Caribbean Studies Seminar Series: Rastafari in Britain and the Geographies of Ethiopianism
Chair: Jo Norcup (Warwick)
Speaker: Aleema Gray (Warwick)
In shifting the focus from the ideologies and biographies of those at the centre of Black radicalism, this paper examines the global, political, and cultural shifts that brought Rastafari from Jamaica to Britain during the 1950s. Along with moving an understanding of Rastafari history outside of a preoccupation with its 1970s popular appeal, this paper draws on Pro-Ethiopian sentiments and organising through the Ethiopian World Federation as an important lens to explore more discursive routes and roots of communication among the Rastafari that reimagined the borders of Britain’s colonial regime in the Caribbean and beyond. The focus on Rastafari’s engagements with Ethiopia and the imaginations it produced, allows us to explore local and creative networks that contested the centrality of Britain and reimagined the possibilities of Africa. Within this perspective, this paper attends to a kind of Rastafari activism from below that sees those on the margins as capable of producing revolutionary currents. In this sense, questions relating to myth and reality that have dominated the literature on the early Rastafari movement are less important than questions concerning loyalty, land and agency.
Date: 22 March 2022