Marvin’s research centers on a range of Jamaican cultural forms in Japan, including roots reggae, dancehall reggae, and Rastafari. He approaches this research from several theoretical perspectives. He uses performance studies, for instance, to ethnographically explore the local, national and transnational issues of social power—including gender, sexuality and class—that inform Japanese engagement with these cultural forms. He analyzes Japanese appropriations of Rastafari in order to understand how ideas of race and particularly blackness have been circulated and re-imagined around the globe.
In a more recent line of research, Marvin has shifted geographical focus from Japan to explore the small Japanese community in Jamaica, whose members arrive to the island primarily to learn Jamaican popular culture at its source. In another new line of research, he historicizes the development of ideas of social justice in the country primarily as a conversation between local and international civil society groups, with focus on the contemporary discourse and practice of "human rights".