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

  • Anna Waldstein University of Kent
Keywords: spiritual body, ethnography, intersubjectivity, meditation, nonsecular anthropology


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.

Author Biography

Anna Waldstein, University of Kent
School of Anthropology and Conservation, Lecturer in Medical Anthropology and Ethnobotany


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