Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jonathan Shannon

Committee Members

Jacqueline Nassy Brown

Ismael García-Colón

Aisha Khan

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology


Rastafari, race, blackness, Puerto Rico, identity


In my dissertation, I examine how the Rastafari community in Puerto Rico constructs, reshapes, imagines and embodies blackness as a personal, political, and ideological identity. I argue that my interlocutors refuse non-black privilege and choose blackness, an act that is understood as identification not with subjugation but with power. I consider their identification with blackness and enactment of this identity as a performance. My analysis, based on 22 months of ethnographic research, and utilizing ethnography, participant observation, and semi-structured interviews, explores how my interlocutors claim blackness as a spiritual identity. In doing so, they demonstrate the metaphysical nature of race thus complicating how race and racial identification has historically been understood. To best investigate this construction, reworking, and adoption of a spiritual blackness among Puerto Rican Rastas, I engage with the concepts of the social construction of race, identity formation and performance, and the racialization of religion.

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