Studying the Body in Rastafari Rituals: Spirituality, Embodiment and Ethnographic Knowledge

Anna Waldstein


Rastafari spirituality is a nonsecular science that considers how various energies and powers influence socio-ecological systems. Rastafari people follow a number of spiritual prescriptions related to the body, including smoking, meditating, growing matted hair, eating an Afrocentric vegan diet and drumming/chanting. However, a person does not have to follow all of these practices to be Rastafari, rather they are means to achieve specific spiritual objectives. While anthropology is generally a secular discipline, by participating in various rituals, the body becomes an ethnographic tool that can lead to an awareness of how spiritual and material worlds interconnect. While I have collected data through conventional ethnographic methods, the most important insights have come through my own personal, bodily engagement in many Rastafari practices. Anthropological work on the ‘spiritual body’ provides a theoretical framework for making sense of experiences of embodied intersubjectivity that arise out of participation in various bodily rituals.


spiritual body; ethnography; intersubjectivity; meditation; nonsecular anthropology

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