Babylon East: Performing Dancehall, Roots Reggae, and Rastafari in Japan


Product Details

Duke University Press
Publish Date
6.0 X 9.1 X 0.8 inches | 0.95 pounds

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About the Author

Marvin D. Sterling is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University.


"Marvin D. Sterling sensitively portrays the wide range of Japanese reggae dancehall practitioners, from chart-topping stars such as Miki Dōzan to underground pioneers such as Rankin' Taxi, as well as Junko Kudo, the unlikely winner of Jamaica's premier dance-diva contest. Along the way, we get to know the urban musicians who make up the traveling groups known as sound systems, as well as 'Japanese Rastafari' in the countryside. By considering Japanese youth who travel to Jamaica on journeys of self-discovery and the Jamaicans who sometimes look ambivalently on the explosion of the reggae scene in Japan, Sterling completes an engaging circle of analysis in this fascinating and insightful book."--Ian Condry, author of Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization
"The globalization of Jamaican culture has inspired Rastafari devotees and reggae/dancehall fans worldwide to claim hybridized identities, as evidenced in the unexpected emergence of a 'Jamaican' subculture in Japan. Babylon East is a rich, energetically written ethnography that lucidly articulates the contradictory ways in which exoticized cultural difference is voraciously consumed in a nation that is decidedly ambivalent about accepting the physical presence of the racialized 'other.' Deploying the Rastafari trope of Babylon as the biblical beast of Euro-American imperialism, Marvin D. Sterling judiciously destabilizes East/West binary constructs, authoritatively delineating the complexity of the Japanese performance of Jamaican identity."--Carolyn Cooper, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica
"Babylon East is an important work in a growing portfolio of interdisciplinary music related research and amid the growing attention to music in ex-musical disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, psychology and even geography. It shows the power of music to transcend borders and societies, concepts of local, global and hybrid, and to facilitate the performance of social identity."--Moshe Morad "Ethnic and Racial Studies"
"[Sterling's] ethnography is written with an elegant but straightforward fluidity, meaning it is accessible to not only Japanese and cultural studies specialists, but also to undergraduates and other interested readerships. Sterling brings together vivid descriptions and sophisticated thinking about music, language, performance, gendered politics and sexuality in an 'embodied practice' that functions effectively to form alternative identities for the Japanese reggae practitioners."--Carolyn S. Stevens "Journal of Asian Studies"
"[T]his book provides a wealth of ethnographic data gathered over ten years, situated in three overlapping genres of Jamaican cultural performance. Its skillful inclusion of social theory will help the most casual reader understand Japan's incorporation of the foreign far beyond the overly simple "take the best and leave the rest." Scholars, graduate and undergraduate students will find also great value in this text."--Debra J. Occhi "Pacific Affairs"
"Adroit and ingenious, Babylon East is an essential resource for scholars interested in the internationalization of the Rastafari, in cultural globalization, and in Africana studies."
--Darren J. N. Middleton "Religious Studies Review"
"Sterling writes in a style that makes his discussions accessible to non-experts. Babylon East makes useful and complex contributions to a number of discourses, including: work on popular music, globalization, gender, and race in contemporary Japan; work on Jamaican reggae and dancehall; and broader considerations of Blackness, race, and culture beyond the Black Atlantic, in Afro-Asia. . . . His work should inspire readers to learn more about performance and identity formation in Japan, the truly global spread of Jamaican culture, and other Afro-Asian articulations, performances, and identities."--James E. Roberson "Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute"
"What happens when Jamaican Rasta and the musical and cultural styles affiliated with it, from roots reggae to dancehall, are taken out of the white-black binary and the Euro-Caribbean matrix? This is the question taken up by Marvin D. Sterling in Babylon East. Sterling spent more than ten years investigating Japanese involvement with Jamaican musical traditions, and his book testifies to the limitations of cross-cultural appropriation even in a globalized cultural scene."--J. Gabriel Boylan "Bookforum"