Gwyn Campbell, Indian Ocean World Centre, McGill University

Was Joseph John Freeman a Missionary Fraud and Plagiarist?

This paper examines the career of Joseph John Freeman, LMS Missionary to Madagascar. It outlines the reasons behind his application to the LMS and appointment to the Madagascar Mission, and examines his role as designated head of that Mission. Further, it analyses his claims to authorship of various works, including an English-Malagasy dictionary, a contribution on the Malagasy language included in William Ellis’ History of Madagascar, and A Narrative of the Persecution of the Christians in Madagascar (co-athored with David Johns).

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Jennifer Cole, University of Chicago

A Working Misrecognition: From Vadimbazaha to La Petite Malgache

How might deception and intentional miscommunication contribute to (reasonably) happy bi-cultural, bi-racial marriages? Since the mid-1970s, family reunification has been one of the primary ways that would-be migrants from France’s former colonies have acquired entry and French citizenship.  Building on a centuries old tradition in Madagascar, coastal Malagasy women cultivate relationships with French men in order to be able to marry and settle in France.  Though the French government has slowly eroded the right to family reunification over the past fifteen years, nevertheless many Malagasy women find ways to marry French men and found new families, achieving a precarious social mobility in the process.  Drawing on twelve months of fieldwork in France and long term fieldwork in Madagascar, this paper explores the role of subtle deceptions and deliberately fostered cultural miscommunications in Malagasy marriage migrants’ adaption and integration into their new French families.  I show how women (mis) represent the nature of their cultural practices and how men interpret the women’s actions and intentions according to their own cultural scripts. I further explore how this patent miscommunication sometimes enables a fragile reciprocity between spouses, even as it perpetuates certain stereotypes that may, in the long run, hurt migrants.

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Zoe Crossland, Columbia University

Histories of loss and privilege: standing stones and market practices in 19th century Madagascar

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Sarah Fee, Department of World Cultures, Royal Ontario Museum

What’s in a cloth?: Studying and building the ROM’s collection of Malagasy textiles

The British Museum, Field Museum and Musée du Quai Branly are well-known for their collections of Malagasy textiles. Yet one of the oldest collections is housed in Canada, at the Royal Ontario Museum. Its core consists of pieces which date to the third quarter of the 19th century, and belonged to Reverend William Ellis, one of the island’s most famous British missionaries. This paper discusses the Ellis pieces and how they contribute to our understanding the history and artistic innovation of 19th century Merina handweaving. In addition I discuss my efforts over the past 3 years to build and expand this collection through acquisitions, navigating through a new world – the international textile art market. Finally, I present some interesting results of dye analyses of select ROM silk pieces,  carried out by the Canadian Institute of Conservation.

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Sarah Gould, University of Toronto

Spirits and sisters: The public and private side of death, mourning and spirit possession among Sakalava royalty

This paper will discuss the death of a young woman in a royal Sakalava family and her transformation into a royal ancestor through spirit possession. Drawing on case studies of royal deaths in the anthropological literature, I discuss the practice of spirit possession in creating symbolic immortality for Sakalava ancestors, while exploring the public and private faces of loss and mourning and the implications for personhood in a Sakalava community in North-western Madagascar.

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Karen Middleton, Oxford

Keynote Address:  Tsiranana and the Tree Cult.  A New Look at the First Republic

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Muttenzer, Frank,  Ethnologisches Seminar, Universität Luzern, Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines, Université de Toliara

Virtuous foragers are roving bandits: cash, ecology and group-ideology in Vezo seasonal migrations to unusually distant resource frontiers

Like the intensification of octopus gathering near ancestral villages, the diversification of seasonal migrations to resource frontiers is causally linked to not enclosing the marine commons. Formerly seasonal mobility had the effect of relieving human pressure on resources near permanent villages. This seems no longer to be the case, although large numbers now forage unusually distant frontiers because they think that selling shark-fin and cucumbers to Chinese merchants “sustains their livelihoods”. This expression refers to material or immaterial values of cash earned in frontiers, whose consumption is not necessarily aimed at any measurable poverty reduction in permanent settlements. Neither the specific content of this convention, nor the fact that foraging unusually distant frontiers is becoming general, suggest it is entailed by ethnicity. Like many if not most other rural Malagasy, Vezo understand rural mobility as “repeated migrations between a fixed tomb location and a place of livelihood, which may or not be a resource frontier”. Their ethnic affiliation is conventionally defined with reference to mortuary rituals attaching individuals to fixed ancestral tomb locations, while individual preferences to conform to conventional alternatives of economic success or virtuous life is conditional on everyone else’s preference for roughly the same conventional alternatives. But the same tomb locations are (or would be as it stands) compatible with other conventions than marine foraging. Ancestral tomb locations specify which people have common conventions, not what conventions they have in common.

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Seth Palmer, University of Toronto

Prisons and Productivity in the Pronatalist Colony: Locating Sarimbavy within Fin-de-siècle Sexological Theories

 This examination of gendered and sexualized alterity in Madagascar analyzes the presence of sarimbavy, sharimbavy, and sekatra in documents written by French colonial medical doctors between 1899 and 1911.  These “medico-ethnographic” accounts situated the colonized bodies of sarimbavy within contemporary sexological theories, and were insistent upon determining the etiology of sarimbavy difference.  The interactions between French doctors and sarimbavy were undoubtedly colored by emerging criminological theories (as linked to the incarceration of sarimbavy), labor policies of the imperial regime (as linked to the refusal of sarimbavy to participate in the corvée required of male colonial subjects), and French pronatalist ideology (as linked to the failure of sarimbavy to procreate).  Sarimbavy were both situated within, and themselves called into question, explanations of sexual inversion; theorizing the inverti in Europe at the turn of the 20th century was a reciprocal process predicated upon theorizing the racialized, colonized sarimbavy, and vice versa.  An attention to the political resistance of sarimbavy within the archives, and the desire to uncover such resistance, brings this research into dialogue with theoretical insights from queer historiography.

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Ileana Paul, University of Western Ontario

Dialectal microvariation in Malagasy: An overview of methodology

Dialectal variation has long been recognized on the island of Madagascar. All of the research, however, has focused on lexical and phonological differences. The goal of this project is to document morphosyntactic differences among the dialects of Malagasy.  The goal of this paper is to provide an overview of the adopted methodology and to start a discussion on the issue of which methodologies are best suited to eliciting morphosyntactic variation.

During the initial phase of the project (January-April 2012), research will be carried out at six different locations in Madagascar: two in the north and four in the central region. Participants will be asked to describe an everyday task (such as cooking). The recordings will then be transcribed and analyzed. This methodology was piloted in November 2011 and proved to be successful. The next phase (May-September 2012) will involve developing new methodologies to target specific areas of variation. In this paper, we will report on the methodology and on possible modifications. Where possible, we will provide specific examples of morphosyntactic variation.

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Victor Raharijaona & Susan Kus, Rhodes College

Relentless dance and taunting verse: Body and emotion in the theatre of war in pre-colonial Madagascar

Warriors in Madagascar engaged in dance to prepare for battle, taunt enemies, and celebrate victory. But it was also customary for females to dance and sing non-stop in villages to sustain the actions of the warriors while in battle. Forceful poetic taunting of the enemy is to be expected also in primarily oral societies. Yet, in highland Madagascar troops from the same side were divided into two competing groups, and sanctioned poetic taunting between the groups spurred troops into battle. This contribution focuses on the poetically and physically “incited” bodies of male and female in pre-colonial internecine warfare in Madagascar.

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Tushar Kanti Saha, National University of Lesotho

Tempting Wild Meat Pleasing the Taste Buds; Extinction or Saving Grace for Lemurs in Madagascar


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Dominique Somda, University of Pennsylvania

The humble power of women. Gendering civil society in Madagascar

My aim is to examine the type of power that can be gained by women in Anôsy (South of Madagascar) and the impact of their empowerment on the overall society. Tanôsy women are repeatedly excluded from the major political scenes and decision-making processes. These exclusions are commonly explained by their lack of moral and technical skills in negotiations and oratory.  However, women are not considered to be less powerful than men. Many women are wealthy traders, high levels administrators, and successful development brokers. They are deprived of honor more than power. While women can be elected as mayors of large communes, they can neither become chief of their lineage (lonaky) nor representative of districts in local councils (toteny) as both these positions require the ordinary dignity they allegedly lack. Development agencies have been working for decades (and Christian missions for more than a century) on women empowerment by designing or extending their own domain (in the form of women?s associations) without addressing this critical aspect of gender inequality. Missions focused on the reshaping of the Tanôsy womanhood, development agencies on the economic independence of women while sustaining the very hierarchy of honors that has been justifying their marginalization. This paper is exploring these issues both historically and ethnographically.


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