Rastafarianism in Jamaica Essay

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This paper explores how a religious orientation intersects with consumer behavior within the broadened perspective of consumption activities. Research is based on ethnographic fieldwork spanning twenty years with six individuals from a small Jamaican fishing village that evolved into a tourist town. Jamaican socio-economic history provides a cultural explanation for the particular visible expressions of Rastafarian symbolic forms that have been adopted and are consumed in sacred and secular contexts. By using the theory of extended self, the local logic that informs an identification with Rastafari is applied to individual strategies for survival. INTRODUCTION Rastafari is a cultural, religious movement that began in Jamaica in the 1930s. Its adherents are known as Rastafarians, Rastas or Dreads. Cosmologically loaded goods and behaviors are consumed by Rastafarians through an ideology that is informed by Biblical scripture and Ethiopian history. Using the concept of "extended self" (Belk 1988), the Rastas have borrowed cultural practices and symbols from history to identify with the Rastafari movement. This visible expression of a Rasta culture has contributed to various lifestyles that evolved among the informants to help them manipulate their fortunes during a time of great social and economic change in Jamaica. Consumer research is beginning to investigate a broadened perspective of consumption activities linking identity to different aspects of culture. These forays include the spiritual dimension (Belk, Wallendorf and Sherry 1989; Hirschman 1985; O'Guinn and Belk 1989), ritual behavior and symbolic consumption (Rook 1984; Rook and Levy 1983), and the interconnection between objects, styles and extended selves (Belk 1988; Hirschman and LaBarbera 1990). For sixty years Rastafari has been a religion of an alienated subculture whose critique of history and

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