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e-portfolio of Aleema Gray


I am a PhD researcher in the History department at University of Warwick. My research is funded by the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies and documents a community- engaged history of the Rastafari movement in England. My work is driven by a concern for more historically contingent ways of understanding the present, especially in relation to notions of belonging, memory and contested heritage. Prior to beginning my PhD, I earned a MA from SOAS University with a dissertation focusing on repatriation among Africans in the diaspora.


PhD Research

My PhD research, ‘Bun Babylon: A community-engaged history of the Rastafari movement in Britain’, is supervised by Professor David Lambert and Dr Meleisa Ono-George. My research seeks to contribute to the historiography on African Caribbean cultural and political activity in Britain by tracing the roots and development of the Rastafari movement in London, Bristol and the West Midlands between 1955 and 1992. I examine Britain as an important location, not only because of the legacies of colonialism and imperialism – which has imposed aggressive and exclusionary classifications of British–Caribbean identity– but also because of the opportunities afforded to those who had first hand experiences in England.

I explore the following questions: why did England become so important in the development of the Rastafari movement? How can research into memories of British Rastafarianism inform understandings of the development of Black political identity? How did Caribbean Rastafari men and women construct and perform cultural and political agency in Britain? What social critiques and visions do the Rastafari in Britain produce? By examining their lived experiences in Britain through archival material and oral histories, and situating them under the wide rubrics of citizenship, liberation and resistance, I explore how, despite being silenced within broader narratives of Black radicalism and intellectualism in Britain, Rastafari stood at the forefront of liberation politics and reparative justice.

More specifically, my thesis is concerned with history as a ‘doing’. Drawing on the Rastafari’s mode of analysis, ‘I and I’ and ‘Bun Babylon’, I adopt community knowledge as a way to interrupt and transform traditional historical approaches whilst foreground a process of reparative history. Building on indigenous research methodologies and Community Participatory Research approaches, this project moves beyond celebratory community histories that seek to ‘re-present’ community voices, to chart a critically reflexive account of undocumented aspects of the Rastafari’s political formations in England.


Research Interests

Oral History, Public history, Black history, Caribbean history, Migration and British Empire, Memory studies, Gender


  • Gad Heuman Travel Bursary, 2020
  • David Nicholls Bursary, 2020
  • Institute of Historical Research Bursary, 2020
  • Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Research Studentship, 2018 -2022
  • SOAS Postgraduate Scholarship, 2016 -2017




Selected Conferences and Public Engagement
  • Archival Resistance: Rastafari Women in Britain, Symposium, (Curator), Independent Cinema Office 2021
  • Feeding Black; Community, Power and Place, Exhibition, Museum of London Docklands, 2021
  • History and Theology of Rastafari, (Chair), Freedom in the City, 2021,
  • Doing Reparative History, Workshop, University of York, 2021
  • Black Organising in the UK; Caribbean Homes as a Space of Joy, (Panellist), Radical Voices, Metropolitan Archives, 2021
  • Doing History, Catherine Hall, (Discussant), Warwick History Postgraduate series, 2020
  • National Monuments, Colonial Wounds, (Discussant), Contranarratives, 2020
  • Curating London: Race, Resistance and Radical Curating in the West India Docks, (Paper) New anthropological horizons in and beyond Europe Conference, University of Lisbon, 2020
  • Price of Memory - a history of the Rastafari movement in England’, (Paper), Afro-European Conference, University of Lisbon, 2019
  • Bun Babylon - A political history of the Rastafari movement in England', (Paper), Anticipating Black Futures Conference, University of Birmingham, 2019
  • History Matters, (Panellist), Institute of Historical Research, 2015

Headshot of Aleema Grey


Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies,

History Department, University of Warwick