Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Government and International Affairs

Major Professor

Bernd Reiter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tori Lockler, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Omotayo Jolaosho, Ph.D.


Caribbean, Collectivism, Coloniality, Healing, Holism, Rastafari


The underlying motivation for this thesis is the position that colonialism, or coloniality, continues to thrive as an ideological and institutional framework all over the world, to the detriment of the majority of the population of the earth, and particularly of indigenous peoples and the African diaspora. Thus, what is sought here is a decolonization both of mind and institutions. Looking at the case of Jamaica, one can see how coloniality continues to undermine the beliefs, behaviors, institutions, and overall well-being of the majority African-descended population of the island in many ways both culturally and economically. I narrow my focus in this thesis on the official biomedical healthcare system and its relationship to indigenous Afro-Jamaican healing practices and the people it theoretically seeks to serve; as attested to by many scholars, this healthcare system is failing the majority population of the Caribbean region as a whole, and Jamaica is no exception.

To show the ways in which this is true, I analyze Afro-Jamaican religio-cultural epistemology (looking specifically at conceptions of self, community, environment, and health) for how it contrasts with dominant Western-derived epistemology, which generally serves as the intellectual basis for biomedicine. This is useful because indigenous Afro-Jamaican healing practices stem directly from the religio-cultural traditions found on the island, and it will be shown how their underlying epistemology can contribute to the process of decolonization. Along with other scholars in the field, I argue for an integration of indigenous healing practices and biomedicine in Jamaica and beyond.

All of the research informing this thesis was secondary, having been conducted entirely through relevant literature. What I show is that Afro-Jamaican religio-cultural epistemology and its healing focus provides a holism that is crucial for viewing sociocultural and structural change – which is what I view as the goal of decolonization – as essential to the health and well-being of all. The African roots of this epistemology are showcased, and related its holism is a generally cooperative interepistemic manner of interacting with diverse epistemologies, which is conducive to integration and innovation of knowledge systems and institutions. As I will show, Afro-Jamaican religio-cultural epistemology and healing practices have great potential to inform many fields and disciplines, including religion and philosophy, medical anthropology, development and decolonization, as well as globalization.