Epistemology of I-an-I Sample Paper




Reconciling Individual and Communal Tendencies


The Rastafarian culture avidly promotes a sense of individuality through the attainment of radical liberty and freedom for individuals. Conformity is greatly discouraged as means of opposing the colonial influence i.e. the men lack specific dress codes with most dressed in African attire and having untamed dreadlocks. Being a Rastafarian involves limited restrictions and boundaries, hence promoting individualized freedom of expression. The aspect of individuality is in opposition to Western imperialism of structure that assigned superiority to a specific race in regards to morality and might. The acceptance of a hierarchical order was perceived as an act of social strangulation and progressive mental death for Africans and people of African descent; rewiring of the mind. This can, however, result in a lack of structure, order, and tends to hinder progress. Nonetheless, it is also advocates for communalism, collectivism, and a sense of community.

The epistemology of “I-an-I” refers to presenting a narrative that all individuals share a common sense with god, Jah; this replaces “we” or “us”. Generally, it means that God is within all men. Therefore, everyone is united under the love of god; one love. Moreover, Rastafarians utilize this to make all informed utterances based on their principles, self affirmation, and ritualistic practices. This concept suggests that all Rastafarians are sons and daughters of the Most High, and thus there is no need for mediators and pastors to ease their communication with god. For an individual to properly comprehend the Rastafarian religious aspects, he or she just needs to directly communicate with Jah. Consequently, the movement does not possess central leadership or hierarchical structures. Every person possesses a divine essence hence stating that all people are equal but independent. Bunny Wailer, a reggae artist, states that the movement is beyond a singular person, therefore, cannot be destroyed since god’s love is in everyone. The commonness is attained through shared consensus and consciousness with decisions being made through inter-subjective understandings.

An excellent example of a common consensus is the Rastafari- reasoning that involves the idea of truth inter-subjectivity whereby, every person has the lower and higher I, thus possess the truth within themselves that is depicted through interaction. Therefore, all Rastafarians are capable of making effective decisions through adequate reasoning. The reasoning tradition, an example of collective dimension, is extremely fundamental since it reconciles individualism and communal tendencies inherent in the Rastafarian movement.

Another example is the presence of Nyabinghi that refers to the gathering of Rastafarians to commemorate and celebrate essential date fundamental to the movement throughout the year. Generally, people utilize this opportunity to engage and congregate in worship and praise. There tends to be the collective acknowledgement of His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie I through the utilization of hymns, drums, and prayers. This is enabled by the presence of the creator within them, thus permitting common worship. Consequently, this allows a unique connection between individuality and collectiveness through the expression of praising Jah. This is also practiced through Reggae whereby individuals do not have to be together to experience Jah’s presence through music.  

The ritualistic act of smoking the Rastafarian herbs is also another example of collectiveness. It provides a powerful communal dimension through ritualistic practices. A communion bond is created among the individuals sharing the pipe and it is considered sinful for anyone to leave the circle prior to the last draw. The process involves blessing the pipe, giving Jah praises and worshipping. The primary point revolves around coming together to acknowledge the presence of God within.

Therefore, the epistemology of I-an-I acknowledges that essential information resides within the soul and can be teased out through introspection, and hence people do not have to rely on others to obtain Rastafarian knowledge. Nonetheless, reasoning sessions allow Rastafarians to come to specific truths and knowledge since they cannot be obtained from a point of isolation. This depicts the essence of inter-subjectivity; collective process. These communal periods allow Rastafarians to solidify the individualized ideological and theological orientations obtained introspectively. Thus, collective gatherings provide identity reaffirmation among Rastafarians. These gatherings include Nyahbinghi, Reggae dances, reasoning sessions, and pipe smoking sessions. Consequently, the I-an-I concept effectively reconciles the individualized and collective Rastafarian tendencies.

Therefore, the tension between individual and communal tendencies resulted from the Rastafarians’ rejection of conformity and acceptance of the European culture. The European culture dictated that god-given predestination was only assigned based on luck i.e. skin pigmentation, geographical location, class, and traditions. This was in comparison to other religious groups, Muslims, who had specific dressing codes, superior individuals considered as leaders. This was compared to slavery by the Rastafarian community.


Interested in our services?