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| | |-+  Book of Memory: A Rastafari Testimony
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Author Topic: Book of Memory: A Rastafari Testimony  (Read 8144 times)
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« on: December 06, 2008, 08:22:46 PM »

Great book I recently read. Good review found as well. Just thought I'd share.

Prince Elijah Williams; Michael Kuelker, editor
Book of Memory: A Rastafari Testimony
St. Louis: CaribSound Ltd. 2004, 425 pp
Reviewed by Monique Bedasse-Samuda

    Monique Bedasse-Samuda is a doctoral student in African History at the University of Miami. Her research area is the Rastafarian Movement.


The Rastafari Movement in Kingston Jamaica (1960) by Rex Nettleford, M. G. Simpson and Roy Augier was written and published at the request of Rastafarians who wished to correct common misunderstandings about the Rastafarian movement. Though the researchers engaged in “reasonings” with Rastas in their attempt to grasp the rudiments of the movement, their work, not unlike other scholarly endeavors that followed, looked at Rastafari through specific frameworks and paradigms, which did not sufficiently engage the perspectives of Rastafarians themselves. Many excellent works, which attempted to place Rastafarians at the center of their analyses, still left Rastas with the general feeling that Rasta is largely misunderstood and frequently misrepresented.

In recent years Rastafarians have attempted to fill a void in the literature by offering an insider’s viewpoint. Rastafarians such as Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah in Rastafari: the New Creation (2002), and Douglas R. A. Mack in From Babylon to Rastafari: Origin and History of the Rastafarian Movement (1999) have begun to provide a much needed inside-out perspective with their works on Rastafari. They set the stage for the emergence of Book of Memory: A Rastafari Testimony.

Book of Memory is a departure from typical works on Rastafari in that it offers a “message of Rastafari” (11) based on the personal testimony of one Rastafarian man, Prince Elijah Williams. The editor, Michael Kuelker, explains his methodology through the “notes of context” that he injects at certain points throughout the text. Kuelker declares that with the help of a battery-operated recorder, he recorded Prince’s “deliberate speech” and “reasoning,” allowing the story to unfold “the way memory does” (11). In addition, through these “notes,” Kuelker provides useful background information to some of the events described by Prince, and his elegant prose serves to draw the reader deeper into the world that Prince portrays. Despite his mark on the work, Kuelker manages not to “hang Rastaman’s oral history on . . . [his] own conceptual scaffolding,” but to create a text with Prince’s “design” (12). The result is the personal story of a Rastaman, in his own words and at his own pace.

Though variance within Rastafari disallows a personal account that is wholly representative of the movement, Prince is easily placed among the downtrodden of Jamaica, for whom Rastafari speaks. His story is at once personal and collective, as he roots his autobiography within the context of Jamaica’s history of enslavement and colonialism. Book of Memory is about the reconstruction of Jamaica’s history from the standpoint of the marginalized. Its title appropriately symbolizes the work’s overarching aim, which is a call to memory. This theme functions on several levels as Prince beckons to Jamaicans not only to remember their African roots and their history, but to recall the ways in which that history has been distorted by the colonial powers. Prince speaks his testimony from the silence of the board house he inhabits, and his story becomes central to a narrative under contestation. A blatant challenge to Jamaica’s mainstream historical record lies in the treatment of the Coral Gardens incident of April 1963. Both Prince and Kuelker posit that this incident, in which some Rastafarians clashed with the Jamaican authorities, should be hailed as an important landmark in Jamaica’s history generally and the history of Rastafari, specifically. Furthermore, the work deals with how the incident is remembered, as the notion that Rastafarians are violent, irrational vagrants has much to do with how this altercation has been interpreted.

Read more here.
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