Dr. Jake Homiak received his PhD from Brandeis University in 1985, following anthropological fieldwork in Jamaica (1980-81) on the Rastafari movement. Lambros Comitas was a member of his dissertation committee. That same year, he was awarded a post-doctoral Fellowship in the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) at the Smithsonian Institution.
In 1989, Jake was appointed Director of the Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA) and became an active participant in the Society for Visual Anthropology. In 1993, he became the Director of the National Anthropological Archives (NAA), the successor archives to the Bureau of American Ethnology. There he launched a program for digitization of archival materials and developed a collaborative relationship with the Wenner-Gren Foundation’s Historical Archives Program to assist the NAA in acquiring and processing the scholarly papers of distinguished American anthropologists. From 2000 to 2015, he served as Director of the Anthropology Collections and Archives Program.
In his years at the Smithsonian, he supported acquisition of collections by external scholars, collaborative relationships with native and Indigenous source communities from North America and beyond, and processing the loan of artifacts to national and international institutions. He worked on the development of the Department’s Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA, 2009) and the Smithsonian’s ‘Recovering Voices’ Program (2008)—an initiative that draws upon NAA language materials to support endangered language programs among native and Indigenous communities. In 2008, Jake was awarded the Jagiellonian Silver Medal for his role in the return of the Records of the Institut fur Deutsche Ostarbeit to the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.
Jake has maintained a close relationship with the Rastafari community in Jamaica, the Anglophone Caribbean, and metropoles of the U.S. (Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles). He has been involved with the movement’s politics of representation since the mid-1980s by organizing and assisting delegations of Rastafari Elders to travel to the U.S. and participate in a series of public forums about the actual nature of their culture and practices. He has also been involved with curating and advising museum exhibits: the Anacostia Museum’s exhibit “Black Mosaic: Community, Race and Ethnicity among Black Immigrants in Washington, D.C.” (1994); the NMNH exhibit “Discovering Rastafari” (2007-2011). His writings and publications include the forthcoming book, Enter the Lion: The State Visit of Emperor Haile Selassie I to the Caribbean, 1966 (with co-authors Giulia Bonacci and Jahlani Niaah).
Jake retired from the Smithsonian in March of 2018, but remains involved as a Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology. One of his last official acts as Director of the National Anthropological Archives was to set in motion the acquisition of field research, papers and correspondence of Dr. Lambros Comitas for that repository.