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The Rastafari and the nation of Islam: from Black internationalism to globalization, 1960s–1980s.

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Troy R.

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University of Iowa

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This dissertation is a comparative historical study that explores how the Rastafari in Jamaica and the Nation of Islam (NOI) in the United States (US) reoriented black religious consciousness and identity as well as the political strategies of Black Internationalism to engage in a more self-determined globalization of so-called “blackness” during the periods of decolonization, the Civil Rights, and the Black Power Movements. The Rastafari and the NOI did so by using existing global communication structures—increased access to voyage by ship and commercial flights, global and national radio and television networks, increased literacy and access to print media, rapid transmission of a global popular culture, the arts, and music—long dominated by the master narrative of Eurocentrism, to transmit the spiritual and theological messages of their respective religious communities, which reinvigorated the struggles for black liberation and human rights in the 1960s to the 1980s. The main research questions are: should black identity be defined solely or collectively by national boundaries, ethnic/cultural and linguistic differences, or religious affiliations? How different were the NOI’s and the Rastafari’s strategies to form corporate black identity? What experiences form black identity in the US and Caribbean? How do we make sense of what it means to be black in the US as opposed to in the Caribbean? The central arguments are: I argue that iconic young black religious and spiritual leaders like Bob Marley and Malcolm X embodied the re-imagination of this vibrant new psychological alterations that ushered in the promise and warrant of new leadership in the mid- to late twentieth century. I also argue that the shift from Black Internationalism towards globalization stemmed from a growing awareness among African-descended peoples that while forging unity among Africans and other oppressed peoples insulated them from structural and institutional racism, their goal of universal freedom and racial equity would not be achieved unless they leveraged this sometimes real and often imaginary unity to challenge European power structures globally.



Mills, Troy R.

University of Iowa