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Open Access The Return to Ethiopia of the Twelve Tribes of Israel

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The Return to Ethiopia of the Twelve Tribes of Israel

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

Twenty-eight years ago, F.J. van Dijk published in the New West Indian Guide what remained for a long time the only scholarly paper on the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Undoubtedly the largest Rastafari organization both in terms of membership and international expansion, the Twelve Tribes of Israel remains little known in public and academic circles. This article fills two major but closely related gaps in Van Dijk’s seminal article. The first is information on the formation and history of the Twelve Tribes, and the second is how the organization mobilized the return of members to Africa, a cornerstone of Rastafari belief. This article argues that the issue of return to the continent determined the very genesis of the organization and subsequently the development of its eighteen international branches. In its turn, this focus on return to Africa offers another perspective on the internal dynamics of the Rastafari movement, namely the structuring role of Rastafari organizations, a role which challenges the common image of Rastafari as an “acephalous” movement. Exploring the tangible relationship of Rastafari with Ethiopia, through the return to Ethiopia of members of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, offers new insight into the history of the Rastafari movement.

Affiliations: 1: Université Nice Sophia Antipolis giulia.bonacci@ird.fr

10.1163/22134360-09001052
/content/journals/10.1163/22134360-09001052
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Twenty-eight years ago, F.J. van Dijk published in the New West Indian Guide what remained for a long time the only scholarly paper on the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Undoubtedly the largest Rastafari organization both in terms of membership and international expansion, the Twelve Tribes of Israel remains little known in public and academic circles. This article fills two major but closely related gaps in Van Dijk’s seminal article. The first is information on the formation and history of the Twelve Tribes, and the second is how the organization mobilized the return of members to Africa, a cornerstone of Rastafari belief. This article argues that the issue of return to the continent determined the very genesis of the organization and subsequently the development of its eighteen international branches. In its turn, this focus on return to Africa offers another perspective on the internal dynamics of the Rastafari movement, namely the structuring role of Rastafari organizations, a role which challenges the common image of Rastafari as an “acephalous” movement. Exploring the tangible relationship of Rastafari with Ethiopia, through the return to Ethiopia of members of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, offers new insight into the history of the Rastafari movement.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22134360-09001052
2016-01-01
2018-09-21

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