Workshop on Madagascar


Slave Trade, Abolition, and Engaged Labor in the Mozambique Channel: Thoughts on a future research agenda

Edward A. Alpers, PhD Department of History University of California, Los Angeles

I will first describe the problem, identifying the set of enforced labor networks linking Mozambique, the Comoro Islands, western Madagascar, and the Mascarene Islands, as well as British, French, and Portuguese abolition efforts. I will then discuss the historiography, articulate the challenges facing historians of the region (research languages required, issues of political stability, sensitivity to questions about slaving and slavery), and identify potential sources of evidence (both archival and oral).

Why Women Ruled: Explaining the rise and persistence of female rule in pre-colonial Southeast Asia and Madagascar

Stefan Amirell, PhD Utrikespolitiska Institutet, Avdelning Väst Swedish Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), Western Branch

There are only a handful of known examples in all of world history in which female rule has been institutionalized in the sense that a line of consecutive, or near consecutive, women rulers have exercised formal authority over an independent or semi-independent state and where female rule seems to have been widely accepted by contemporary society as being the “normal” or desirable order of things. The project compares three such, relatively well-documented but little studied and understood, cases of institutionalized female rule in the pre-colonial history of the Malayo-Polynesian world: Patani (presently in southern Thailand) c. 1584–1713, Aceh (presently in western Indonesia) 1641–99 and Imerina (central Madagascar) 1828–96. Combining the two approaches of comparative history (histoire comparée) and entangled history (histoire croisée), the project aims to: 1) explain why female rule was established and institutionalized in each of the three polities; 2) understand what, if any, political and social difference it made that the ruler was a woman rather than a man; 3) explain why royal power under female rule in all three cases gradually declined and eventually was suspended; and 4) to contribute to an enhanced theoretical understanding of the sexual and gendered dimensions of political power and leadership in world history. A wide range of first-hand, published and unpublished, contemporary sources are used and interpreted hermeneutically, comparatively and from a historical-anthropological perspective in order to answer the questions at issue.

La révolte de 1947 à Madagascar : Les tirailleurs sénégalais comme éléments de répression

Amadou Ba, PhD Université Paris VII (France) Université Cheikh Anta Diop (Dakar Sénégal)

En 1947, une violente révolte éclata à Madagascar. Pour mater le soulèvement, la France mobilisa des soldats recrutés dans ses colonies et notamment des ressortissants de l’AOF, l’AEF et des territoires français de la corne de l’Afrique. Ces soldats bien que venant de diverses colonies, portaient le nom de tirailleurs sénégalais. Cette appellation remonte en 1857 quand le gouverneur du Sénégal Faidherbe créa le premier bataillon de soldats sénégalais à Saint-Louis pour conquérir des régions du Sénégal et du Haut-Sénégal-Niger.

Le recours aux tirailleurs sénégalais pour des besoins de conquête, de « pacification » et de répression a été une pratique courante dans l’empire colonial français. En cela, Madagascar n’est en rien un cas spécifique. Par exemple, après la Première Guerre mondiale, la France avait fait appel à des tirailleurs sénégalais pour mettre fin à des révoltes dans certaines colonies, comme celle dans l’ouest de la Haute-Volta de novembre 1915 à juillet 1916. Mais c’est surtout après la Deuxième Guerre mondiale que plusieurs colonies d’Afrique ont connu des moments d’agitation. C’est dans ce contexte que se situe l’insurrection de 1947 à Madagascar.

Dans cette communication nous analyserons d’abord les causes de l’insurrection de Madagascar de 1947 et le contexte dans lequel ce soulèvement s’est déclenché. Puis nous expliquerons le choix par la France de mobiliser un nombre important (18.000) de tirailleurs sénégalais et les différentes utilisations des soldats africains dans la Grande Île pendant et après la révolte. Enfin dans la dernière partie, il s’agira de montrer l’impact dans la société malgache de cette présence de « Sénégalais » à un moment crucial de l’histoire de l’île mais aussi d’analyser toutes les conséquences qui en sont liées, notamment la perception des soldats et leurs descendants à Madagascar et les relations entre Madagascar et les États de l’Afrique noire après les indépendances.

Thomas Phillips’ Dream and the Founding of the Madagascar Mission

Gwyn Campbell, PhD Indian Ocean World Centre McGill University

From 1795, the year the London Missionary Society (LMS) was founded, Madagascar was the focus of intense interest for evangelical Protestants. Several proposals for establishing a mission there were put to the Directors, but few moved past the planning stage until 1818 when Welshmen David Jones and Thomas Bevan attempted to lay the foundations of a mission on the northeast coast of the island. The project resulted in the deaths from malaria of all members of the two missionary families except for Jones, who after a slow and incomplete recuperation successfully established a mission in the high central highlands of Madagascar in 1820. Histories of the mission have naturally focused on the heroic endeavour of Jones and Bevan, around whom a tradition has developed that they were called to Madagascar because of a vivid dream that their college tutor, Thomas Phillips, experienced about the island. This paper examines the basis of that tradition within the context of LMS plans to found a mission in Madagascar.

The Good and the Bad of Collaborative Research in Northern Madagascar

Ian Colquhoun, PhD Department of Anthropology University of Western Ontario
Alex Totomarovario, PhD Department of Anglo-American Studies University of Antsiranana
Andrew Walsh, PhD Department of Anthropology University of Western Ontario

This paper offers an overview of a collaborative research exchange program involving faculty and students from the University of Western Ontario and the University of Antsiranana in Madagascar. Begun in 2007, this program has yielded some excellent results: It has supported the participation of more than a dozen Canadian and Malagasy students in research projects in Madagascar, has enabled three Malagasy students to complete “student placements” in Canada and has provided affiliated faculty with new research and teaching opportunities. This program has not been without its problems, however. Ultimately, this presentation aims for a realistic assessment of what the future might hold for programs like this one that are intended to promote responsible international exchange of researchers, students and ideas.

An American Wreck at Fort Dauphin in 1836: The cargo, crew and geopolitics of a local encounter

James Fairhead, PhD Department of Anthropology University of Sussex Gwyn Campbell, PhD Indian Ocean World Centre McGill University

In February 1836, an American navigator, Captain Benjamin Morrell, was shipwrecked at Fort Dauphin. Morrell was a celebrity in America where children’s books and magazine articles had been written, and plays staged in New York, about his nautical exploits. His book about a dramatic voyage to the Pacific (1829-31) in the company of his wife, Abby, had propelled him to fame as America's foremost merchant explorer. He claimed during this voyage to have discovered islands that would bring enormous profit to traders, and to have kidnapped and taken back to New York two New Guinean islanders who he hoped would eventually act as interpreters for that trade.

In March 1834, Morrell sailed again to the Pacific to take one of the islanders home. On the return voyage, his ship slipped anchor and he was blown onto the coast of southeast Madagascar with a hugely valuable cargo of Chinese goods. Following the shipwreck, Morrell, the Yankee American, stole much of the cargo, was declared an 'outlaw', and acquired a reputation as 'the biggest liar' of the Pacific.

This article examines the events surrounding this shipwreck, which occurred at a critical time in Malagasy history: the Merina had in the 1820s ejected the French from Fort Dauphin and established a garrison there, but were faced with the threat of revolt from local peoples hostile to Merina rule. At the same time, the influence of the anti-European faction at the Merina court was growing?leading early in 1835 to the proscription of Christianity and the closure of the LMS mission to the island. From documents relating to the shipwreck, this paper reveals something of the governance of Fort Dauphin at the time, its relationship with resident expatriate traders and shipping, and what might be said about the articulation of global and Malagasy society at this conjuncture.

Silks and Soga: The consumption of imported textiles in Madagascar, ca.1700-1945

Sarah Fee, PhD Department of World Cultures Royal Ontario Museum

If historians formerly focused primarily on East Africa’s exports—on its ivory, spices and slaves—more recent work has paid closer attention to the goods demanded in exchange by African consumers. These goods were as powerful in fueling the region’s trade and had enormous ramifications for their producers in India, Europe and the U.S. Everywhere, cloth was highly desired, although only as it fit with local political or social needs and aesthetic tastes. Recently Gwyn Campbell and Pier Larson have revealed the scale and contours of the trade in imported fabrics to Madagascar, and their articulation with local economic and social systems. This paper further details the origins and types of cloth imports to Madagascar. As importantly, expanding on Campbell’s work, it vonsiders how they were culturally authenticated, that is, selectively acquired according to pre-existing tastes and needs, and appropriated (or re-interpreted) linguistically, conceptually and socially. Finally it examines the impact of foreign imports on local handweaving styles that can only be properly understood by placing the latter within the wider (and interconnected) traditions of the western Indian Ocean rim.

Les collocations adjectivales en malgache

Rita Hanitramalala, PhD Candidate Département de linguistique et de traduction L'Université à distance de l'UQAM

Les collocations sont des phénomènes linguistiques qui ont fait coulés beaucoup d’encres. Mais en malgache, langue nationale de Madagascar, de famille malayo- polynésienne, elles demeurent encore un champ d’investigation quasi-vierge. C’est d’ailleurs la raison pour laquelle nous nous sommes intéressés à l’étude des collocations adjectivales telles anatra mafonja ‘conseil solide’, hevitra mitombina ‘argument valable’, safidy masina ‘un choix judicieux’, etc.

Qualifiée d’expression semi-figée, la collocation, selon la terminologie de Hausmann (1979), est une expression composée de la base et du collocatif. Le premier constituant d’une collocation - la base - est libre et le deuxième, c’est-à-dire, le collocatif, est restreint. La Fonction Lexicale (FL), est un outil formel dont dispose la théorie Sens-Texte, pour la description des collocations. Une FL, formellement, est une formule f(x) = y dont f est le sens qui s’applique à un mot-clé ou argument x pour donner une valeur y. Par exemple, la FL Magn appliquée à l’argument fisaorana ‘remerciement’ donne les valeurs suivantes :

       Magn(fisaorana) = feno litt.‘rempli’, mitafotafo‘profond’

et forme des collocations adjectivales fisaorana feno ‘un grand remerciement’, fisaorana mitafotafo ‘un profond remerciement’.

Ainsi, notre article traite les différents sens de collocations adjectivales, le rôle qu’occupent les adjectifs dans le syntagme collocationnel, la typologie de ces collocations et leur description lexicographique.

Pour effectuer notre étude, nous allons adopter la théorie Sens-Texte, une approche qui accorde une place importante à la description des collocations grâce aux fonctions lexicales.

Representing and Reporting on the Conquest of Madagascar, 1895-1896

Eric Jennings, PhD Department of History University of Toronto

While the conquest of Madagascar of 1895-1896 has certainly been examined from the standpoint of both French and Malagasy history, relatively little attention has been paid to contemporaneous French reactions to the campaign. To be sure, Guy Jacob has written on some aspects of the topic, as have a few others. For this workshop, I propose examining a range of cartoons, articles, and artifacts that speak to some of the ways in which the Madagascar campaign was experienced, sometimes as a bitter failure, sometimes as a nationalistic apotheosis, sometimes as an anglophobic moment, in France.

Gift, Person, and Rite of Passage: Three intersecting perspectives in three overlapping societies in the Mozambique Channel

Michael Lambek, PhD Department of Anthropology University of Toronto

The role of ritual in the production of social persons and relations is impressive in the related and overlapping societies of the Mozambique Channel but serves also as a useful axis of comparison. The Grande Comore, as described and analyzed by Sophie Blanchy, epitomizes the society of the gift as developed by Marcel Mauss. The circulation of the gift—of those things of greatest value in Ngazidja –is articulated through the Grand Mariage, which both reproduces personnages (as materialized in houses) and produces and reproduces distinctions among persons and families. Kibushy speakers in Mayotte, sceptical of Comorian hierarchy, transformed the grand marriage into a pattern called shungu, which takes place across a series of rites de passage, not only the achieved status of marriage and circumcision but also the ascriptions of birth and death and in a manner such as to produce equality of distinction rather than inequality. Here the gift is located in the act, i.e. in the reciprocal work of reproducing and recognizing others. By comparison with both Ngazidja and Mayotte, in Madagascar the focus is on mortuary rituals. Here acts of reproduction and witness are again constitutive of hierarchy: among Sakalava, the production of royal ancestors entails the reproduction of social distinctions between royalty and ancestor people (razan’olo) or kinded people (karazan’olo).

Why Location Matters: Obstacles to success in a CBC project in Ankarana, Madagascar

Ashley Patterson, MA Candidate
Department of Anthropology University of Western Ontario

This paper examines a CBC (community-based conservation) and ecotourism project, known by the acronym KOFAMA (Kopa’beny Fikambanana Ankarabe Mitsinjo Arivo), operating in northern Madagascar. Developed in 2008 by local residents and a Peace Corps volunteer, KOFAMA was designed to foster community cohesion and participation, while creating awareness of environmental conservation in rural areas. In this paper I address some of the obstacles that have faced those involved in the planning and execution of this project. Comparing KOFAMA to two other successful ecotourism projects in northern Madagascar suggests that although community dynamics play a role in the success or failure of an enterprise, equally important is how a project fits into the local regional tourist economy and why location, accessibility, infrastructural support, and connections to external sources of information matter.

Nosy Be and the Western Indian Ocean World

Hideaki Suzuki, PhD Candidate Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Indian Ocean World Centre

Nosy Be is known as one of the earliest French colonies in Madagascar. There are several studies on this island. Their focuses are mostly on either the plantation economy in this island or the relationship between Sakalava and French colonisation.

On the contrary to this, this paper focuses on its relationship with western Indian Ocean. Reading carefully the contemporary documents, it is clear that the western Indian Ocean world extended towards this small island while colonisation proceeded. In other words, many regard the relationship between colonisation or European invasion and local trading networking such as western Indian Ocean world as dychotimic relation. However, both could co-exist in the case of Nosy Be.

The paper firstly clarifies the process of French protection on Nosy Be from the western Indian Ocean view point, and then examines how Nosy Be under French protection became a part of the western Indian Ocean world.

Adaptation to Environmental Change in Highland Madagascar: The role of local innovation in degraded agroecosystems

Jon Unruh, PhD Department of Geography McGill University

While the view that the poorer agricultural populations in developing vountries will be at the forefront of negative consequences due to environmental change is widely accepted, this perspective must become considerably more nuanced in order to recognize and take advantage of emerging opportunities for realistic adaptation. This paper presents a case from Madagascar which suggests that adaptation opportunities involve more than looking for alternatives to what are presently perceived to be negative socio-ecologic processes. In Madagascar the severe erosion occurring on the deforested central plateau actually appear to create, over time, opportunities for increased food security and environmental management compared to un-eroded portions of the same landscape. The paper proposes that while concern and action is needed to attend to the problems that the poor of the developing world will face due to impacts from environmental change, the repercussions of such change on agricultural systems also need to be looked at in ways that involve recognizing the local and aggregate potential opportunities that they may present in certain systems, in order to realize the prospects for adaptation.

A Semantic Comparison of Malagasy avy and French venir

Beau Zuercher, PhD Candidate Département de linguistique Université du Québec à Montréal

In this presentation, we propose a monosemous analysis of the Malagasy verb avy ‘come’. Adopting the Selective Semantics framework proposed by Bouchard (1995), we show that like its approximate French equivalent venir, avy’s seemingly disparate set of senses are all manifestations of a single, abstract meaning. Moreover, these two verbs differ only minimally in terms of their core semantic representations: venir means ‘X is oriented toward the deictic center’ (according to Bouchard), while avy’s invariant meaning is ‘X is oriented away from the antideictic center’, represented schematically in (1) and (2), respectively.

We show that this minimal difference in meaning provides a powerful account for the various differences in the verbs’ surface behaviour. For example, because the argument occupies a different position in the two representations (destination for venir and origin for avy), a locative complement is interpreted differently for the two verbs (as the endpoint of movement for venir and as the starting point for avy), as shown in (3) and (4). This difference in argument position also explains why avy requires no preposition to express origin (4), but venir does (5), and why avy itself can function as a from-preposition following another verb (6).

(3)Jean est venu en France.

(4)Avy t-any Frantsia Jaona. ‘John came from France.’ come PAST-there France John

(5)Jean vient *(de) Montréal.

(6)Tonga avy tany Fianarantsoa izy. ‘He arrived from Fianarantsoa.’ arrive from PAST-there Fianarantsoa 3SG

In addition, we demonstrate that the representational differences between avy and venir account for asymmetries such as the following: 1) while venir’s movement sense restricts the destination to ‘here’, avy can generally describe movement toward any point; 2) while both verbs can appear in the construction Jean vient manger, avy can do so only in a restricted context; 3) avy cannot be used to express availability (as in Ces chaussures viennent en noir); 4) avy can be used to express anteriority between two events, while venir can only express anteriority with respect to the moment of reference established by verb tense. Thus, by showing that the multiple surface differences between avy and venir follow directly from minimal representational differences, we demonstrate that the monosemous approach to word meaning provides simple explanations for numerous divergences in semantic behaviour between words in a cross-linguistic perspective.


Bouchard, D. 1995. The semantics of syntax: a minimalist approach to grammar. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Visiting Dady’s House: Tourism at a Sacred Tomb Site in Northern Madagascar

Directed by Emma Hunter Runtime approx. 15 mins

KOFAMA, a grassroots community-based conservation and ecotourism project located on the edge of the Ankarana Special Reserve in northern Madagascar, was created in 2007 by local people with the aid of an American Peace Corps Volunteer. Among the attractions that KOFAMA hopes will draw tourists to the area is the Mandresy Be Cave, a sacred cave-tomb where local people’s ancestors lie entombed. Research, conducted in collaboration with KOFAMA, raised a number of issues related to this novel use of a sacred ancestral site which brings together a diverse array of players including project managers, tomb “owners”, tourists and researchers. This video documents the voices of local people addressing the perspectives they have on tourism to the area, the use of a sacred site as a tourist attraction and the future of the Mandresy Be Cave. These diverse and often conflicting statements are coupled with video and still photography taken during a 2010 visit to the cave. The end product shows the complexities involved in developing a sacred ancestral site into a tourist attraction.