Marvin D.  Sterling

Marvin D. Sterling

Associate Professor, Anthropology


  • Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles, 2002
  • M.A., Cultural Anthropology, University of California at Los Angeles, 1996
  • B.S., Communications Studies, New York University , 1991

Geographical areas of specialization
Japan; Caribbean

Research Interests
contemporary Japan; African Diaspora; race, social identity; afro-asia; performance studies; transnationalism; human rights

About Marvin D. Sterling

My research centers on the popularity of a range of Jamaican cultural forms in Japan, mainly roots reggae, dancehall reggae, and Rastafari. I approach this research from several theoretical perspectives. I use performance studies, for instance, to ethnographically explore the issues of social power—particularly those surrounding life in recessionary Japan—that inform Japanese performative engagement with these cultural forms. Japanese practitioners of profoundly Afrocentric Rastafari afford analysis of how ideas of race and particularly blackness have been constructed and re-imagined around the globe. In a more recent line of research, I have shifted geographical perspectives from Japan to explore the Japanese community in Jamaica, one primarily centered on an interest in learning Jamaican culture at its source. In a second, new line of research, I trace the development of human rights discourse in Jamaica, particularly on the grassroots level.

Selected Publications

2011 Sterling, Marvin D. "Searching for Self in the Global South: Japanese Literary Representations of Afro-Jamaican Blackness." Journal of Japanese Studies 31(1):53-71.

2011 Sterling, Marvin D. "Toward an Analysis of Global Blackness: Race, Representation, and Jamaican Popular Culture in Japan." In Racial Representation in Asia. Yasuko Takezawa, Editor. Kyoto, Japan and Melbourne, Australia: Kyoto University Press and Trans Pacific Press.

2010 Sterling, Marvin D. Babylon East: Performing Dancehall, Roots Reggae and Rastafari in Japan. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.