An Ethos of Blackness: Rastafari Cosmology, Culture, and Consciousness

By Vivaldi Jean-Marie

Rastafari is an Afrocentric social and religious movement that emerged among Afro-Jamaican communities in the 1930s and has many adherents in the Caribbean and worldwide today. This book is a groundbreaking account of Rastafari, demonstrating that it provides a normative conception of Blackness for people of African descent that resists Eurocentric and colonial ideas.

Vivaldi Jean-Marie examines Rastafari’s core beliefs and practices, arguing that they constitute a distinctively Black system of norms and values—at once an ethos and a cosmology. He traces Rastafari’s origins in enslaved people’s strategies of resistance, Jamaican Revivalism, and Garveyism, showing how it incorporates ancestral religious traditions and emancipatory politics. An Ethos of Blackness draws out the significance of practices such as avoiding technological exploitation of natural artifacts and the belief in living in harmony with the natural order. Jean-Marie considers Rastafari’s theology, exploring its reinterpretation of biblical scriptures and its foundations in the rejection of Christianity’s Eurocentrism and racism. However, he insists, before Rastafari can fulfill its promise of liberation for people of African descent, it must confront its failure to include women and redress sexism.

Through rigorous and sensitive reflections on Rastafari culture and cosmology, this book offers deeply original insights into the Black theological imagination.

Read a Columbia News interview about An Ethos of Blackness with Professor Jean-Marie.