Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Deborah Thomas -- Bad Friday: Rastafari, State Violence, and the Perils of Neoliberalism

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

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"Bad Friday: Rastafari, State Violence, and the Perils of Neoliberalism," with Deborah Thomas, Associate Professor and Chair, Anthropology Graduate Group, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania.

This talk will explore the changing relationships between Rastafari and the Jamaican state by examining how one instance of state violence against Rastafarians – what is now known euphemistically as the Coral Gardens “incident” of 1963 – has been memorialized. If we agree that certain forms of violence are written out of nationalist narratives even as they define the terms of belonging, then we must understand the testimonies given at events like the annual commemoration of the events at Coral Gardens as an archive of counter-nationalist narratives. These sorts of counter-narratives cannot merely be framed as a way to fill in the blanks of an unfinished history, one that has attempted to erase a general fear of black radicalism and its link to processes of class formation and nation-building. Importantly, the counter-narratives offered up by Rastafari elders are also performative building blocks through which community solidarity, authority, and futures are envisioned. These futures are, of course, complicated by the general neoliberal processes Rastafarians, as well as all Jamaicans, must confront. 

Nevertheless, the sorts of reparative projects being imagined position Rasta at the cutting edge of re-organizing our notions of both political and cultural citizenship for today’s world. 

Location: McKinney Conference Room, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street.