). The Rastafarians. Boston: Beacon Press. Retrieved November 7, 2006, from Questia database:

Branch R. Rastafarianism. Retrieved November 7, 2006, at

Cashmore, E. (2003). Encyclopedia of Race and Ethnic Studies. New York: Routledge. Retrieved November 9, 2006, from Questia database:

Cashmore, E. (1996). Dictionary of Race and Ethnic Relations. New York: Routledge. Retrieved November 9, 2006, from Questia database:, B. (1998). Believing Identity: Pentecostalism and the Mediation of Jamaican Ethnicity and Gender in England. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 4(4), 824+. Retrieved November 7, 2006, from Questia database:, O. (2004). Demeaned but Empowered: The Social Power of the Urban Poor in Jamaica. Kingston, Jamaica: University Press of the West Indies. Retrieved November 7, 2006, from Questia database:, N.W., & Keith, N.Z. (1992). The Social Origins of Democratic Socialism in Jamaica. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Retrieved November 7, 2006, from Questia database:, S.A. (1998). International Reggae, Democratic Socialism and the Secularization of the Rastafarian Movement, 1972-1980. Popular Music and Society, 22(3), 39. Retrieved November 7, 2006, from Questia database:, B. & Lindahl, F. (Eds.). (2001). New Caribbean Thought: A Reader. Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press. Retrieved November 7, 2006, from Questia database:, K. (Ed.). (2000). Black British Culture and Society: A Text-Reader. London: Routledge. Retrieved November 7, 2006, from Questia database:

Hadden J.K. (1984) Prophetic Religions and Politics: Religion and the Political Order. Volume: 1. New York: Paragon House

Pettiford E.T. Rastafarianism. Retrieved 4 November, 2006, at


RELIGIONS. Retrieved 4 November, 2006, at

Rastafarianism. Retrieved 5 November 2006, at Royackers, M. (1999). Jamaica Genesis: Religion and the Politics of Moral Orders. Theological Studies, 60(2), 387. Retrieved November 7, 2006, from Questia database:, S. (2001). Transnationalism and Identity. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 27(4), 573+. Retrieved November 7, 2006, from Questia database:, H. (2003). Anthropology and History. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 9(4), 794+. Retrieved November 7, 2006, from Questia database:

Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply

Buy Custom Essay

Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?

Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.

Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?

  • Plagiarism free papers
  • Timely delivery
  • Any deadline
  • Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
  • Subject-relevant academic writer
  • Adherence to paper instructions
  • Ability to tackle bulk assignments
  • Reasonable prices
  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • Get superb grades consistently

Online Academic Help With Different Subjects


Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.


Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.

Computer science

Computer science is a tough subject. Fortunately, our computer science experts are up to the match. No need to stress and have sleepless nights. Our academic writers will tackle all your computer science assignments and deliver them on time. Let us handle all your python, java, ruby, JavaScript, php , C+ assignments!


While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.


Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.


In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.


Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.


We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!


We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.


Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.

What discipline/subjects do you deal in?

We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.

Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?

Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.

What if I don’t like the paper?

There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.

Reasons being:

  • When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
  • We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.

In the event that you don’t like your paper:

  • The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
  • We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
  • Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.

Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?

Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.

What if the paper is plagiarized?

We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.

When will I get my paper?

You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.

Will anyone find out that I used your services?

We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.

How our Assignment Help Service Works

1. Place an order

You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.

2. Pay for the order

Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.

3. Track the progress

You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.

4. Download the paper

The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

smile and order essay GET A PERFECT SCORE!!! smile and order essay Buy Custom Essay

Place your order
(550 words)

Approximate price: $22

Calculate the price of your order

550 words
We'll send you the first draft for approval by September 11, 2018 at 10:52 AM
Total price:
The price is based on these factors:
Academic level
Number of pages
Basic features
  • Free title page and bibliography
  • Unlimited revisions
  • Plagiarism-free guarantee
  • Money-back guarantee
  • 24/7 support
On-demand options
  • Writer’s samples
  • Part-by-part delivery
  • Overnight delivery
  • Copies of used sources
  • Expert Proofreading
Paper format
  • 275 words per page
  • 12 pt Arial/Times New Roman
  • Double line spacing
  • Any citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard)

Our guarantees

Delivering a high-quality product at a reasonable price is not enough anymore.
That’s why we have developed 5 beneficial guarantees that will make your experience with our service enjoyable, easy, and safe.

Money-back guarantee

You have to be 100% sure of the quality of your product to give a money-back guarantee. This describes us perfectly. Make sure that this guarantee is totally transparent.

Read more

Zero-plagiarism guarantee

Each paper is composed from scratch, according to your instructions. It is then checked by our plagiarism-detection software. There is no gap where plagiarism could squeeze in.

Read more

Free-revision policy

Thanks to our free revisions, there is no way for you to be unsatisfied. We will work on your paper until you are completely happy with the result.

Read more

Privacy policy

Your email is safe, as we store it according to international data protection rules. Your bank details are secure, as we use only reliable payment systems.

Read more

Fair-cooperation guarantee

By sending us your money, you buy the service we provide. Check out our terms and conditions if you prefer business talks to be laid out in official language.

Read more
error: Content is protected !!
Open chat
Need assignment help? You can contact our live agent via WhatsApp using +1 718 717 2861

Feel free to ask questions, clarifications, or discounts available when placing an order.
  +1 718 717 2861           + 44 161 818 7126           [email protected]
  +1 718 717 2861         [email protected]