Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

William T. Osborne

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Steve Fjellman

Third Advisor's Name

Abraham Lavender

Date of Defense



This dissertation explores the Rastafari movement and the Nation of Islam as institutions that provide a group-identity for their adherents. The study seeks to determine the characteristics of the identity that is institutionalized by each movement, and the nature of the institutionalization process. The research was conducted primarily in South Florida where both movements exist. An extensive literature review in conjunction with in-depth field interviews were used as the primary research methodologies. What was of particular interest were the reasons that the members of the movements chose one movement over the other, also the similarities and dissimilarities between the movements in their role as institutions for group-identity formation. The research showed that both movements imbued their members with a sense of pride, high self-esteem and a strong sense of race consciousness. In addition, it showed that there was significant variation in identity orientation within the Rastafari Movement, which contrasted with the Nation of Islam where the identity variations within the movement were negligible. This was due largely to the difference in structure between the movements, the Nation of Islam being a centrally organized movement with one leader while the Rastafari movement is a decentralized polycephalous one.

Both movements were found to be millenarian in nature, essentially because of the significant utility of the concept that their members would rise to prominence through God's grace. Additionally, both movements were identified as expressive social movements, since they were determined as being primarily concerned with changing the attitudes of their members rather than effecting structural social change.



Included in

Sociology Commons



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