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The Sacrificed GenerationYouth, History, and the Colonized Mind in Madagascar$

Lesley Sharp

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780520229501

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520229501.001.0001

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Youth and the Colonized Mind

Youth and the Colonized Mind

(p.29) Chapter 1 Youth and the Colonized Mind
The Sacrificed Generation

Lesley A. Sharp

University of California Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the political consciousness of youth. It analyzes the relevant ideological concepts of nation, sacrifice, and homeland, and notes that the colonial encounter is deeply troubled and affects the psyches of colonizer and colonized alike. It shows that in Madagascar, this complicated relationship can be seen in a review of pedagogical history and the students' critiques of the “colonized mind.” Finally, this chapter examines the students' candid discussions of homeland, where their use of the term “ancestral land” stresses the struggles they face in shaping their own vision of the nation.

Keywords:   political consciousness, ideological concepts, colonial encounter, pedagogical history, colonized mind, homeland, ancestral land

Vive Madagascar “Tsy Mandohalika”

[“Long Live Madagascar—‘We shall not go down on our knees’”].


The political consciousness of youth is a complex affair. One of the guiding premises of this study is that students' understandings of their collective destiny hinge on unified interpretations of the past and their own significance in shaping their nation's political trajectory. The purpose of this chapter, then, is to explore the historical dimensions of this process. It thus begins with a detailed review of recent political developments in Madagascar's postindependence period, where students constitute a vanguard whose demands ultimately have transformed the state not once, but twice since the 1970s. Central to this review is a discussion of the key ideological assumptions of Madagascar's First and Second republics. Of special significance here are Malagasy understandings of a neocolonial and capitalist President Tsiranana versus an isolationist and socialist President Ratsiraka. As we shall see, the rhetoric and practice of Ratsiraka's malagasization played a decisive role in politicizing Madagascar's coastal youth.

Although students' political visions are most certainly anchored in recent island politics, they cannot be fully deciphered without a careful analysis of this nation's troubled pedagogical history either. Education in Madagascar is deeply rooted in missionary activities that predate the French conquest in 1895–96. Of great significance here is that highland and coastal experiences diverged in response to competing Protestant versus Catholic forces. Once French colonial hegemony was asserted, this was then paired with highland structures. Together, these were imposed on other regions, especially in pedagogical spheres. The assertion of highland and essentially Merina culture as a national one has become only further entrenched in the postindependence period: ironically, although President Ratsiraka, who was originally from the coast, envisioned malagasization as a means to unify Madagascar, coastal inhabitants viewed the newly created national language of official Malagasy as the linguistic arm of highland-based power. Thus, whereas malagasization generated a powerful rhetoric through which to critique colonial violence, (p.30) it failed to unify the nation because of its own troubled origins. In essence, then, a pedagogical dilemma that plagues Madagascar is Merina linguistic hegemony. Such failures inevitably shape who is part of this nation's sacrificed generation.

The discussion then turns to an analysis of the important ideological concepts of sacrifice, nation, and homeland. These highly nuanced terms are entangled in competing French, highland, and coastal understandings of each, rendering their decipherment highly problematic. As Fanon and other revolutionary theorists have argued, the colonial encounter is deeply troubled and affects the psyches of colonized and colonizer alike. In Madagascar, this complex relationship is not simply demonstrated by a review of pedagogical history but emerges as well in students' critiques of the concept of the “colonized mind” (mentalité colonisée). In such contexts, localized readings of the past and independence converge. A particularly compelling example of this relationship arises in the Independence Day celebrations in Ambanja, performative events that draw simultaneously from Merina, French, and coastal understandings of community and nationhood. The chapter concludes with students' candid discussions of homeland, where their use of the indigenous term tanindrazaña, or “ancestral land,” underscores the struggles they face in shaping their own unique vision of the nation.

Revolution and National Transformations

The year 1972 saw the full-scale, public emergence of Madagascar's youth as a revolutionary force in the postindependence period. The nation had been independent for over a decade, long enough for the oldest of its children to witness—and comprehend—the contradictions that characterized its leaders' political ideals versus life's realities in the wake of colonialism. As they neared the end of their lycée years, many school youth recognized the hypocrisies of education, its flaws rendering them victims of an insidious colonial mentalité. Schooled to accept a particular foreign vision of the world without question, they were forced to swallow a rhetoric that stressed the pride one should feel in being Malagasy, when simultaneously one's own language, history, and a staggering array of cultural institutions were denigrated as inferior to things French. Language was an especially potent symbol of this denigration, for the Malagasy tongue was deemed inadequate by the French for indigenous educational needs. Furthermore, from a colonial perspective, the Malagasy as a people were assumed to be ill equipped to fill upper-level positions of power even within their own nation, so that expatriates continued to occupy the most coveted positions in educational, financial, political, and military spheres. This section offers a review of such developments, focusing more specifically on Madagascar's political history following independence, foregrounding the relevance of youth within that history. (p.31)

Table 1 An Abbreviated Political Timeline

July 14, 1789

Storming of the Bastille in Paris.


Reign of the Merina ruler Andrianampoinimerina, who, assisted by European entrepreneurs, reorganizes the army and considerably expands the kingdom of Imerina.


Reign of the Merina ruler Radama I (son of Andrianampoinimerina), who continues his father's campaignto conquer the entire island.


Members of the London Missionary Society (LMS) arrive on the east coast of Madagascar; in 1820 the LMS establishes itself in Antananarivo, capital of Imerina.



Andriantompoeniarivo, founding ruler of the Bemazava-Sakalava dynasty, arrives in the Sambirano Valley.



In July 1840, Queen Tsiomeko, the ruler of the Bemihisatra-Sakalava, abandons her rights to territory that includes the two offshore islands Nosy Be and Nosy Komba, as well as part of the neighboring mainland. Unable to secure assistance against the Merina from the sultan of Zanzibar, she seeks helpfrom the French. By 1841, her territory (located near the Sambirano) becomes an official protectorate of France.



Catholic missionaries establish a settlement on the small offshore island of Nosy Faly, sacred territory to the Sakalavaand their Antankaraña neighbors to the north.


Reign of the isolationist Merina Queen Ranavalona I (the widow of Radama I). Missionaries and other Europeans are expelled from Imerina.


Reign of the Merina King Radama II (Prince Rakoto, son of Ranavalona I). British and French missionaries are once again welcomed into the Merina kingdom. His reign comes to an abrupt halt when he is strangled by an adversary.


Reign of the Merina Queen Ranavalona II (Princess Ramoma), the first Merina ruler to convert to Christianity. Protestantism is proclaimed the official state religion.



Under General Duchesne, the French seize Antananarivo. French troops spread throughout the island as part of a colonial pacification strategy under General Gallieni, reaching the Sambirano in 1895. In 1896. Madagascar is officially declared a colony of France.


Reign of the Merina Queen Ranavalona II. Following the conquest of the island, the French abolish the monarchy and exile her. She dies in Algiers in 1917.


The VVS (Vy Vato Sakelika, or “Iron Stone Network”) is created by nationalist medical students in Antananarivo.



First Catholic baptism performed in the Sambirano.



Catholic cathedral completed in Ambanja.

September 28, 1958

Madagascar becomes a self-governing republic within the French Community.

June 26, 1960

Independence is declared.


First Republic of President Philibert Tsiranana.

May 14, 1972

“The May Revolution.” Protesters march on the presidential palace in the capital of Antananarivo, and President Tsiranana is forced to resign only four months after being reelected, and two weeks after his inauguration.

May 1972–June 1975

Interim period of military rule.

May 1972–February 1975

General Gabriel Ramanantsoa serves as president; he resigns on February 5, 1975.

February 11, 1975

Colonel Richard Ratsimandrava is assassinated after serving as president for less than a week. Martial law is declared, and the country is governed by an eight-man military directorate under General Andriamahazo.

June 15, 1975

End of the “Trial of the Century,” aimed at identifying those responsible for the assassination of Ratsimandrava. The directorate dissolves itself, and Didier Ratsiraka is declared president.


Second Republic under Didier Ratsiraka; also referred to as the period of the socialist revolution.


Transitional period. Didier Ratsiraka is voted out of office in 1993.


Zafy Albert wins the presidential election against Ratsiraka in February 1993 and is instated as president of the Third Republic shortly thereafter.

late 1996

Zafy Albert is successfully impeached and removed from office.


Didier Ratsiraka is reelected president. He is sworn in on February 9, 1997, marking the beginning of the Fourth Republic.

NOTE: NW designates an event relevant to the northwest.


(p.33) The Awakening of the Consciousness of Youth

In May 1972, students at the medical school at Befelatanana in Antananarivo took to the streets, and they were soon joined by workers, peasants, and other students much younger than they. This was not the first time the nation's youth had played a crucial role in a nationalist movement; the activism of university students and journalists in particular is deeply entrenched in Madagascar's history and has become emblematic of uprisings and resistance. As early as 1912, the Vy Vato Sakelika (“Iron Stone Network”), or VVS, was formed by students at the medical school at Befelatanana in Antananarivo, and among its members were numerous future nationalists. As we shall see in chapter 5, one of its celebrated leaders was the poet Ny Avana Ramanantoanina, and the tenor of his sacrifice was communicated poignantly through poetry now favored by Ambanja's literate youth. More immediate inspiration for the May Revolution of 1972 came from the 1968 student uprising in France; the Civil Rights Movement in the United States; the writings of Maoist intellectuals; and a heightened awareness of the needs of myriad constituencies within their own nation, including merchants, small-scale planters, and a landless urban underclass. Demands for educational reforms lay at the heart of the May Revolution. Students insisted on dismantling a system that favored a small, educated elite, where the poor faced barriers that included a rigid national examination system, expensive private schooling, and limited places at the lycée and university levels. Access to significant positions of power was further limited by a heavy reliance on expatriate “technical assistants,” particularly French-born educators, administrators, and military personnel. So important were the 60,000 or so who remained in Madagascar that President Tsiranana referred to them as the nation's “Nineteenth Tribe” (Paillard 1979, 306). French expatriates filled over half of all senior positions, and approximately 4,000 foreign paratroopers alone were employed for national defense purposes (Covell 1987, 36–38).1

Colonial education bore much of the responsibility for promoting a strong sense of moral2 inferiority among Malagasy and, paired with it, dependence on the former colonizer, for as one advanced through the grades, Malagasy educators were increasingly underrepresented, a trend that had become firmly entrenched during the colonial era. Although the French trained many accomplished Malagasy as schoolteachers, the majority remained confined to primary and middle schools. Furthermore, they were far better represented in coastal and rural settings, a trend that perpetuated—albeit insidiously—an assumed hierarchy where race, region of origin, and nationality determined social worth and were marked by an array of specialized terms that persist today. Thus, white (FR: blanc, HP: fotsy) was valued over black (FR: noir, HP: mainty); highland (Merina, and, to a lesser extent, Betsileo)3 over coastal (FR: côtier); and French (vazaha) over Malagasy. In essence, the French perceived the Malagasy intellect to be limited and thus well suited to training young children. Advanced knowledge, however, was best imparted by those who were expatriate, French, and white. This trend was particularly pronounced at the university (p.34) level and persisted throughout the first decade following independence. As Maureen Covell explains,

The university had a further significance as an essential component in the perpetuation of the neocolonial basis of the Tsiranana regime and as a place where French domination of the regime was demonstrated and even exaggerated. Although 80 per cent of the 1,000 students were Malagasy, 200 of 250 professors were French. The authoritarian style of professor-student relationship against which French students had revolted in 1968 had survived in Madagascar. When the professor was French and the student Malagasy the relationship reproduced the colonial era; when the professor was Malagasy the relationship underlined the point that only Malagasies who became like the French could command other Malagasies. Degrees given by the university were French degrees and the research and teaching of the university reproduced that of a French establishment … the point was clear: it was through learning about France, not Madagascar, that one had to pass to aspire to even the subordinate position in the system for which Malagasies were destined. (Covell 1987, 37)

In pedagogical terms, it was not simply at the upper educational level that Malagasy suffered; many were denied the most basic right to elementary schooling. The needs of the nation's underclass became increasingly obvious, especially in Antananarivo, whose population had doubled in size within a decade of independence, as the rural poor, denied access to arable land, flooded into the city.4 Many were of slave (HP: andevo) origins and thus were the poorest of the poor. Over 60 percent of those in the city's slums were under twenty-five years of age, representing a neglected generation of children who were increasingly denied access to over-enrolled state schools and prohibitively expensive private establishments (Covell 1987, 38–39).5

A newborn awareness of these social conditions and their historical origins further fueled an already deep-seated hatred of French dominance, especially among Madagascar's youth. The larger political events that made a student revolution possible in the early 1970s are complex, rendering a full-scale account beyond the scope of this discussion (but see Althabe 1972, 1980; Bouillon 1973; Covell 1987; Rahajarizafy 1973; Rajoelina 1988). Of concern here is the manner in which such events shaped a newly awakened political consciousness among youth in this African nation and the significance of education as a strong focus of contention. Thus, a number of events are worth noting (what follows is a highly cursory review of those significant to this particular discussion).

By 1970, Tsiranana had served as president for a decade, and the country was in turmoil. The year before, a series of cyclones had hit the island, with the economy already suffering from the 1967 closure of the Suez Canal. In February 1970, Tsiranana had a stroke while attending a conference in Yaoudé, Cameroon, and was then hospitalized in Paris, where he remained for seven months. His absence enabled his adversaries to reposition themselves politically. In March 1971, the country witnessed a series of strikes involving secondary school and university students. (p.35) In April, peasants in the arid and anthrax-stricken south seized control of administrative offices and state police posts (gendarmeries) in regional villages and towns. Tsiranana's government responded with repressive measures that resulted in as many as 1,000 dead, 1,500 arrests, and over 500 deportations to the off shore island of Nosy Lava (which houses a prison). The rival MONIMA6 party was implicated in this and other actions, and its leader was likewise arrested and deported (Covell 1987, 43–45; Paillard 1979, 322.ff.).

These and other related events culminated in the May Revolution of 1972. Its most striking characteristics include, first, the manner in which it was a revolution of youth, and, second, how quickly members of the underclass also became actively involved. The revolution is often said to have begun when medical students went on strike in January; in March, they were joined by much younger students from the city's state-run middle schools (collèges) along with those from numerous private schools; and, then, in April, by lycée students. Other groups soon followed, most notably the urban poor and labor unions. On May 14, 1972, which is now honored as the official Day of the Revolution, approximately 100,000 people marched to the presidential palace to demand the ouster of Tsiranana, who only four months before had been reelected by a supposed 99.7 percent of voters. Tsiranana's inauguration occurred on May 1; less than two weeks later, he witnessed the end of what is now referred to as his First Republic. The popular revolution that toppled Tsiranana's regime was followed almost immediately by a military coup on May 17 (Covell 1987, 45, 47–48; Paillard 1979, 327 ff.).

The period from May 1972 to June 1975 was one of great turmoil, characterized by continued economic failure, accusations of corruption, rumors of attempted coups, and ever-shifting alliances. Tsiranana's immediate successor was General Gabriel Ramanantsoa, who later resigned his post on February 5, 1975. Today, this is often regarded by historians of Madagascar as a lengthy interim period. Covell, for example, refers to the years between the First and Second republics as “the Ramanantsoa interval” (1987, 51), whereas Yvan-Georges Paillard offers a far blunter reading, stating that during the first two years of military rule, “Madagascar seemed to be leaderless” (1979, 338). Ramanantsoa named Colonel Richard Ratsimandrava as his successor, but the latter was promptly assassinated only a few days later, on February 11. The following morning, an eight-man military directorate was formed under General Andriamahazo, who declared martial law. As Covell explains, the group's mission was “to hold the ring while factions and personalities struggled for power. Maintaining this façade of collective rule was simplified by the fact that public attention was focused on the trial of Ratsimandrava's accused assassins, [referred to as] the ‘trial of the century’ with 297 defendants” (Covell 1987, 57). Among the more powerful voices to emerge as part of the nation's new military vanguard was Didier Ratsiraka, a junior naval officer who had served as Ramanantsoa's foreign minister. With the close of the trial on June 15, the military directorate officially pronounced Ratsiraka president and then dissolved itself. Thus began sixteen solid years of Ratsiraka's socialist revolution, or Second (p.36) Republic, when the Malagasy Republic (FR: République malgache) assumed its new name, the Democratic Republic of Madagascar (OM: Repoblika Demokratika Malagasy).7

Ratsiraka's Madagascar

Ny Boky Mena (“The Red Book”) (Ratsiraka 1975) is Ratsiraka's revolutionary charter, a text that assembles a series of radio broadcasts he made in August 1975 as part of a campaign that culminated in his being elected president for an initial seven-year term (Covell 1987, 59; Paillard 1979, 343, 244). In it, Ratsiraka envisioned a newly emergent and truly independent nation, built upon premises inspired by Mao and other socialist visionaries. Ratsiraka's early public support was over-whelming. According to Covell, “of those eligible to vote, 92.6 per cent did and 94.7 per cent of those voted ‘yes’ for Ratsiraka” (Covell 1987, 59; cf. Rajoelina 1988, 57 f f.). Ratsiraka took the oath of office in January 1976 and moved into the palace formerly occupied by the French embassy, establishing himself as the secretary-general of a single national party, the Antokin'ny Revolisiona Malagasy, or AREMA (FR: Avant-Garde de la Révolution Malgache, or “Vanguard of the Malagasy Revolution”).8 As Paillard wrote in 1979, “Although only a prophet could predict the Second Malagasy Republic's future it is clear that the pace of history in Madagascar had accelerated within the last four or five years; that in just a few months' time decolonization had progressed more than during the dozen preceding years” (1979, 346). Important changes included a move toward economic independence through state capitalism, whereby large-scale foreign-owned concerns were nationalized; the elimination of foreign technical (generally French) assistance in schooling, the military, and other arenas; the breaking of ties with (and economic dependence on) South Africa; and the promotion of a strong nationalist ideology, referred to as malagasization (see Paillard 1979).

My own experience of Ratsiraka's Second Republic is limited primarily to the period from late December 1986 to early January 1988, when I first conducted anthropological field research in Madagascar.9 Later, in 1993, 1994, and 1995, I witnessed localized responses to Ratsiraka's failure during what was then dubbed the transitional period, and, then, the first year of the Third Republic under the newly elected President Zafy Albert.10 Throughout 1987, I was keenly aware of the silencing of political dissent and the omnipresence of AREMA: it was the party of and for everything, serving as the official and only representative, for example, of labor unions, state employees, and even school sports teams. In Ambanja, no one spoke openly of politics and, in particular, of Ratsiraka's political rivals. Such matters came up rarely and only in private, hushed conversations at home at night, when doors and windows were shut tight. Everyone publicly proclaimed their allegiance to Ratsiraka—to do otherwise put one's safety in serious jeopardy. I was among the few social scientists allowed into Madagascar at this time, and I was the target of intense scrutiny, my work documented on a weekly basis for the national (p.37) police by one of my local informants. On several occasions, veiled warnings were issued to me by other academics, all of whom told a seemingly apocryphal tale of an anthropologist who, a decade before, had been “eaten by fish” (the corpse having been found abandoned in an unspecified body of water). Wary of the danger associated with dissent, I made it a point never to engage in political discussions with friends or informants for fear of the harm that might befall them—and me. My husband, nevertheless, was a witness to (and felt compelled to end) a police interrogation of a petty thief, an event that confirmed our own shared sense that the potential for political violence meted out by the state lay close to the surface of daily life. Like all Malagasy, I was constantly aware of Ratsiraka's presence, as he looked down upon us from his framed portrait in banks, post offices, schoolrooms, and government foyers, dressed, ironically, in garb reminiscent of a French commander (a theme to which I shall return below). Corruption (HP: riso-riso, lit. “zig-zag”) was pervasive, especially in the form of bribery and black market trade, since illicit commerce was often essential to survival in a nation experiencing intense economic isolation from much of the rest of the world.11 The island's middle class and elite bemoaned their inability to travel abroad for coveted goods and services, as had been possible (and affordable) under Tsiranana; and everyone, regardless of status or origin, suffered the consequences of shortages of such basic items as laundry soap, kerosene, and textiles. In Ambanja, nearly all construction had come to a halt, for there were no tools, no nails, no cement or paint to be found in any shops in the province. Goods that were available were usually of inferior quality, manufactured in nationalized factories.

During Zafy's brief three-year presidency, I found that, suddenly, even some of Zafy's strongest supporters would speak of Ratsiraka's initial popularity with great nostalgia, for Ratsiraka's charisma is legendary. As one friend, in her thirties and raising children of her own, explained to me one afternoon in 1995:

Look, I know that things changed drastically as the years went by. Ratsiraka promised many things that never materialized. His greed for power and wealth got the best of him—look at him now, hiding out in a mansion in Ivato [a suburb near the Antananarivo airport], too afraid to move, knowing that someone might pop him for what he did to his own people! Now he's an old, blind, paranoid man. But you know, when he first emerged as a political presence, he was so moving, he had such a vision! He would talk about the power the French held over us as colonized people, and the need for a true kind of freedom—that we were living in a state of neocolonial oppression. Andhis vision for the schools, it was remarkable, really. Official Malagasy [i.e., the language] may have been a failure, but it didn't have to be—it wasn't the idea that failed, but the manner in which it was applied. It could have worked. We really believed in Ratsiraka. We all had to read the Boky Mena. My friends and I, we would stay up late at night, talking about Ratsiraka's ideas. It was truly an exciting time.

“[I] ndependence, and more precisely political independence, does not simply happen ipso facto. It requires the end of colonialism and the advent of a more just society,” the Boky Mena proclaimed.12 From Ratsiraka's perspective, the nation could (p.38) not experience its true independence until it had freed itself from the intellectual, emotional,13 political, and economic shackles of foreign dominance. In her historical overview of the First Republic, Covell exposes the complacency characteristic of the Tsiranana era:

Supporters of [Tsiranana's] … First Republic considered it a perfect example of successful decolonization, in that [the transition was calm and without incident] … the First Republic is … a classic example of a neocolonial regime in which an elite, selected and prepared by the departing colonial power, moves into government positions, exchanging its protection of the interests of the former colonial power for that power's protection of its own position.14

In contrast, for Ratsiraka, the true independence of the nation (versus the “formal” independence of 1960) corresponded with the founding of his own regime on June 16, 1975 (Ratsiraka 1975, 14). “[T]he Revolution is a daily struggle,” he stressed,15 a battle that had to be fought consistently at all levels of society if freedom were to endure. In 1987, during my first period of field research, the practical application of this rhetoric was evident in nearly every sphere of life: on an island long regarded as a hardship post, French and U.S. embassy staffs were now skeletal, and USAID presence was hardly more than a shadow. If one sensed any foreign presence at all, it was that of the Eastern Bloc, and especially in the context of infrastructural renovations. Chinese and North Koreans were heavily involved, for example, in the rehabilitation of roads and ports (cf. Rajoelina 1988, 59), and students who received foreign scholarships typically went to universities in Moscow or Czechoslovakia. In many homes, one could also find books by Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi, a close colleague and friend of Ratsiraka, and so French renditions of Qaddafi's writings were distributed freely to state employees and students. Throughout the island, European expatriates were scarce, and typically belonged to small settlements of missionaries, who funded and staffed the island's better rural hospitals and private schools. I myself was often assumed to be a Catholic sister, because in Ambanja the only Europeans were the few French, Italian, and German priests, nuns, and doctors who worked at the imposing mission complex.

Ratsiraka's Boky Mena generated a language that became pervasive throughout the Second Republic, shaping the content and tone of political discourse and school curricula for the next fifteen years. It is also, significantly, the language employed by members of the sacrificed generation, and the following passage is exemplary:

Specifically, this requires a revolution of minds [mentalités], a coherence between the doctrine and reality, between speech and action, between governmental action and that of the people. In short, all the nation's driving forces must be unified and focused on the same goals—to create a new Malagasy people, and to build a better society under the direction of the laboring urban and rural masses. We know that the struggle will be difficult, and will require that many sacrifices be made. We understand that the path will be littered with obstacles. There is no question that it will be necessary to come up against and conquer each of these in turn and one by one. … We have (p.39) only one choice: we must fight to exist, or we will disappear. We have chosen an independent existence, with liberty, dignity, justice, and peace—whatever the cost to us may be. …

… The national Malagasy revolution is not the end result of a parthenogenesis; it has its roots in the Malagasy soul, it is objectively determined both by its history of colonial domination and by its strategic geographic position.16

Ratsiraka sought above all to revolutionize and transform the Malagasy mind, or mentality (FR: mentalité), where collective action involving the integration of political praxis into people's daily lives could bring about significant change. From this would spring a new sense of what it meant to be Malagasy. Such a transformation was possible, however, only through great collective sacrifice (a theme I address in greater detail below). Within this context, it was the labor of the rural, landed peasant that was especially valorized, these particular citizens being recognized as the backbone of a primarily agricultural nation, where approximately 80 percent were employed in the agricultural sector, providing approximately 40 percent of the nation's domestic product (World Bank 1980, 1, based on data assembled in 1978; see also Razafimpahanana 1972, 11). An important tenet of this revolution was that only with true independence and liberty are justice and dignity possible. And, finally (contrary to a deep-seated racism espoused by colonial French), it was affirmed that foreign dominance over the Malagasy did not spring from an inherent weakness of the Malagasy spirit (FR: l'âme) but was, rather, the product of a set of relations rooted in the historical conditions of the colonial encounter. Madagascar had been conquered and held onto by the French because it was of global strategic (and, as Ratsiraka argued consistently elsewhere, economic) value: it not only lies at the intersection of important trade routes but commands one of the naval approaches to the Gulf of Aden and, beyond it, the Suez Canal.17

Ratsiraka insisted on self-sufficiency as the key to building a cohesive national identity and collective vision. Important reformist policies included the rejection of old colonial alliances in favor of those with socialist nations (an approach that had also characterized Ratsiraka's work as Ramanantsoa's foreign minister); the (re)vitalization of the nation's infrastructure through construction projects; and a more general desire to transform society from its assorted and often contentious geographically, ethnically, and class-based factions, into a united national front of Malagasy. Social and economic isolation was put forth as a key strategy, since only when secure from the grip of stronger world powers could Madagascar develop into a truly viable independent nation. Ratsiraka envisioned a country well equipped to sustain itself through the twentieth century and beyond, freed of the intellectual, economic, and political fetters that had, up to this point, weighed so heavily upon Malagasy as colonized peoples.

It was not simply Ratsiraka's ideas that inspired Malagasy to follow him but also the power of his language in a nation whose people as a whole value political oratory (OM: kabary). The essence of the revolution was communicated through compelling (p.40) rhetorical phrases; the slogan “We shall not go down on our knees,” for example, offered a striking allusion to the cultural values that opposed self and other in pan-Malagasy fashion. This phrase referred both to the symbolic subordination of the colonized and, quite literally, to the action of kneeling. Throughout the island's many indigenous communities, the human head is considered sacred, and its placement in social contexts is evidence of rank. One lowers oneself before others in humble respect and, ultimately, subjugation: youth before their elders, commoners before royalty, and the living before their ancestors (when the latter speak through spirit mediums). Under the French, however, this action was seen as a forced, and thus involuntary, form of public humiliation.

The power of Ratsiraka's slogan is rendered all the more obvious in a photo reproduced in a frequently distributed copy of the Boky Mena (Ratsiraka 1975, 15), where three Malagasy men can be seen kneeling on an unprotected patch of earth (fig. 1). To the right stand four armed soldiers (three upon a plank, as if to avoid muddy ground). These two small groups are situated before a small, shaded grandstand, on which five European men and a woman stand and sit. Nearby stand three Malagasy men who hold their hats and wear suit jackets (two of them wear men's waist wraps). The Europeans address an unseen audience through two microphones. At the very back of the platform are five turbaned soldiers, their national origin unclear, although one appears to be European. Such graphic images, invoked by powerful rhetorical references, kindled political awareness of oppression and generated a language for addressing it. This convergence of memories and associated imagery took their firmest hold in the educational sphere through malagasization. This cornerstone of Second Republic reforms instilled a new political and historical consciousness into the nation's youth. This stands, however, in stark contrast to the previous history of pedagogy on the island, to which I now turn.

Linguistic Hegemony

Empowerment Through Language

The French term malgachisation has its roots in the colonial period, when it was used to describe the transition from colonial to indigenous rule under Tsiranana in the late 1950s (Covell 1987, 30–31). The variant malagasization was later adopted as an important slogan of Ratsiraka's indigenous socialist revolution.18 As Covell explains, its focus shifted over time and expanded:

[It] had originally been a demand for an education in the national language reflecting the national culture, but in the course of the [1972] uprising its meaning widened to include the ouster of the French technical assistants, and then the real departure of the French and the regime they had installed: a second independence and the vindication of the sacrifices of the martyrs of 1947. As the slogan acquired new meanings, new groups joined the movement: urban workers, middle-class elements and finally the armed forces [came together to form the May Revolution]. (Covell 1987, 45–46) (p.41)

Youth and the Colonized Mind

Figure 1. Malagasy subjects kneeling before the French. From Ratsiraka 1975, 15.

Subsequently, throughout Ratsiraka's Second Republic, this expression gained a more global meaning that became significant in many arenas, affecting myriad aspects of everyday life. No sphere, however, was as strongly affected as education. Among the first and most profound reforms involved the creation of a national language, Malagasy iombonana (iombonana means “joint effort”), or official Malagasy, which was designed to undermine the hegemony of French while simultaneously acknowledging the significance of the island's many subethnic categories of Malagasy speakers (FR: races, ethnies; OM: karazana). Official Malagasy defined not only the legitimate language of political discourse; it was also central to the revitalization of school curricula at all levels. By late 1975, Madagascar's children had experienced major transformations in their schools: suddenly history, geography, literature, philosophy and, at times, even the sciences,19 were being taught in this new language. More important, ideologically, school lessons were transformed almost overnight to emphasize the strength of Malagasy character and the centrality of the island's history for understanding one's position both within the nation and beyond. As Mme. Vezo, a thirty-six-year-old lycée teacher, explained:

You see, when I went to school [under Tsiranana] it was strange—for us it was a sort of sickness, really, when I think back on [how we were taught]. I'm older and now I understand these things better. Think of it: when we studied history our lessons always (p.42) started with the statement “Our Ancestors the Gauls.” Why should I care about the Gauls?! I've never been—nor will I ever be able to go—to France, and I certainly wasn't destined to be French. As a child I would find myself looking at these books and being puzzled—why the Gauls? I have my own razana [ancestors]. But I kept my mouth shut. I studied, I got high marks. Now I myself am a history [and geography] teacher. What pleasure it gave me when I first started teaching [in the Second Republic], and I, as a Malagasy, could begin my own lesson, “Our Ancestors the Vazimba. …”20 It gave me such pleasure. And I was good at official Malagasy, too, from the start. In fact, I teach it now at the high school level. Others found it difficult, but I love our language, and I really enjoy being able to pass it on to our children.

In contrast, other teachers found the transition devastating. So explained Mr. Victor, who has taught both middle school and lycée students:

Mr. Victor:

  • The transition to official Malagasy? It was terrible. Truly terrible. I can saythis to you now because we are reverting back to French [under President Zafy]. The experiment failed. I was terrified as a teacher—I spent several years studying at the university, and I did all right, you know. I felt I was prepared to assume my first post. And then there I was, teaching in a coastal town, with no schoolbooks—I only had my class notes in French, and I was told I could only speak in official Malagasy. But I had never really studied it.
  • LS:

  • What did you [and others like you] do?
  • Mr. Victor:

  • We did the best we could. I knew the Merina dialect pretty well, becauseI had lived in Antananarivo while attending university. And so I spoke that in the classroom—it's pretty close, you know, to official Malagasy.
  • LS:

  • How did the students react?
  • Mr. Victor:

  • They of course hated it. It was the same as it is here. If you speak Merina, or even official Malagasy, the students will refuse to speak to you. They might say to your face, or more likely, behind your back, “That ramsay [teacher], he's just a borzany” [highly derogatory term for Merina]. But I'm not, you know! My parents are Betsimisaraka, and I grew up on the east coast. So over the years I've learned to speak a combination of languages in the classroom: I first cover the subject matter in a combination of French and official Malagasy, and then I go over the lesson again, this time in [the local] Sakalava [dialect], which I speak with ease now. I know of no other way to make sure my students understand their lessons. And even then it may not get through to them, because they are unsure of what language to use when they take notes in class.
  • These competing accounts from Mme. Vezo and Mr. Victor exemplify the range of experiences of teachers trained at the end of Tsiranana's First Republic. Mme. Vezo represents a minority of eager teachers, since she not only excelled in her studies but adapted quickly to the language shift. In fact, when she later learned of Mr. Victor's trials, she responded as follows: “What? Oh my, no, what he says isn't altogether true. We were in school together and, you know, we all had to study Malagasy as part of the required university curriculum at that time. Perhaps it (p.43) wasn't exactly the same as what we use now, but if he can't speak official Malagasy, well, then, he should have worked harder at his studies!” The struggle described by Mr. Victor nevertheless reflects the extreme difficulties encountered by the majority of teachers posted to unfamiliar coastal communities to fend for themselves without preparation or guidance. After all, although Mme. Vezo teaches history and geography in official Malagasy, she is also responsible for teaching it as a foreign language in a separate class period. Furthermore, since she is of Vezo descent and thus from the distant southwest, she is perceived by her students as being Sakalava (although other Vezo may not see her as such; see Astuti 1995). The problems Mr. Victor encounters in the classroom are far more typical: the majority of teachers I have known since 1987 have always lamented the resistance and even surprising levels of insubordination they encounter among students who typically refuse to engage in any dialogue that requires official Malagasy. Many instructors recount firsthand experiences from the early Ratsiraka years when tensions were especially pronounced. Several found themselves caught in the midst of schoolroom epidemics of spirit possession whose timing coincided with the first national examinations to be issued in official Malagasy rather than French, and the most direct targets of this anger were their instructors (Sharp 1990).

    Faith and the Politics of Language

    The development of official Malagasy has its own peculiar history, rooted in the larger history of religious education on the island. Although French, British, Portuguese, and Dutch attempts (and failures) to colonize and missionize the island date back several centuries,21 the arrival of the London Missionary Society (LMS) in 1820 in the central highland kingdom of Imerina is most relevant to tracing the development of Western-derived education. As P. M. Mutibwa explains, the willingness of the Merina to embrace British Protestantism (especially as opposed to French Catholicism) grew out of preexisting relationships with British technicians, whose skills as engineers and military men the Merina greatly admired (Mutibwa 1974, 165–66). The first highland LMS school was established during the reign of King Radama I (r. 1810–28) in late 1820 and targeted royal and then noble Merina children. In the following year, nine youths returned from England, where, as part of a treaty agreement, they had been sent to be schooled. Eyewitnesses registered shock during the public reading of a letter from Radama I to the LMS on this occasion, an event that did much to emphasize the power of the written word.22 Although initially the LMS encountered much resistance to and fear of education among the Merina, by September 1824, the missionaries could boast of twenty-two new schools, where 2,000 children were enrolled, all within a radius of thirty-two kilometers of Antananarivo. Schooling was primarily religious, concentrating on Bible translation, catechism, and the composition of Malagasy hymns (weekend sermons were held in English, French, and Malagasy). By 1826, much of the New Testament had been translated, as had a considerable portion of the Old. Language was nonetheless (p.44) a source of great contention: LMS missionaries struggled to master French, a language already spoken by Merina elites as a result of earlier contact with French traders and other professionals. The greatest ideological battles, however, centered on the alphabet itself, an issue that created factions within the LMS community. Even as English speakers, they could not agree on a phonetic system, since some insisted on Welsh orthography; and men of French and British descent likewise bickered. Radama I put an end to this by dictating that consonants would follow English pronunciation, the vowels French, a decision that encouraged additional debate within the LMS community back in England (Brown 1978, 152–60; Belrose-Huyghues 1974; Dandouau and Chapus 1952, 183–84; Mutibwa 1974, 21 f f.).

    In contrast to the welcome the LMS initially received in Imerina in 1820, the subsequent period marked by the reign of Queen Ranavalona I (r. 1828–61), the widow of and successor to Radama I, grew to be one of anti-European sentiment and isolation. This period is marked by purges of rival factions (the mother of Radama I, among others, was executed), missionaries (who were expelled from the island), and Christian converts (many of whom were thrown from cliffs). Schools remained open, but enrollment declined because of lack of support from the queen (Brown 1978, 167 f f.). In short, Ranavalona I is described by some historians as tyrannical and xenophobic, but in more recent reconstructions, she emerges as an early traditionalist and nationalist who refused to tolerate foreign occupation of her kingdom.23 The expulsion of LMS and other missionaries marked the end of British influence as a primary foreign force on the island. A handful of French traders (some were Catholic priests from Nosy Be in disguise) won the favor of the queen and, secretly, of her son (Heseltine 1971, 113–15). This paved the way, albeit very slowly, for French occupation of the highlands later in the century.

    Nevertheless, Catholic attempts to gain a firm hold in Imerina were mostly unsuccessful. When Radama II (r. 1861–63) succeeded his mother on the throne, Catholic missionaries from Nosy Be were among the first to arrive in the Merina kingdom to congratulate him (La Vaissière 1884, 1: 230–40). They remained, however, far less influential than Protestants throughout much of the second half of the nineteenth century, for the latter had already won converts among royals and elites, a hold that survived even through the isolationist period of Queen Ranavalona I. Protestantism became even more firmly entrenched in the highlands when Queen Ranavalona II (r. 1868–83) declared it the state religion of Imerina (and thus of the island) in 1869. The French read this as a solid rejection of their own religious influence (Heseltine 1971, 11; Mutibwa 1974, 54–57, 164–80). As a result, French Catholic activity became more firmly rooted among more peripheral people of slave descent (HP: andevo) in Imerina (cf. Bloch 1994), in the southern highlands among the Betsileo, and along the coast. As Covell explains, throughout the colonial period the Catholic Church's position remained ambivalent. Most colonial administrators favored a secular orientation and were suspicious of religious activities, even though Catholic clerics were generally French (Covell 1995, 53–54).

    (p.45) Mission groups have continued to battle with one another for territory and souls, and today the divisions outlined above remain firmly entrenched throughout much of the island, delineated along geographic, ethnic, and even class or former caste lines. Official agreements have been drawn up repeatedly under a series of Merina, French, and Malagasy administrations that designate religious boundaries (see Rabenoro 1986, 100–101). Such territorial and ecumenical wars have also shaped the construction of Malagasy as a written and spoken language and, in turn, the form education has assumed. Thus, the history of official Malagasy must be traced alongside a religious and, ultimately, a colonial one and set against highland and coastal perceptions. An early trend that continues to be relevant today is that Catholics and Protestants rely on different translations of the Bible (cf. Rafael 1992). Today in the north, Catholic priests and nuns are usually of Sakalava origin or, if they are European, they speak Sakalava fluently. The majority of Protestant ministers, on the other hand, are from the highlands and thus they remind their congregations of their origins linguistically each time they publicly address a group. Given that Merina territory has remained a stronghold of Protestant activity, official Malagasy's bureaucratic origins must be understood as being rooted in early LMS activities, efforts that then launched the subsequent Merinization of a pan-Malagasy lingua franca. Such Merina hegemony was even further secured by the fact that by the 1870s, the LMS and Quakers were responsible for training a literate Merina elite, who sat poised to assume civil service positions (Gow 1979, 136–39).

    Thus, education in Madagascar is framed by this history of Christianity's expansion, where the most pronounced rift is defined by coastal/highland and Catholic/Protestant divisions. If we turn to the Catholic coast, we find different sets of circumstances dictating the trajectories of language and education than existed in Imerina. Significant to coastal developments are early ecumenical agreements that divided the island into Catholic and Protestant spheres. Whereas the Merina state embraced British Protestantism, by the mid nineteenth century, French Jesuits were well established on the coast, especially in such regions as the northern Sakalava territory of Nosy Be; this offshore island had become an active plantation zone and port for the French by the early nineteenth century and a French protectorate in 1840–41, following an agreement with the young Sakalava24 Queen Tsiomeko, who feared a Merina invasion, after she had failed to secure arms from Sultan Seyid Said of Zanzibar (Brown 1978, 177; Rajemisa-Raolison 1966, 360; Stratton 1964, 113).25 By the 1850s, Nosy Be was without question a center of French Catholic activities, with small chapels established throughout this and on smaller offshore islands. Islam, nevertheless, presented a significant barrier to missionization, since the northwest had recently become a stronghold of Islamic activity, affected in part by its commerce with Muslims on the island of Mayotte in the Comoros. Here French Catholics had less success than they did on the island of Sainte Marie off the northeast coast. By 1860, Catholics were negotiating with the northern sovereigns for rights to expand missionizing activities. Soon a small contingent (p.46) of priests and nuns established a small mission on the sacred royal Sakakava island of Nosy Faly (La Vaissière 1884, 1: 315–17).

    The earliest coastal European schools were shaped by a French Catholic trajectory, one that was wholly conscious of British Protestant efforts in Imerina. As Father de la Vaissière's personal account reveals, Catholic education on Nosy Be began in the 1840s and required overcoming several linguistic hurdles. First was the need to develop a dictionary and grammar suitable for use in the north. This inevitably involved integrating the work of Pierre Dalmond 1840, n.d.), who had studied Sakalava, along with efforts to translate existing English texts into French. This lack of materials necessitated sending the first contingent of students from Nosy Be to Bourbon (Mauritius) (La Vaissière 1884, 1: 93 ff.).

    These initial efforts—both missionizing and pedagogical—were limited, however, and in the northwest, Catholics were unable to penetrate the interior of the Bemazava-Sakalava kingdom, located in the Sambirano on the main island, until French armies established a military post and began to clear this valley for plantations at the end of the nineteenth century. The first Catholic baptism was performed in Ambanja in 1921, and the stately rose-colored cathedral was completed in 1936. As La Vaissière 1884, 1: 299–302) explains, it was French schooling that would provide the key to undermining Islam and winning Catholic converts, particularly by targeting Sakalava children. His prediction eventually proved true: as described in chapter 4, royal Sakalava children were schooled at the mission school and among them was the future King Tsiaraso Victor III (r. 1966–93). As a result, by the mid twentieth century, a strong local alliance was formed between the Catholic Mission and Sakalava royalty of the Sambirano, even though the majority of royalty here, on Nosy Be, and in Antankaraña territory to the north remained Muslim.

    Today, the Catholic Mission in Ambanja is a large complex, housing a private academy and seminary, a productive printing shop and, most recently, an impressive hospital, which includes surgical and dentistry services, as well as a leprosy out-patient service. In contrast, when I first arrived in Ambanja in 1987, the relatively new Lutheran Mission was small and unimpressive, the Lutheran Church only having been allowed, by virtue of an islandwide ecumenical agreement, to establish missions in the north a few years before. Although the Lutheran Church has never done well in Ambanja, it flourishes to the north in the provincial capital of Diégo-Suarez, where there is a much larger contingent of laborers from the south and educated highlanders, who together make up the vast majority of Lutherans nationwide.26 Save for two small, part-time Islamic schools, the Catholic Academy is the only full-time religious educational institution in Ambanja. It is also, without question, the best.

    The force of French conquest provided the impetus for subsequent missionary activities, and their religious and educational services have often been shaped by typically French values. Conquest began with the military occupation of Antananarivo by General Duchesne in 1895 (Kent 1962, 58–59); the following year, the island (p.47) was declared a colony of France. Armies quickly fanned out throughout the island as part of the colonial pacification process. With the establishment of the Merina city of Antananarivo as the new French colonial capital, Merina linguistic hegemony was rendered secure. Throughout the colonial period, one finds documents recorded in French as well as in a standardized form of Merina that is rooted in the LMS translation and alphabetization campaign. Archived petitions to the colonial state signed by coastal Sakalava rulers, for example, are written neither in French nor in Sakalava, but in Merina. Other written evidence similarly makes it clear that both French and Merina were considered appropriate bureaucratic languages even along the northwest coast. A reporter's transcriptions of interrogations might lapse into Merina regardless of whether the parties were speaking Sakalava. Thus, romanized Merina was already the standard.

    A Linguistic Revolution

    This religious and educational history is key to more recent developments within the independent state, since language remains central to national ideology. In the 1970s, malagasization emerged as an important thrust of Ratsiraka's reforms in the educational sphere, forming the third arm, as it were, of a tripartite system (he identified the other two as democratization and decentralization). In Ratsiraka's words, the malagasization of education was deemed essential to the “the imperatives of the Revolution [which include] building a state that is [both] socialist and truly Malagasy.”27 Ratsiraka recognized the difficulty of this task, stressing that a newly formulated language must recognize Malagasy as the ancestral tongue of all of the island's inhabitants while also acknowledging the effects French had had on the way Malagasy was currently spoken. The process of malagasization was described as a simultaneous construction, reconstruction, and destruction of language, one that required codification, modernization, and enrichment by drawing from all dialects and incorporating useful technical and scientific knowledge of foreign origin. A nation that saw itself as francophone was one that succumbed to paternalism; true bilingualism, however, could be a powerful tool of liberation (Ratsiraka 1975, 85). For the next fifteen years, French would take a back position in state education, yet in fact the majority of the nation's children were fluent neither in official Malagasy nor in French.

    Malagasy people of different origins have persistently understood official Malagasy in a variety of ways, because its goals and the realities are so different. As one exasperated civil servant from Antananarivo exclaimed, “[Contrary to what others tell you] it is not Merina at all! Many terms may sound Merina, but they actually bear meanings from elsewhere—a word can have one meaning if you're speaking Merina, but in official Malagasy, it could easily be Antandroy [from the far south]. You have to think carefully about the language. It's very complicated, you know. You really see this in the technical language that was developed for the sciences—it can make your head spin, it's very complex!” In contrast, (p.48) coastal sentiments occupy another extreme. Mme. Vezo provided this precise explanation: “[I]t's beautiful what they tried to do—the idea was to give equal shares to all Malagasy dialects. What's so sad is that it's really about 80 percent high plateaux and only 20 percent coastal, and the coastal part must represent many more dialects than the highland part.” Mme. Vezo's sorrow was shared by the principal of one of Ambanja's larger primary schools, a man who is now in his late fifties and who was trained as a teacher under the French: “I was among those who fought for the idea of official Malagasy. It was a wonderful plan. But look—it resembles Merina far too much. And, so, you know, this is where we failed in our mission. But it didn't have to be so.” It is therefore hardly surprising that when the interim government announced its plan to replace French with Malagasy in secondary schools in the early 1970s, there were anti-Merina riots in a number of coastal cities, and many Merina fled to the highlands (Covell 1995, 134–35). In the opinion of many informants, official Malagasy's inability to unite Malagasy linguistically, and, thus, ideologically, was among the revolution's greatest failures.

    Schooling and Scarcity

    Malagasization also mandated structural reforms designed to fill the needs of rural schoolchildren. The failure of these measures, too, ultimately undermined the initial faith that Malagasy had in Ratsiraka's educational proposals. Although funds were funneled into construction projects from the late 1970s into the mid 1980s, many of these ultimately failed. In the northern province of Antsiranana, in which Ambanja lies, numerous schools were shut down and abandoned only a few years after being built. In some instances, this was because of faulty and, ultimately, dangerous construction practices. Several schools I visited had collapsed internally, although their concrete exteriors looked deceptively smooth and strong; corrupt construction companies had saved money by packing sand behind thin walls, and even beneath second- and third-story floors. In many other cases, schools closed simply because the state decided to cancel teachers' assignments in small or remote communities, once again leaving rural children with no access to schooling. In Ambanja, no problem is noted more often than the total absence (not shortage) of curricular materials. If, in 1987, one wandered from bookshop to bookseller in Antananarivo, one could often find a variety of secondary and postsecondary materials for sale, albeit often at prices beyond what students and even instructors could pay. In the north, however, such supplies simply did not exist. Furthermore, no informants who attended public school had ever had the financial means or the social networks that would have enabled them to acquire school texts, maps, or workbooks (had they known where to locate them). In an isolated nation plagued by shortages of all sorts of essential items—including chalk, erasers, ink, paper, pencils, maps, and soccer balls—it is hardly surprising that schoolbooks would similarly be rare commodities.28

    (p.49) Teachers therefore had to be not only clever but enterprising, which unfortunately was true of only the most devoted. On their meager salaries, all were so demoralized—and poor—that they felt driven to put their greatest efforts into daily survival, be it by supplemental farming or petty trade. All teachers made use of old college notes recorded at a time when they had no idea how valuable they would later become. Only a few books existed in town that could serve in any way as reference materials for local instructors, so that textbooks were among the most cherished of all commodities in town. When a philanthropic organization from Réunion donated outdated history and science books to Ambanja's schools, these quickly vanished, sold by corrupt state employees to itinerant booksellers. When such underhanded dealings became known, lycée and, soon, middle school students went on strike for weeks at a time until at least some texts were recovered and returned to local schoolrooms.

    Many parents are currently at a loss to understand their children's experiences in school, since they themselves completed only perhaps a few years at the primary level before returning home to assist their parents in their fields. Thus, it is the town's educated elders who comprehend most intensely the painful shortfalls of Ratsiraka's failed educational experiment. Mr. Pascal, who has watched eight of his children pass through local schools, expressed the depth of his frustration one afternoon. A lively intellectual now in his sixties, he was identified at a young age as a gifted student. During the colonial era, he was trained first as a scribe, then as a teacher, and, as a young adult, he was sent to France and, later, to Israel to study law and economics. For many years, he has held the coveted job of personal secretary to the founder and sons of one of the island's oldest private and foreign-owned plantations. He also practices law on the side. Today, in his limited spare time, he can sometimes be found sitting quietly at home in an armchair or at his desk reading from volumes of French literature, philosophy, or in economics or political science. The day we had the following conversation, I had spotted him on his porch, deeply involved in a book entitled Les Français de Ravensbrück. Despite his high level of education, he finds he is often unable to assist his own children in their studies:

    In 1972 we formed a parent-children's association and demonstrated against the idea of malgachisation in Diégo. Really! We made a great deal of trouble! There were quite a few of us who were dead set against this idea. [But it triumphed] and look what has happened: my children have had to study everything including such things as math in Malagasy! And I can't help them with their homework. Why? Because I don't understand all of these terms they've made up to explain technical things. [Slapping his hand repeatedly on the chair arm for emphasis:] We have sacrificed our children! An entire generation, massacred! And now what? Well, we're going to have to wait—our only hope lies in a generation from now.

    … When one has kids one is obliged to understand what happens with them in school. We had problems before with the changes [in the 1970s]—we changed all the (p.50) priorities of teaching. And now we're doing it again! That means that teachers don't understand how to go forward with their work, with these internal changes, or how to adopt to these changes and how to help our children. This is what rests at the bottom of all our problems now. … And now [we have new problems]. My oldest daughter, she is at the university in Antananarivo right now. She is having terrible problems! She cries when she talks to me about how she is learning, all of this TV teaching [where lessons are broadcast on monitors]. This isn't enough—you can't ask any questions. This is the robotisation of education—it is so very, very sad. The bastardization of education, I tell you—changes, always, always, always these changes. My youngest child, she's six, and she loves to learn—she's just like my oldest. Already in school the teachers show no interest in her abilities. So I've told all my kids, “Hands off !—she's my domain.” I don't want them to destroy her love of learning. Only my oldest daughter is allowed to teach her, because she was the same way, they are so much alike. Schooling in Madagascar?—it is a travesty.

    Sacrifice and Perpetual School Failure

    Mr. Pascal was among the first to alert me to the complex tragedies of the sacrificed generation. As he asserts, these pedagogical reforms are now perceived as having devastated an entire era of learning in this nation, to the extent that it wreaked havoc on the lives of all whom it touched. One of the most striking trends to emerge in the course of this study is that informants did not necessarily agree on who actually made up the sacrificed generation. All those who had lived through malagasization potentially perceived themselves as being its victims. An especially embittered thirty-three-year-old young woman from Nosy Be named Fleur explained:

    You know, drakô [my friend], I'm always hearing you ask others, “Who do you think belongs to the sacrificed generation?” Well, I'll tell you who: we are, it's our generation that was sacrificed. Because amid all of this, we are the ones who went through the schools, got the good marks, only to find no employment in the end. You want to know what is truly the greatest problem of this nation of ours? It's the unemployment, drakô, that's what has truly devastated us. These children you're now studying, well, they are simply the second wave of that devastation.

    The majority of informants concurred, however, that it was those children who were schooled during the late 1980s and early 1990s who endured the greatest tragedies, because their academic careers exclusively spanned the years of the Second Republic, and they knew no other reality. More specifically, this category best encompassed students enrolled in state-run schools whose ages ranged between fifteen and twenty-four, the younger end representing those who had excelled in their studies, whereas older students were those who had repeated one or several years of schooling but who, nevertheless, had persevered throughout and thus made it to the terminale, or final year of lycée.

    (p.51) Past Sacrifices

    Memory and the Power of History

    In order to comprehend the significance of Ratsiraka's educational experiment as it was lived, and is now imagined and remembered, entails deciphering indigenous meanings of sacrifice. The concept of “the sacrificed generation” was, in fact, never expressed to me in Malagasy, but always in French; and although I often asked for a Malagasy version, the only responses I ever received were clumsy, impromptu attempts at translation. The concept of sacrifice is understood as a pervasive and complicated one throughout Madagascar, with its own particular meanings in the northwest. Each localized context generates a set of collective memories that shape the interpretation of ritualized sacrificial forms. As such, sacrifice, as ritualized historical memory, is often highly politically charged (Apter 1992, 1993; Bloch 1986, 1989; Ellis 1985; Kramer 1993).

    Thus, in order to understand sacrifice as a historicized ideological construct in Madagascar, we must first consider the intertwining of memory and historical event. More specifically, how are stories (re)told? In what contexts and through which media? To answer these questions first necessitates understanding the Malagasy term taloha.29 Roughly translated as “the past,” it can refer to any action, event, or deed that precedes others. Thus, one might use this word to express, for example, that “although I now live in Ambanja, before [taloha] I grew up in Antananarivo”; or, “I am now a school principal; formerly [taloha] I led the simple life of a peasant.” As used here, taloha implies transition, change, and contrast. In a more powerful sense, taloha operates as a referent to a time of long ago, of past experiences recorded and preserved through the memories of elders, and, as is often the case, transmitted orally over many generations. Thus, an important journal for historical studies in Madagascar bears the title Taloha (published by the Institut des Civilisations at the Musée d'Art et d'Archéologie in Antananarivo). So named, it conveys a sense of tradition, or its role in preserving the memory of Malagasy traditions (fombagasy “Malagasy customs,” or fombandrazana, “ancestral customs”). For Sakalava, this more deeply nuanced sense of taloha embodies not only written and oral memories of the colonial era but, more important, the deeds of precolonial sovereigns (ampanjakabe), including those who founded the local Sambirano's Bemazava-Sakalava dynasty in 1820, as well as the early Maroseranana dynasty of the far south, for whom knowledge (oral, written, and archeological) extends as far back as the sixteenth century (Kent 1968).

    The storytelling media that reference the past are vast. In addition to school lessons, spirit possession ceremonies and royal dances convey official versions of highly localized royal history. Furthermore, many young adults recall with great nostalgia spending evenings huddled around elderly grandparents who would tell bedtime stories that perhaps focused on the meanings of particular proverbs, or folk or historical tales (tantara) of rulers and their customs (fomba) (Paes et al. 1991; Gueunier n.d.; for the Merina, see Callet 1974), as well as of events drawn from their (p.52) own lives as conquered subjects, including their early memories of the arrival of the French, or as conscripted soldiers during the two great wars in Europe. As will become clear in part 3, these tales supply a rich repertoire of meanings through which youth ultimately sense the power of history and its relevance in defining what it means to be Sakalava, Malagasy, and African today.

    Contextualizing Sacrifice

    As a medium for ritualized gesture and action, the sacrificial act ultimately encapsulates a distant past, recording ancestral events in codified form. Thus, sacrifice is historically referential, reiterating in liturgical form the significance of the past. It also lends itself to the (re)formulation of what is valued in the present; as Andrew Apter 1992 has argued in the case of the Yoruba, it may even contest, and therefore supply counterhegemonic commentaries on, established orders. Because of their power to define reality and legitimate authority, ritual forms and their associated regalia regularly undergo transformation. In other instances, they are deliberately co-opted in various attempts to usurp their associated power.

    A clear example of the appropriation of ritual form in northwest Madagascar is the joro, a collective ceremonial request or giving of thanks for ancestral blessing through the sacrifice of a bull.30 The joro is a pan-Malagasy practice. In northern Sakalava territory, the bull is most often offered as a gift to benevolent royal spirits (tromba) who serve as collective ancestors (razaña). Thus, typically, a joro is stagedat important royal ceremonies, including the circumcisions of male royalty and the various stages of a new ruler's instatement. During the latter, subjects confirm their loyalty through the sacrificial act of giving valuable beasts as gifts to the ruler; he or she in turn then sacrifices these animals, feeding ancestors and royal subjects alike with their blood and flesh. Many royal subjects flock to these events from diverse regions of the kingdom to publicly proclaim their devotion. As we shall see in chapter 4, the difficulty of expressing and sustaining devotion, love, and service to rulers is what makes this relationship so dear. Such royal events thus expose the paradoxical nature of contemporary secular readings of sacrifice when citizens are required to subject themselves to the nation-state. Coastal students' readings of the ancestral land (tanindrazana)31 only further underscore this dilemma, a topic that concludes this chapter.

    The symbolics of the joro are significant nationally, since this ceremonial form has been neatly incorporated into state rituals. During the Second Republic, the joro was practiced as a means to sanctify the nation as a collectively defined tanin-drazana—that is, as one belonging to all Malagasy. This occurred especially in contexts relevant to the economic development of Madagascar: the fences surrounding newly erected factories often bore the magnificently horned skulls of sacrificed zebu cattle, a sight one would often see not only in the capital of Antananarivo but in various locations throughout the Sambirano. In the valley, state-sponsored joro were staged at the opening of a new coffee factory and the expansion of a new (p.53) plantation warehouse. As described elsewhere, malagasization as a political movement mandated the honoring of local ancestors and ritual practices as central to state activities in the Sambirano and its neighboring waters (Sharp 1993, 165–70; Sharp 1999). The notion of the island as a unified tanindrazana (rather than a collective of many regional ancestral lands) is yet another significant theme that reveals how the Malagasy state was imagined during the Second Republic. The presence of bovine skulls on fences and walls long after joro had occurred communicated the long-term blessing of a host of local ancestors, now reimagined as national ones (cf. Beard 1994).

    Personal and collective sacrifices assert themselves as well in the daily world of the living, serving as potent reminders of a treacherous past, memories shaped by the onslaught of Merina conquest that preceded French occupation. The possession ceremonies of a specific category of Sakalava tromba spirits commemorate the self-sacrifice of royalty who willingly drowned themselves in the Loza River32 when faced with Merina conquest. These memories are embodied in the dress, gestures, and words of mediums during possession episodes. They also surface repeatedly in daily life, because their spirit mediums must forever refuse to eat the very fish that fed upon their royal corpses. Other prohibitions that perpetuate the separation of coastal Sakalava from highland Merina insist that Merina may not attend these spirits' ceremonies, that it is forbidden to speak the Merina dialect in their presence, and even that people of Merina descent may not come into physical contact with unpossessed mediums, out of fear of the wrath of angered spirits (see Sharp 1993, 185–87).

    Sakalava, as they recall their own past through such ritualized forms of historical narrative, repeatedly stress the theme of sacrifice, a ritual gesture that reflects that the most pronounced forms of love and devotion are reserved for royalty. Bemazava-Sakalava speak with pride of their ability to thwart Merina hegemony in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They also lament the decision of the neighboring Bemihisatra-Sakalava kingdom of Nosy Be to form an alliance with France in 1840 to stave off the Merina. Such accounts underscore the anger and frustration associated with replacing one conqueror with yet another, particularly since, for over a century, the French had considered the Sambirano an impenetrable territory guarded by fierce warriors. Thus, the Sambirano's inhabitants assert their own unique history of resistance, a theme that will be pursued in detail throughout part 3.

    Resistance and sacrifice are similarly paired in accounts of early nationalist movements. Four in particular receive the greatest attention in historical texts and school lessons. One is the early uprising of the Menalamba (“Red Shawls,” or burial shrouds) against both British and French invaders during the 1890s (Ellis 1985; Rasoanasy 1976). Another is the VVS secret society, formed in 1912 by medical students and journalists, who were arrested and sentenced to long-term or life imprisonment, or deported (Bunge 1983, 2; Covell 1995, 251–52). Jean Ralaimongo's attempts to establish a communist party in the 1930s constitute the third (p.54) (Randrianja 1990). Finally, there is the 1947 insurrection, a time when perhaps 100,000 Malagasy died and many others hid in fear for their lives.33 Colonial records from the north are thick with descriptions of incarcerations, interrogations, and spying in paranoiac response to these movements. Through these and other more quotidian events, coastal school youth link their own sacrifices to those of past Malagasy nationalists.

    Reconfiguring the Nation

    What, then, is meant by independence in Madagascar? Further, how significant are school youth to shaping this nation's trajectory? Postcolonial survival is plagued by paradoxes, where contemporary citizens must bear the weight of colonialism's legacy. Nowhere is this more evident in Madagascar than in the nationalist rhetoric that draws simultaneously on indigenous notions of power and French republicanism, configuring the state both as the collective tanindrazana (ancestral land) of its people and a contemporary république. This perplexing hybridity is manifest as well in formal displays of power, such as the Independence Day celebrations staged annually throughout the island. As we shall see, children figure especially prominently in such contexts, since it is they who collectively embody the future of the nation.

    A Shadow Upon the Land

    Collective identity in Ambanja is firmly rooted in highly localized and historicized readings of the homeland, as embodied more specifically in the term tanindrazana, or “ancestral land.”34 As students reflect upon this term, they inevitably sift through Sakalava encounters with Imerina, colonial France, and now the independent state of Madagascar. The meaning of this term is inherently complex, because it must draw from such a wide variety of historical references. Throughout Madagascar, individual identity is conveyed through this term. For example, if one wishes to identify another's ethnicity (karazana) one asks, “Where is your ancestral land?” (HP: “Aiza ny tanindrazanao?”). The answer necessitates that the speaker assert his or her rootedness to a particular region, community, kin group, and tomb (see Bloch 1971). Thus, for the state—be it colonial or independent—to speak of itself as a collective tanindrazana is a radical move, for it implies several things. First, that the island as a whole is the homeland of all Malagasy speakers. Second, that in making such a claim, the state is not unlike a ruler (ampanjakabe) who embodies the collective power of the ancestors (razana) and the government (fanjakana) of the people. As the overseer of the lives of its subjects, the state, like a ruler, emerges simultaneously as a protective and exploitative force.

    The central concept of tanindrazana has remained intact throughout the numerous permutations of Madagascar's national slogan. Under President Tsiranana's First Republic, the ethos of the nation was embodied in the slogan (p.55) “Tanindrazana—Fahafahana—Fandrosoana” (“Ancestral Land, Liberty, and Progress”). Under President Ratsiraka's Second Republic, a new slogan reflected the transformation of the state: the nation now celebrated “Tanindrazana—Tolompiavotana—Fahafahana” (“Ancestral Land, Revolution, and Liberty”). Under Zafy's Third Republic, it experienced yet another transformation, becoming “Tanindrazana—Fahafahana—Fahamarinana” (“Ancestral Land, Liberty, and Justice”). Following his reelection in 1996, Ratsiraka reverted to Tsiranana's original “Tanindrazana—Fahafahana—Fandrosoana.”35 In each version, tanindrazana is primary and linked to fahafanana, liberty, but the relationship between these two ideals varies radically; they are shaped in turn by progress, by revolution, and by justice, and then by progress again.

    Another irony is how the independent state of Madagascar is reimagined in reference to France. Efforts to define the nation inevitably draw upon the language of the French Revolution as it asserts its own unique identity, for the national slogan has been consistently reworked in mimetic fashion as a reformation of France's own “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.” The inherent paradox is that Madagascar's liberty must inevitably be framed historically and rhetorically in reference to its colonizer. Further, this island's model of a republic is, ultimately, confined to French one.36 As M. Esoavelomandroso (1990) has argued, this paradox is hardly new, for by the 1860s royal and other elite Merina struggled with how to conceive of France as simultaneously an advocate of the rights of man and a colonizing nation. Such rhetoric inevitably shapes the imagining of the homeland: for just as France places much value on the concept of the patrie or pays maternelle,37 the concept similarly resurfaces in the constantly reworked Malagasy imagining of the tanindrazana.

    The referential quality of the nationalist agenda is similarly evident in the manner in which Madagascar conceives of historical periods as republics, a theme remarked upon as well by Jacques Tronchon (1990). On September 28, 1958, France adopted the constitution of the Fifth Republic under Charles de Gaulle, and on that same day Malagasy considered a referendum that determined their own future as a nation. The vote transformed the colony into a self-governing republic within the French Community, the Malagasy Republic, or République Malgache. Two days later, Tsiranana was elected as the first president by the newly formed National Assembly, and June 26, 1960, marks the colony's official date of independence (Bunge 1983, 24; Paillard 1979, 301). Like postrevolutionary France, Madagascar has, to date, passed through its respective First, Second, Third, and Fourth republics.38 The shadow of the French mode of historicizing is further evident in the common practice of referring to the past (especially Tsiranana's First Republic) as the ancien régime, as the French call their own prerevolutionary history.

    The 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1789 (it was also just shy of the 100th anniversary of the French conquest of Madagascar in 1895–96) was marked by a conference in Madagascar that addressed the relevance of French ideology in shaping Malagasy constructions of revolution, the republic, and the state. As the papers by Manassé Esoavelomandroso, Guy Jacob, Françoise (p.56)

    Youth and the Colonized Mind

    Figure 2. Didier Ratsiraka in presidential regalia. From Ratsiraka 1975, frontispiece.

    Raison-Jourde, Jeannine Rambeloson-Rapiera, Yvette Sylla, Jacques Tronchon, and Claude Wanquet in Ravao ny “La Bastille”: Regards sur Madagascar et la Révolution française (Jacob 1990) underscore, throughout the nineteenth century, the French Revolution was a popular topic of discussion among educated Malagasy, French, and British inhabitants of the island. Tronchon (1990) in turn argues that the ideals of French republicanism were planted in Madagascar as early as 1789 (and have been sustained well beyond independence). The French struggled to construct a portrait of an indigenous Malagasy character in reference to Enlightenment ideals, one whose racist overtones ultimately challenged their own charter on the International Rights of Man. Another source of tension involved definitions of a civilized versus a romanticized primitive man (Rousseau 1992) where firsthand experience with the vibrant kingdom of Imerina proved particularly perplexing. As Rambeloson-Rapiera, writing of the colonial French, reminds us, “Observing the other always leads one to examine oneself.”39 One might argue the same of the Malagasy, who, in confronting the image of the colonizer are continually forced to take a careful look at themselves.

    Formal presidential portraits illustrate this. During the Second Republic, Ratsiraka is generally pictured wearing a European-style military tuxedo, with a colorful (p.57)

    Youth and the Colonized Mind

    Figure 3. Merina King Radama II (r. 1861–1863). From Jacob 1990, pl. 4, between 112–13.

    sash, a five-crested star on his chest, and an elaborate chain-link necklace, all emblematic of state authority (fig. 2). His dress is reminiscent not only of nineteenth-century French military uniforms of the sort worn by Napoléon III (r. 1852–71) but of the attire of the Merina King Radama II (r. 1861–63) (fig. 3). Ratsiraka thus embodies the images of both the imperial French military state and precolonial Merina royal power.40 This contrasts with the simplicity of dress considered emblematic of Zafy Albert, who has often been photographed wearing a simple suit and a peasant-style hat.

    What, then, are we to make of the self-referential quality of the nation as embodied by the president, where the state displays its power through symbols appropriated from the symbolic repertoire of the conqueror? Madagascar clearly struggles with the weight of its colonial legacy, where symbolic and rhetorical inspiration are drawn predominantly from French writers and theorists. As such, French intellectual history becomes the history of Malagasy intellectuals, too (cf. Domenichini 1990, Raison-Jourde 1990, Tronchon 1990). This is one of the traps of postcolonial survival. It is also a foundation that must be acknowledged in the search for meaning in discussions among youth and their participation in more general public displays that commemorate independence on this African island.

    (p.58) Staging Autonomy and National Unity

    “[Only] the ocean divides my rice paddies” (“Ny ranomasina no valam-parihako”), proclaimed the Merina monarch Andrianampoinimerina (r. 1787–1810), who conceived of the entire island as his royal domain (K. Raharijaona, personal communication, November 1996; cf. Rajemisa-Raolison 1966, 57). Under this ruler, Malagasy would be united in the Merina state by force, regardless of territorial or ethnic affiliation.41 Northern Sakalava were among the few non-Merina peoples who successfully resisted the onslaught of Merina armies. The Sakalava, as state builders in their own right, still figure prominently in the histories of other peoples who in turn resisted their hegemony (Astuti 1995; Wilson 1992). As the preserved tales of drowned Sakalava ancestors reveal, localized Sakalava memories contradict nationalist readings that idealize unification. For Sakalava, unification (be it under the Merina, French, or the independent nation) tarnishes a now distant period of their own precolonial splendor.42

    Unfortunately, Madagascar's history is far too frequently written as that of Imerina, regardless of whether the intended audience is Malagasy schoolchildren or foreign scholars. Relatively little has been written about the Sambirano Valley, and so, throughout 1987, I invested considerable time in reconstructing a local past through oral historical accounts, since little had been written about northern Madagascar (Sharp 1993, 144 ff. see also Dandouau and Chapus 1952, 19–34; Verin 1986). Malagasization in many coastal schools has, from a local perspective, simply transformed the history of conquest from the French (“our ancestors the Gauls”) to the Merina (“the descendants of Imerina”).43 It is no wonder, then, that Ambanja's teachers struggle to reconstruct a Malagasy history in national terms, simultaneously engaging in linguistic battles with students who view official Malagasy as simply a poorly disguised rendering of the dominant Merina dialect.

    Ritualized state performances offer contexts where tensions over autonomy and the nation's precarious unity are manifest. Among the most striking examples are those that celebrate Madagascar's Independence Day, June 26.44 In Ambanja, children figure prominently in these events. As a fleeting resident of Ambanja, I have witnessed these celebrations in four different years, the first in 1987 under Ratsiraka, the second during the transitional period in 1993, and in two subsequent years under Zafy in 1994 and 1995. As I shall show, the annual parade is particularly emblematic of the paradoxes of nationhood.

    Independence celebrations span a variety of events in Ambanja. Sometimes, for example, a grandstand is constructed in the town square, and for a week or more children (and sometimes, adults) from diverse regions perform regional songs and dances. More impressive, however, is a regular event that always occurs during the early evening of June 25. Once it is dark, young children congregate near the town's center, bearing delicate paper lanterns illuminated by candles. These children then form a silent procession that begins at the local county seat (fwondronana); moves down main street to the central market, pauses at city hall (firaisana), and, afterward, climbs the neighboring steep hillside to the mayor's residence, one originally (p.59) inhabited by the colonial governor. Seeking the blessings of local authorities, Ambanja's children map out the local stations of state power.

    On the morning of Independence Day on June 26, brigades of older schoolchildren now fill the streets. Organized by their individual schools, they goose-step through town, making their way to the region's largest annual event: a two-hour Independence Day parade that, in 1987, occurred on the grounds of the newly completed state-run Lycée Mixte Tsiaraso I,45 and, subsequently in 1993–95, before the grandstand of the town's large soccer field. Throughout this event, local dignitaries sit together on a shaded grandstand, safe from the oppressive midday heat and the great dust cloud created by a mass of shuffling feet. The day's events culminate in a lively soccer game and, sometimes, a biking competition whose participants race throughout the Sambirano Valley in an event reminiscent of the Tour de France. Later that evening, local discos, the Catholic Academy, royalty, and the city government host grand disco parties that end in the early morning hours of June 27.

    During all four years when I have been present, the basic format of the parade has been the same. Although there is a military presence, it is clear that this is very much a children's holiday. Like the evening before, youth dominate the parade and constitute the majority of the audience. The official opening of the event is announced with the raising of the Malagasy flag, often to the tune of a poorly recorded military march (in 1993, it was the Battle Hymn of the Republic). The procession is always led by local gendarmes who man the town's prison, their entrance signaled by the broadcasting of more music, played by a brass marching band, the same tune blaring loudly throughout. The gendarmes are followed by a small ragtag band of forestry employees of Rano sy Ala (the “Water and Forest” department), and then a small troop of Boy Scouts.

    Behind the military appear nearly a dozen brigades of schoolchildren, and among the most striking aspects of their style is that they, too, goose-step as they march (fig. 4). The rank and file of town youth simultaneously shrink in height and increase in number as students pass by, moving from the town's state-run lycée to the middle school and six urban and rural primary schools. Other contingents represent the private Catholic Academy and the exclusive French Elementary School. At times, too, there is a small assemblage from the Technical High School, which is located at the edge of town. The order of the high school students is reflective of the year: in 1987, the state-run lycée led the parade's students, presumably in celebration of its first anniversary; but by the 1990s, the Catholic Academy always appeared first, its students and teachers dressed neatly in matching uniforms made especially for the occasion, so that by comparison the poverty of the other schools was obvious. Parade membership and order also change according to the year and, thus, the republic: in 1987, labor groups from state-run plantations were heavily represented; and in some years a small band from the town's center for the disabled has joined the parade. By the mid 1990s, the workers' ranks had shrunk considerably, and they had fallen to the rear of the parade, while new interest groups had emerged, including several unlicensed remedial schools and a small Islamic school.

    (p.60) Every year a few soccer teams bring up the rear, along with kung-fu aficionados. The appearance in 1987 of one such kung-fu group, although small in number, was regarded as a bold move, because President Ratsiraka had only recently outlawed the sport in Antananarivo, perceiving it as a front for rival political parties seeking young supporters (Covell 1995, 54; Rajoelina 1988, 79–80). Everyone always eagerly awaits these clubs, whose members display a brief yet fabulous array of moves before the town's dignitaries. By 1994, kung-fu had become so popular that their appearance created a stampede, as many public viewers broke past measly police barriers to bolt en masse toward the grandstand to view them. The economic shifts of 1995 were manifest here as well: other more elite groups had emerged, including a handball club, which brought up the rear and, in the grandstand itself, a new chapter of the Lion's Club, which made its own dramatic entrance prior to the festivities, mounting the platform in unison, dressed in matching vests of vibrant yellow satin.46 By the end of the procession, several thousand people will have filed by the grandstand, the majority being children. Nearly an equal number stand by patiently along the sidelines to watch them in the oppressive heat beneath a cloudless sky. As such, the parade itself generates a lively display of the town's many factions of school youth, ranked by age, school affiliation, and religion.

    Such groupings, however, define simply one aspect of these processions. One need only watch the televised broadcasts of Bastille Day from France (as I did with friends in Ambanja in 1994, the year that a satellite antenna was installed in town) to realize that portions of Ambanja's Independence Day events mirror this celebration of French nationalism. On the surface, they emerge as blind parodies of French military strength, and, thus, an unselfconscious rendering of a supposedly defunct colonial presence. When I remarked on the similarities between Malagasy and French military marching styles,47 informants responded with an air of obvious yet unquestioning familiarity. Absent was any blatant challenge to French hegemonic symbols, and I nowhere saw any intentional public parodying of state power of the kind so beautifully described by Achille Mbembe 1992 in the case of Cameroon. In contrast, Faranirina Esoavelomandroso describes Malagasy peacetime reactions in 1908 as sarcastic and characterized by despair and shows that criticism was also fierce after World War II (F. Esoavelomandroso 1990, 149, 154–57).

    Were we to end the critique here, such celebrations in Ambanja would inevitably emerge as inherently weak displays of national independence. As I argue extensively elsewhere (Sharp 2001a), however, careful scrutiny of the colonial past uncovers yet other readings. If we step back a century, we find that early French celebrations of Bastille Day (July 14) in Antananarivo were themselves characterized by ambiguity. Briefly, the French themselves struggled to construct celebrations that could assert French hegemony in Imerina, appropriating symbolism associated with the most important indigenous event, the Fandroana, or Royal Bath, the annual renewal ceremony when subjects of Imerina proclaimed their allegiance to the ruler. The last Fandroana under the architect of the French conquest, Governor-General Joseph-Simon Gallieni (1886–1905), occurred in November 1896; the following (p.61)

    Youth and the Colonized Mind

    Figure 4. Independence Day parade in Ambanja.

    February, Gallieni abolished the Merina monarchy (Rajemisa-Raolison 1966, 126–27; Stratton 1964, 217 ff.), and Bastille Day was proclaimed the true “celebration of all freed people.”48 This displacement of the Royal Bath necessitated the merging of French and Merina celebratory forms.

    Among the most striking aspects of these events involved the widespread participation of children (again, see Sharp 2001a). For example, on the eve of the Fandroana in Antananarivo in the 1890s, one could witness a lit procession that included children. Among Malagasy, this procession signified life and the perpetuation of Merina lineages. There were also children's games, and dance and singing competitions between villages, again involving children. Some other practices characteristic of the Fandroana included public displays by warriors recently returned from royal expeditions, and groups of children imitated the military style of the marakely, or young soldiers who served under Queen Ranavalona II (r. 1868–83). The French then embellished upon children's involvement in the Merina context by including a range of sports events and games during the island's Bastille Day celebrations (Faranirina Esoavelomandroso 1990, 146, 151; cf. Rajemisa-Raolison 1966, 126–27). As advertised on a poster from Antananarivo, dated July 1909, these included children's foot and sack races, water games, and theater events (see Jacob 1990, pl. 8, between pp. 112–13).

    The mimetic quality (cf. Taussig 1993) of these displays of state power must, then, be understood as complexly malleable and multifaceted, allowing for readings (p.62) of cultural meaning on multiple layers. In this light, the Independence Day parade uncovers a rich ground for indigenous reflection. As Fritz Kramer 1993 stresses, appropriation is not so much about succumbing to or capturing the power of the other, but about drawing upon difference as a means to reflect on an indigenous ego. Furthermore, it is at those very moments where appropriation seems so very in appropriate that the power of such constant (re)mirroring is so startling. The more problematic forms associated with Independence Day ultimately underscore the fact that French and Malagasy alike were both actors and victims of appropriation, defining a dialectical layering of sorts, as one group's borrowing also served to squelch the legitimacy of its own predecessor. In essence, each year that children march in Ambanja's parade, they must inevitably conform to displays of power whose potency rests on layers of appropriated references to Merina, French, and nationalist hegemonic power. Nothing more clearly shows these contradictions than the red, white, and green bands of Madagascar's flag, the nation's most prominent symbol. The flag of the now defunct Imerina kingdom was red and white, and in October 1958, a green band was added as the “color of the côtiers” (Paillaird 1979, 302). In Ambanja, this embellishment only further underscores the sense that the coast was added onto a hybrid Merina-French empire.49

    Youthful Reflections

    The “colonial” is not looking for profit only; he is also greedy for certain other—psychological—satisfactions, and that is much more dangerous.

    OCTAVE MANNONI, Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization

    La Mentalité Colonisée

    Clearly, complex forms of appropriation uncover a rich ground for indigenous reflection on self and other. Frantz Fanon, a psychiatrist and revolutionary from Martinique, was one of the most important authors to explore this murky terrain. This political critic and visionary has experienced a recent revival among North American scholars, who draw from his work for theoretical inspiration. Four decades ago, however, his writings inspired political praxis on a global scale, including revolution in a host of quarters. In Madagascar, too, Fanon's ideas have generated careful critiques of colonial and international relations, even reaching students in Ambanja who are inspired by lectures delivered by a handful of articulate and politicized instructors. These students' astute remarks reflect both an acute understanding of the history of colonial relations and, in turn, of the transformations instituted by Ratsiraka. More specifically, Fanon's critiques of the exploitative nature of colonialism and neocolonialism offer a foundation for young informants' discussions of history and nationhood. As will become clear throughout this book, this level of awareness is especially pronounced among those schooled not simply during Ratsiraka's Second Republic but, more specifically, far more so among students (p.63) enrolled in state-run institutions than those from elite, well-equipped private schools. As Paulo Freire argues, education is an inherently political process (1985; cf. Ferro 1984). In northwest Madagascar, it is precisely the students the state schooled who developed the most sophisticated knowledge and language by which to critique past and current state-based hierarchies.

    Madagascar has been a significant site for explorations into the psychology of colonization, where the experience of the colonial subject is captured by the French expression “the colonized mind” (la mentalité colonisée). This phrase surfaced frequently in interviews I had with young and adult informants, and in archival writings by French colonial administrators. The potency of this phrase is evident when set more generally against colonial schooling in Africa, for its frequent use underscores a deeply entrenched preoccupation with mental capacity and ability in the colonies. As such, it is a phrase that is highly charged politically. Finally, it signifies an awareness that parallels or is directly inspired by the works of Fanon and other writers as they reflect on their colonial experiences in Africa and elsewhere (Césaire 1970; Fisher 1985; Memmi 1965; Ngugi 1986; Soyinka 1988).50

    During the colonial period, the French assumed that they were superior to all Malagasy. The island as a whole, however, presented a puzzling mosaic of peoples that mandated precise categorization and, ultimately, hierarchization. Nowhere was the need to explore the effects of la mentalité indigène (the “indigenous [Malagasy] mentality”) greater than in arenas framed by forms of political and economic organization. The French were most impressed with the highland Merina and Betsileo, the former for their state organization (represented by the kingdom of Imerina, centered in Antananarivo), the latter for their tiered rice paddy cultivation. Other groups (subsequently categorized and thus petrified by ethnic labeling) fell into lower ranks, where aspects of their culture were reduced to predictable behaviors. These categories were also frequently linked to a French privileging of the assumed Asian origins of highland peoples over the supposed more African Malagasy coastal populations; these, in turn, were codified according to French readings of social sophistication and economic value. The Tandroy pastoralists of the south were thus considered far more primitive than highland agriculturists, although valued for their willingness to work as wage laborers even when faced with the most backbreaking of tasks (Sharp 2001b). Against this backdrop, the Sambirano presented a complex case: the Sakalava impressed the French with their array of west coast kingdoms and their formidable legions of warriors, yet they were also a continual source of frustration in their refusal to labor for the foreign-owned plantations that dominated their local sacred territory. As a result, within two decades of conquest, the Sambirano became an important destination for laborers from the distant south and southeast, as it continues to be today (see Sharp 1993).

    Madagascar has provided the impetus for a number of critiques of the psychology of colonization, the most noteworthy authors being Mannoni (1990) and Bouillon 1981, who write respectively from the perspective of the colonial and postindependence periods. Mannoni is especially pertinent here. His work preceded (p.64) Fanon's and was later criticized by Fanon himself (see Maurice Bloch's foreword in Mannoni 1990, vii, and Fanon 1967, ch. 4). Writing in the wake of the 1947 insurrection in Madagascar, Mannoni, who was a psychiatrist like Fanon, argued that colonialism fostered a mutual dependency between the colonized and colonizer not unlike that between child and parent. Such dependence is particularly virulent in a political context, since it is perpetuated by the colonial encounter without fostering any sort of break or initiative on the part of the colonized subject. Mannoni argued that this “dependency complex” was inherent in the Malagasy psyche, and thus, whenever the colonizer attempted to withdraw and allow more freedom, the colonized would experience abandonment and might, potentially, retaliate (an interpretation that led to bizarre readings of why the 1947 insurrection occurred). Mannoni recognized this relationship as reciprocal, implicating the colonizer as well as the colonized. In fact, he expressed serious contempt for the Frenchman who was attracted to colonial service, regarding him as inferior or “mediocre” (1990, 24), a type of European whose psyche required that he dominate other races. Ultimately, the colonizer's downfall was his assumption of superiority.

    The French, too, thus suffered from the colonial relationship (ibid., 18). Mannoni thus intended his book as a mirror (ibid.) of sorts for colonial readers, although he realized only a few would embrace its arguments, the majority being blinded by their arrogance. As he stressed, intrinsic to the colonial relationship was the pairing of two seemingly symbiotic yet wholly different personality structures (ibid., 23). Whereas the colonizer, on the one hand, hungered to dominate others, the character flaw of the Malagasy was that he was caught in a perpetual state of infantile dependence (ibid., 48). Much of Mannoni's evidence was drawn from his own very limited experiences with Malagasy (primarily with his tennis coach!), and he misread the significance of the ancestral dead as yet another category of parental figure upon whom Malagasy were deeply dependent (ibid., 49 ff.). To illuminate his critique, Mannoni drew on the archetypal figures of Prospero and Caliban in Shakespeare's The Tempest. “When thou camest first / Thou strok'dst me, and mad'st much of me … / … and then I lov'd thee,” Caliban says to his master, and Mannoni added: “and then you abandoned me before I had time to become your equal. … In other words: you taught me to be dependent, and I was happy; then you betrayed me and plunged me into inferiority” (ibid., 76–77). Mannoni argued that such remorse and resentment over abandonment could quickly turn to anger (ibid., 137). In other words, as soon as the colonizer eased his grip on the colonized, he was faced with the potential threat of revolutionary violence, necessitating the tightening, rather than loosening, of controls.

    Mannoni's critique is certainly disturbingly flawed, particularly when viewed from the vantage point of the colonized. It stands in a glaring contrast to the better-known works of Fanon, whose concerns similarly focused on the psychology of colonization, especially in Algeria, where he served as a psychiatrist for both Algerian subjects and colonial officers. Fanon, too, argued that it was the oppressive nature of forced subordination that undermined the psyche of the colonized. He offers a far (p.65) more compelling critique than Mannoni, however, since he recognized that colonial brutality—be it physical or psychic—led some to assume the mask of the colonizer and then to turn such violence upon their own kind. Unlike Mannoni, Fanon also recognized that such brutality could also provide the impetus for insubordination and, ultimately, bloody revolution (Fanon 1963, 1967).

    Misguided though it is, Mannoni's work is valuable, because his racism rawly exposes the danger of his assumed liberal stance.51 Furthermore, his arguments repeatedly underscore how destructive this reciprocal relationship is to the colonizer. Although blind to his own deep-seated paternalism and racism, Mannoni was repulsed by the colonial drive to subjugate others, and he underscored the centrality of the mirroring of the self by the other in the context of the colonial encounter. As Mannoni himself stated, “The negro, then, is the white man's fear of himself” (1990, 200).

    A point on which both Mannoni and Fanon agree is that the colonial encounter is fraught with ambivalence and that it is inherently pathological for all parties (Fanon 1967, 83–84). Where they part company is in their reading of the origins of such pathology and in their interpretations of its aftermath. Mannoni assumes that dependency was inherent in the Malagasy (or, more generally, colonized) psyche; Fanon 1967, 85, 97) instead asks why we should assume that internalized inferiority predated colonialism. What sort of society makes an inferiority complex possible? Fanon also warns how dangerous it is to blindly assume that, in Mannoni's words, “France is unquestionably one of the least racialist-minded countries in the world” (quoted in Fanon 1967, 92). Here, Fanon stresses, Mannoni is making “a mistake that is at the very least dangerous. In effect, he leaves the Malagasy no choice save between inferiority and dependence. These two solutions excepted, there is no salvation” (ibid., 93). Furthermore, unlike Fanon, Mannoni evinces no grasp of the economic situation that creates inequality and racism and the accompanying fears and desires (see ibid., 88, and Fanon 1963).

    Both Fanon and Mannoni were trained as physicians, and both relied heavily on psychoanalytic readings to expose the more disturbing aspects of the colonial encounter. Each drew on personalized accounts from informants as they explored the psychology of colonial domination (Mannoni by offering examples of children's dreams, and Fanon through case studies of “reactionary psychoses” among his Algerian patients). Although in my opinion neither presents a particularly compelling critique of their respective informants' fears, Fanon was certainly far more keenly aware of the raw and twisted nature of colonial violence (cf. Mannoni 1990, 89–93, and Fanon 1963, 249 ff.). Fanon, like Mannoni, reveals a dark irony: that the tortured and the torturer both suffer from their encounters with one another (Fanon 1963, 264–70). Furthermore, as we shall see, it is not only the colonizer who inspires terror, but also a particular kind of foreign soldier: in the case of the French colonial empire, these were most often Senegalese conscripts forced to do the dirty work of the French on foreign soil (Fanon 1963, 267–70, case no. 5).52

    Children's experiences expose the degradation colonialism inflicts on human beings in the writings of both Fanon and Mannoni. Fanon describes, for example, (p.66) a child in Algeria who had to endure the screams of her father's torture victims in her own house. Mannoni summarizes the dreams of four children in which foreign soldiers, robbers, and charging bulls emerge as terrifying images. Although Mannoni acknowledges the fearful quality of such images as “objectively justified” (1990, 93), he nevertheless views them as symbolic renderings of oppressive father figures, whom he inevitably (mis)interprets in sexual terms, along with their guns and horns. Fanon read Mannoni and recognized these and related images for what they were: clear impersonations of the colonial violence that characterized the French response to the 1947 insurrection in Madagascar. Given such conflicts in interpretation, the dreams of four Malagasy children as reported by Mannoni are worth reprinting here:

    Dream of a thirteen-year-old boy, Rahevi. “While going for a walk in the woods, I met two black men. ‘Oh,’ I thought, ‘I am done for!’ I tried to run away but couldn't. They barred my way and began jabbering in a strange tongue. I thought they were saying, ‘We'll show you what death is.’ I shivered with fright and begged, ‘Please, Sirs, let me go, I'm so frightened.’ One of them understood French but in spite of that they said, ‘We are going to take you to our chief.’ As we set off they made me go in front and they showed me their rifles. I was more frightened than ever, but before reaching their camp we had to cross a river. I dived deep into the water and thanks to my presence of mind found a rocky cave where I hid. When the two men had gone I ran back to my parents' house.”

    Dream of a fourteen-year-old boy, Razafi. He is being chased by (Senegalese) soldiers who “make a noise like galloping horses as they run,” and “show their rifles in front of them.” The dreamer escapes by becoming invisible; he climbs a stairway and finds the door of his home.

    Raza's dream. In his dream the boy heard someone say at school that the Senegalese were coming. “I went out of the school yard to see.” The Senegalese were indeed coming. He ran home. “But our house had been dispersed by them too.”

    Dream of a fourteen-year-old boy, Si. “I was walking in the garden and felt something like a shadow behind me. All around me the leaves were rustling and falling off, as if a robber was in hiding among them, waiting to catch me. Wherever I walked, up and down the alleys, the shadow still followed me. Suddenly I got frightened and started running, but the shadow took great strides and stretched out his huge hand to take hold of my clothes. I felt my shirt tearing, and screamed. My father jumped out of bed when he heard me scream and came over to look at me, but the big shadow had disappeared and I was no longer afraid.” (Mannoni 1990, 90–93)

    Fanon amplifies the power and the terror of these images, drawing on testimony given elsewhere by Malagasy men tortured for their assumed involvement in the 1947 insurrection. In so doing, Fanon's interpretation exposes the absurdity of Mannoni's blindness: “[T]he rifle of the Senegalese soldier is not a penis but a genuine rifle, model Lebel 1916,” and the soldiers are clearly agents of colonial violence, including those who followed the orders of French torturers in maiming the bodies of their Malagasy victims (Fanon 1967, 103–7). As chapters in part 3 of this (p.67) study will show, the Senegalese soldier looms prominently in coastal students' reconstructed memories of colonial oppression, as do the French soldiers who raided villages and towns in their constant search for laborers and soldiers during both peacetime and war. It is older boys and young men who were the constant targets of these sorts of patrols, which for Sakalava evoke the terror of slave raids. Thus, both authors (albeit Mannoni far more naïvely) underscore the complexity and ambivalence of the colonial encounter, where Mannoni emerges as the voice of the assumed liberal colonizer, whereas Fanon's ideas inspire the revolutionary rhetoric of malagasization. The ambivalence inherent in the colonial encounter was reflected at times in the narratives of the students I interviewed in Ambanja, who, although clearly inspired by Fanon's powerful critiques, nevertheless occasionally offered readings far closer to Mannoni's in moments of confusion and doubt.

    Imagining the Tanindrazaña

    I wish to conclude this chapter with a brief discussion of how Ambanja's school youth imagine their nation thirty-five years after its independence and how they situate themselves within this context. Of particular importance is how Ambanja's school youth understand what it means to be Malagasy and how they interpret the tanindrazana (SAK: tanindrazaña) as both an ancestral land and the nation. As will become clear from their responses below, students shift between registers of meaning—particularly between the local and national—as they struggle to define who they are, often by opposing their own sense of belonging in a grounded community against what it means to be a citizen of a nation once colonized by France.

    When asked what it means to be Malagasy, the majority of students stressed first and foremost that this entailed a deep-seated respect for—as well as knowledge and practice of—indigenous fomba (customs). Furthermore, Malagasy customs are unique, and it is thus the fomba that serve to distinguish Malagasy from all other people. As Lucien,53 aged twenty, succinctly put it, “[To be Malagasy] means I speak Malagasy. [And] I know the fomba.” His sentiments were echoed by Pauline, also aged twenty: “[What does it mean] if I say I'm Malagasy? It means that my fomba are not the same as those of the vazaha [“stranger,” generally applied to whites of European origin].” Clearly, both students stress the importance of the fomba, but whereas for Lucien this entails linguistic affiliation, Pauline defines her identity in opposition to an extreme category of Other.

    When couched in local terms, however, these definitions become more complex. Inhabitants of Ambanja are quick to distinguish between indigenous Sakalava (generally referred to by the term tera-tany, “children” or “offspring of the soil”) and vahiny (“guests,” and thus migrants). There is much tension in the way these terms are defined locally, because even people born and raised in the Sambirano, and who may constitute a third generation of long-term settlers who are entombed locally, may still be considered vahiny by Sakalava (Sharp 1993). Such rigidity of identity is particularly evident in statements made by young members of the Sakalava (p.68) royal family who are without question “children” of the Sambirano. Hazaly, aged twenty-four, whose mother is royalty, defined tera-tany as follows: “If I go away it means I can always come back here.” When I asked the same of Sidy and Lucien, both of whose parents are royalty, Lucien answered first, declaring: “[What am I?] I'm tera-tany! Izaho citoyen!… I'm a citizen of the Sambirano. I follow the fomba of the Sambirano. I work the land here. Here you can't work the land on Tuesdays and Thursdays—these days are taboo. This is what it means to follow the fomba of the Sambirano.”54 To this, twenty-year-old Sidy added, “And you work to help your kin [havaña], or the ruler, but no one else.”

    Although Jaona, aged nineteen, is not of royal Sakalava descent like Hazaly, Lucien, and Sidy, his knowledge of royal custom is vast: he has spent much of his life in Ambanja, his father is Antankaraña from the north, and his mother, with whom he lives, is of royal Betsimisaraka descent (from the east coast). Jaona always displays a keen interest in the local fomba, and he answered as follows: “Look, for us there are two parts to our identity, two realities: the mental [OM: fanahy] and the body [OM: vátana].… [It is] the mental part of who you are [that] doesn't die. This is the way it is with royalty [SAK: ampanjaka], for example, and their advisors [SAK: manantany]. The spirit of the ruler lives on, and comes to the manantany in dreams, giving messages, saying what it thinks. This is Malagasy.” Jaona offered the most localized response of all, merging what he has learned from philosophy lectures at school with his own understanding of royal tromba possession, an institution central to Sakalava identity (Sharp 1993).

    If we turn to responses to questions posed regarding the meaning of the tanindrazaña, it becomes clear that individual interpretations are in conflict with one another; and, furthermore, that particular individuals struggle to offer concise definitions of this complex term. Royalty have the clearest sense of where their allegiance lies: the tanindrazaña, in local terms, is the Bemazava-Sakalava kingdom of the Sambirano Valley. As Hazaly explained, “[T]he tanindrazaña, it's like something that's independent. A country that has its own laws and rights and power … [and then, after some thought, he added:] But of course Madagascar comes first and then the tanindrazaña.” This sentiment echoes Lucien's proclamation, “Izaho citoyen!” They both stress their local allegiance first. Among other (nonroyal) Sakalava students, the concept inspires strong sentiments of love and devotion. As Dalia, aged twenty-one, explained: “It means I'm devoted to the tanindrazaña, to the land. It makes me think of the importance of the tombs.” For Pauline, such devotion is historically based and rooted in a sense of taloha, or “long ago”: “It means the people of the past. The ancestors. The place where the ancestors live.” Similarly, Félix, aged eighteen, explained tanindrazaña as follows: “It is the territory of my grandparents, and my nation—[one that encompasses respect for the] fomba malagasy—this is what it means to be Malagasy. [The tanindrazaña and Malagasy] are one and the same. … Tanindrazaña [refers to] the land where we are interred, and it is the land where there are tombs. It is the land of our ancestors.”

    (p.69) Hasina quickly recognized the deeper meanings rooted in this term. Although he is nineteen years old, he looks much younger, being small, with an impish face. Hasina's own background is complex: his father is Merina, and he was born just outside Antananarivo, but he has spent most of his life in the Sambirano with his mother and siblings. He has no memory of his father or of the highlands. Thus, sentimentally, he feels himself to be tera-tany, although locally—and especially by adult Sakalava—he will always be considered to be Merina because of his paternal heritage. The fact that he is Protestant only further complicates his predicament, because Sakalava typically are Catholic, Muslim, or follow the fombandrazaña, which entails honoring local royalty, especially through participation in tromba possession ceremonies (see Sharp 1993, 1994). Hasina's favorite school subject is philosophy. Bright and articulate, he nevertheless reported that several teachers had made it clear they had no interest in what he had to say, news that saddened me deeply. When asked what the tanindrazaña meant to him, he replied as follows:


  • Well, first of all, it makes me think of my island. I'm Malagasy. My fomba come first. It means that in spirit [esprit] I am Malagasy. If I'm in France then I think I should [still] probably speak Malagasy.
  • LS:

  • OK, but if you're Adventist, what are your fomba? What if I said you're not Malagasy because you follow a religion of foreign origin that has made Malagasy fomba taboo [fady]?
  • Hasina [thinking]:

  • Well, it's true that foreign ideas destroyed many of the Malagasy fomba. But I think I'd still have a Malagasy spirit [here he uses both the terms esprit (FR: spirit) and saina (HP: mind, intellect)] if I'm an Adventist. And I think that the love for others—fihavanana—matters here, too. Lots of Malagasy, for example, adore the[ir] royalty [ampanjaka] but then if you do bad things to others you don't have a Malagasy spirit. So, I think being Malagasy involves [three things:] fihavananany—[OM; that is,] loving others, the sense of the patrie [FR: fatherland], and a spirit that is Malagasy to the core.
  • As this brief exchange reveals, Hasina struggles to make sense of the ambiguities created by his own overlapping yet conflicting identities. Furthermore, he reconstructs his understanding of French and Malagasy national slogans to encompass his own ideas of one's heartfelt love for the nation. Not only do both the French word patrie and the Malagasy term tanindrazaña articulate the idea of the nation, but the French nation's brotherhood (fraternité) has been transformed into the official Malagasy term for Christian love, fihavanana.55

    In addition to one-on-one interviews, I often engaged in both scheduled and spontaneous group discussions with a cohort of lycée informants, of which Dalia, her boyfriend Foringa Josef (aged twenty-three), Félix, Jaona, and Hasina were the liveliest participants (and often the organizers). These discussions would take place, typically, outside on the grounds of the state-run lycée or at Dalia's home. Among the more animated discussions was one that centered on defining the tanindrazaña (p.70) and what it meant to be Malagasy. My research assistant Tsarahita also often attended. A circumspect woman in her thirties, she has generally masked, in outstanding fashion, her personal sentiments on the host of research topics we have pursued together for nearly a decade. Even she, however, was drawn into the following debate, offering her own opinions, many of which she had formed during the past two years as a teacher.


  • How would you define tanindrazaña?
  • Foringa Joseph [looking at Tsarahita with an expression that could only mean, “She asks hard questions!”]:

  • For me? Well, it means I'm tera-tany Malagasy. I'm not vazaha. I'm not Chinese. I'm not Comorean. I was born here.
  • Tsarahita [unusually excited]:

  • But there are vazaha who are born here! LS: OK, so let's consider Mr. Q56—What about him?
  • Foringa:

  • Right. Mr. Q is tera-tany—his mother is Malagasy!
  • Tsarahita:

  • So what does it means to be Malagasy? What are you saying? For me it means my mother and father were both born here, that both are Malagasy.
  • Foringa:

  • Wait [SAK: ambesa] ! No, wait [FR: attendez]! It could be a vazaha, too. You can be vazaha and born here. OK, it's like if you have a ruler [ampanjakabe], for example. What if he follows French customs [ny fomba-vazaha]. Then he's not Malagasy. If you follow the fomba, then you're Malagasy.
  • LS:

  • What if you're Malagasy, but you're born in and you die in France?
  • Foringa:

  • He's Malagasy if his spirit [FR: esprit] is Malagasy.
  • Tsarahita:

  • But I don't agree!
  • LS:

  • Why?
  • Tsarahita:

  • First of all, a vazaha is white, has light hair.
  • Foringa:

  • And a big head and big spirit, ha ha!
  • Tsarahita:

  • No, no, listen. Second, vazaha don't have the same spirit [FR: esprit] of being Malagasy. Their customs—their fomba—they don't follow Malagasy customs.
  • LS:

  • So, what if you're born and die in France but decide to be buried in Madagascar?
  • Tsarahita:

  • I'm not sure.
  • Dalia and Foringa J., together:

  • No! I don't think that's what makes you Malagasy.
  • Dalia:

  • How can they be Malagasy if they don't know the fomba? [Tsarahita ponders this question; everyone falls silent.]
  • LS:

  • What about the idea of the tanindrazaña, what is this, ultimately?
  • Tsarahita:

  • For me it means you were born here, you speak the Malagasy language, you die here, you know the fomba, then you're Malagasy.
  • Foringa:

  • It means [this is] something I adore—it's something that is very precious. It's part of my heart. It's what is valued. And so Ambanja is my tanindrazaña.
  • LS:

  • What about your tomb, where is that?
  • Foringa:

  • It's [much farther north] in Antsakoamanondro, where my grandfather lives.
  • (p.71) As this lively discussion reveals, an array of heartfelt sentiments are at work that confound the pursuit of providing a clear and concise meaning for the tanindrazaña, the homeland, the nation. There is a layering of definitions that coincide with ideas of self and other, insider and outsider, as well as values (adoration, love, and the fomba) that are central, in a Malagasy context, to imagining the homeland. These concepts are only further complicated by disjunctures that are historically based, where the encroachment of foreigners (be they French or migrants of Malagasy origin) undermines localized definitions of community and territory. Dalia, Foringa Josef, Hasina, and Tsarahita all grasp the complexities of personalizing a localized tanindrazaña, since their parents' origins are highly varied. Thus, their ties to the tanindrazaña (representative of a specific location, such as the Sambirano, or the nation) are enforced through language, burial practices, and devotion to the fomba, but also by something more deeply inherent in the individual that encompasses both one's spirit and one's unwavering love and devotion to the land, its ancestors, and its customs. Of special note is the fact that, over time, I have witnessed the radicalization of Tsarahita's own ideas. Perhaps this stems in part from her commitment to this project. But I believe other factors figure in more prominently. These include working at the Catholic Academy, where teaching official Malagasy has forced her to confront what, in fact, it means to be Malagasy. And I know, too, that she struggles periodically with an ambivalence she feels in working with me as a vazaha who, with each visit, seems more entrenched than ever as a member of her precious community.

    A central purpose of this chapter has been to lay the groundwork for subsequent discussions of the past among Madagascar's youth. As such, it has required detailed reviews of very particular moments in Madagascar's history. Of primary importance are the first three decades following independence, for it is during this period that Ambanja's lycée-level students were born and raised, as were, only slightly earlier, their own schoolteachers. The collective experiences of these two groups are radically different in key ways, since teachers, on the one hand, are products of President Tsiranana's First Republic, whereas the youth who form the core of informants for this book were schooled during the socialist era under President Ratsiraka. Teachers and students have converged in the schoolroom, where together they have been forced to confront the realities of colonial oppression and the transformed independent state. Themes that emerged as central to their dialogue include both psychic and physical dangers of European racism; the denigration of the colonized subject in reference to all things French; the significance of the colonized mind; and the centrality of the homeland—as indigenous territory as well as nation—for colonizer, Malagasy citizen, and the Sambirano's local inhabitants.

    It is these themes and their associated lessons that have provided the impetus for the politicization of Ambanja's youth, a process that ultimately has fueled—and confounded—the repeated reimagining of Madagascar as a nation. As the early (p.72) history of literacy and schooling reveals, however, perceptions of a persistent Merina hegemony impede Malagasy unification. From the onset, agents of European knowledge and power favored Merina structures, an impenetrable chauvinism that continues to marginalize coastal inhabitants. Given the weight of linguistic history in Madagascar, even malagasization, as an attempt to overcome these barriers, is itself rife with contradictions, which are played out on a daily basis in the classroom. Nationalism, malagasization, unification—all of these ideological constructs are plagued by ambiguities, which are central to the remainder of this book. As this chapter has shown, schooling and identity in Ambanja are shaped by differences of region and ethnic affiliation. As will be illustrated in part 2, class and gender only further complicate this picture.


    (1.) Even the nation's first constitution made direct reference to its indebtedness to France: the preamble declared “that the Malagasy believe in God and in the eminent dignity of the human person, to demonstrate the will of Madagascar to remain attached to … Western Civilization” (Paillard 1979, 302). Under Ratsiraka's Second Republic, references to (a Christian) God were removed and a commitment was instead declared to “the condemnation of the exploitation of man by man as well as all forms of domination, oppression and alienation that might ensue” (ibid., 354, n. 93).

    (2.) In my choice of the term moral, I wish to underscore the manner in which a colonial ideology inevitably denigrated the collective sense of self among the colonized (cf. Fisher 1985; Fanon 1967), not unlike what Erving Goffman has labeled the “mortification” of the self in the context of total institutions (1961, 14 ff., 127 ff.).

    (3.) In Madagascar, there is no single word that refers collectively to the people of the high plateaux (in French, les gens des hauts plateaux or les habitants des hautes terres), as for the inhabitants (p.321) of the coast (côtiers). For the sake of symmetry, I have therefore adopted the English term highlander. In Ambanja, a highlander is assumed to be Merina, Betsileo, or Vakinankaratra. The major urban centers of this region are Antananarivo, Fianarantsoa, and Antsirabe.

    (4.) This pattern typifies much of urban Africa; see, e.g., Hansen 1997 on Lusaka.

    (5.) The Zatovo Western Andevo Malagasy, or ZWAM, young “cowboys” (of slave descent) who assumed a style of dress and attitude reminiscent of Clint Eastwood, a loner recognized as “the champion of real justice” over “the venal guardians of formal law” (Covell 1987, 39, citing Althabe 1980 and Leymarie 1973), were one of the most striking groups to form during this period. By 1972, they had renamed themselves the Zatovo Orin'asa Anivon'ny Madagasikara (Young Unemployed of Madagascar), or ZOAM (Covell 1987, 47; Paillard 1979, esp. 353, n. 75; Raison-Jourde 1997, 35–38).

    (6.) The Mouvement National pour l'Indépendance de Madagascar (National Movement for the Independence of Madagascar), or MONIMA, was founded by Monja Jaona in 1958 and was a major opposition party during President Tsiranana's First Republic. The party was renamed Madagasikara Otronin'ny Malagasy (Madagascar Supported by the Malagasy) in 1967 (Covell 1995, 150–51).

    (7.) For more details on these events, see Archer 1976; Covell 1987, 41–49, 51–57, 167–68; Paillard 1979, 328–46; and Rajoelina 1988.

    (8.) AREMA was not the sole political party in Madagascar during the period of the socialist revolution, but it was the dominant one. In fact, as Covell explains, there was greater party diversity under Ratsiraka than there had been during the Tsiranana years. For a discussion of AREMA and Madagascar's one-party system, see Covell 1987, 119 ff; on AREMA more generally, see ibid., 59, 60–61; Bunge 1983, 11; and Paillard 1979, 345.

    (9.) I was also in Madagascar for a month in 1981, but I was not particularly well informed of the political situation at that time and I hesitate to comment on my impressions.

    (10.) Zafy, a surgeon by training, was educated in France, beginning in 1954, and remained there until 1971. From 1972 to 1975, he was the minister of health under General Ramanantsoa. After campaigning against Ratsiraka's proposed constitution, Zafy then returned to his post as a professor at the University of Madagascar, where he remained throughout much of the Second Republic. Zafy reemerged as a clear presidential candidate during the late years of Ratsiraka's regime (Covell 1995, 254–55). On the failings of the Ratsiraka regime, see Ramanandraibe 1987.

    (11.) The evolution of corruption is a complex process. I do not mean to imply that Ratsiraka's regime was solely responsible for the rise of corruption in Madagascar: bribery and black market trade had existed long before, with current practices often stemming from those introduced by the French as part of the destructive patron-client relationship so common in colonized territories. The hybridization of Malagasy and European-derived practices is aptly expressed in a phrase that came into vogue in the late 1980s: underhanded dealings that generated enormous wealth were often referred to in Ambanja and elsewhere as manao business (“doing business”), simultaneously implying corrupt practices and shrewd business sense.

    (12.) Ratsiraka 1975, 9: “L'indépendance, et plus précisément l'indépendance politique, n'entraîne pas ipso facto, et loin s'en faut la fin du colonialisme et l'avènement d'une société plus juste.” The Boky Mena has been published within Madagascar in both official Malagasy and French. I have chosen to use the French translation so as to highlight the manner in which it echoes and contests colonial rhetoric. My informants generally (p.322) preferred to use French rather than Malagasy for key terms such as sacrificed generation, revolution, colonized mind, and metropole, because they, too, recognized that the origins ofthese ideas lay in colonial and revolutionary French writings.

    (13.) More specifically, what Ratsiraka referred to as “social et culturel autonome” (“social and cultural autonomy”) (1975, 9).

    (14.) Covell 1987, 28. In Covell's opinion, Tsiranana was an appropriate choice for a first president from the point of view of his French contemporaries: he had already proved himself as a national leader in Madagascar; as a student in France, he had challenged the legitimacy of Merina nationalist groups, advocating the needs of côtiers; in 1947, he had been in France and thus was unassociated with the turmoil on the island during that year; he was a member of the French Socialist Party, as was the governor-general of Madagascar; and he was opposed to immediate independence, seeing it as running contrary to coastal needs. He also expressed the necessity of maintaining close ties with France. By the early 1950s, he had already entered the political arena, serving as a member of Mahajanga's provincial assembly and later as a deputy of the French national assembly (Covell 1987, 30).

    (15.) Ratsiraka 1975, 9: “La Révolution est un combat de tous les jours.”

    (16.) Ibid., 9, 12: “Ceci suppose en particulier une révolution des mentalités, une cohérence entre la doctrine et la réalité, entre les paroles et les actes, entre l'action du gouvernement et celle du peuple, bref une cohésion et une unité de toutes les forces vivres de la Nation tendues vers un même but—faire l'homme malgache nouveau, réaliser une société plus heureuse sous la direction des masses laborieuses des villes et des campagnes. Que la lutte soit difficile et qu'elle exige des sacrifices, nous le savons. Que la route soit parsemée d'obstacles, c'est évident. Qu'il faille aborder et vaincre ceux-ci tour à tour, un à un, cela est hors de contestation. … Nous n'avons qu'un choix: être ou disparaître. Nous avons choisi d'être, dans l'indépendance, la liberté, la dignité, la justice et la paix-quoiqu'il nous en coûte. La révolution nationale malgache n'est pas le fruit d'une parthéno-genèse; elle prend ses racines dans l'âme malgache, elle est conditionnée (conditions objectives) par son environement historique (domination coloniale) et géographique (position stratégique).”

    (17.) This is very much a part of Madagascar's history as a whole: highland as well as coastal Malagasy were heavily involved in the Indian Ocean slave trade for centuries prior to French conquest; the island's shores were dotted with ports well known to Swahili and Arab traders who sailed the Mozambique Channel and beyond; and it served as a place to replenish supplies by pirates and by merchants' ships that sailed as far as East Asia with African goods (for detailed analysis of Chinese knowledge of Africa, see Chittick and Rotberg 1975; Freeman-Grenville 1962). The significance of the coastal slave trade is a focus of chapter 5.

    (18.) In this, as in other writings (Sharp 1981, 1993), I rely here on the spelling malagasization, because it corresponds with the term used during my own tenure in Madagascar in the late 1980s and incorporates an indigenous spelling of the term for the island's people and language.

    (19.) French continued to be the primary language of instruction in biology, medicine, and mathematics because of the highly technical language involved, which is recognized as being somewhat universal. In the words of one instructor, “imagine how difficult, frustrating, and counterproductive it would be to create a whole new vocabulary for (p.323) explaining cell structure!” Clignet and Ernst provide an apt example of the difficulties encountered in mathematics: should the Malagasy word bear a meaning similar to the French technical term or sound like it? For example, should tsilo or vekotora be chosen for vecteur (“vector”)? (Clignet and Ernst 1999, 75; see 65–78 for a broader discussion). This sort of secular linguistic dilemma has much in common with the predicaments that have characterized the translation of Christian values and concepts, as Rafael 1992 describes for Castilian-Latin-Tagalog renderings in the Philippines. In both contexts, new ideas are introduced that are, in essence, untranslatable in a local tongue, and thus the local culture becomes dominated by foreign ideas.

    (20.) The name Vazimba is generally used to refer to (a perhaps mythical) people who inhabited the island prior to the early occupation by Austronesian people. The term is also equated locally with distant ancestral (razana) status. Because the Vazimba are believed to have been short, the label is used as well to describe a reclusive category of small nature spirits.

    (21.) The region near the Sambirano was one such site, since the offshore island of Nosy Be (and, it is thought, the neighboring island of Nosy Komba) were locations of early—albeit unsuccessful—European settlements. British settlers arrived under the leadership of Colonel Robert Hunt in early 1649, with partial backing from the East India Company. Mervyn Brown argues that the timing of this settlement was “unfortunate,” because “the middle of the seventeenth century saw the foundation of the Sakalava military empire which was to be the most powerful force in the island for nearly two centuries.” Sakalava expansionist activities were well known to the inhabitants of another French settlement at Fort Dauphin, at a distant location on the southeastern tip of the island (it ended in a massacre in 1674). For discussion of early European settlements (including Portuguese, Dutch, English and French) between the early sixteenth and late eighteenth centuries, and even earlier activities of Arab traders, see Brown 1978, 46–54, 72–109; Escamps 1884, 1–64; Descartes 1846, 1–26; La Vaissière 1884, vol. 1; and Verin 1986.

    (22.) Literacy in Madagascar did not hinge upon European penetration. A much older form of written Malagasy, found in texts known as Sorabe, employs Arabic script and was developed on the southeast coast. Some of these texts date as far back as the sixteenth century. Today, sorabe are employed primarily in ritual and healing contexts, although some contain historical narratives (Mack 1986, 33–38, 52).

    (23.) For reasons that will become clear here and in subsequent chapters, neither Ranavalona I nor any other Merina ruler figures prominently in coastal reconstructions of history, at least in a heroic and nationalist sense.

    (24.) More specifically, Queen Tsiomeko reigned over the northern Bemihisatra-Sakalava of Nosy Be. The Bemihisatra define a separate dynastic branch from the Bemazava of the Sambirano.

    (25.) The sultan mandated that northern rulers convert to Islam, which they did; in the region of this study, they did not receive guns, however, but only hats. (Lisa Gezon [1995] reports that the Antankaraña to the north fared better.) According to my informants, it is this alliance that lies behind the fact that royal Bemazava-Sakalava of the Sambirano (as well as other neighboring rulers of Nosy Be and the Antankaraña kingdom) are Muslim. Commoner Bemazava-Sakalava, however, are more likely to be Catholic and/or adhere to practices associated with the fombandrazaña—that is, tromba and other royal rituals. For a detailed discussion of this, see Sharp 1993.

    (p.324) (26.) The independent Fiongonana Jesosy Kristiany Malagasy (FJKM), or the Malagasy Church of Jesus Christ, is by far the largest Protestant group in Ambanja, its membership swelling with Tsimihety and Betsileo migrants.

    (27.) Ratsiraka 1975, 83: “impératifs de la Révolution, c'est-à-dire l'édification d'un État socialiste et véritablement malgache.”

    (28.) Although the breakdown of education in Madagascar may be more widespread, such conditions are, of course, unique neither to the island nor even to Africa. What is described here parallels the experiences of children in many countries. There are underrepresented, underfunded, and thus abandoned populations in even the most affluent nations, as I have learned from former students and colleagues working for voluntary organizations based in East Palo Alto in California, on Indian reservations in the Southwest, and in innercity New York schools, where there may be few books or supplies, where bathrooms are converted into ramshackle classrooms, and where undertrained teachers themselves struggle to comprehend the curriculum, or where others simply do not care about the purposes of pedagogy (cf. Kozol 1991).

    (29.) Official Malagasy, high plateaux, and Sakalava renderings of this and several other Malagasy terms that appear in this section are identical (save for fombandrazana, which in Sakalava is fombandrazaña), so I have not specified OM, HP, or SAK here.

    (30.) My concern here is specifically with northern Sakalava understandings of sacrifice and, in turn, the metaphorical associations it generates in reference to the sacrificed generation. For discussions of sacrifice from elsewhere in Madagascar, see Bloch 1986, 1992; Cole 1997; and Graeber 1996.

    (31.) There are several ways to pronounce—and write—this term. Northern Sakalava speak of the tanindrazaña and the razaña (ancestors), whereas in High Plateaux dialects and official Malagasy there is no ñ, and when spoken aloud the final two syllables are typically dropped. Given that these two variations, when written down, are so similar, I have opted to use the high plateaux (HP) spelling of these terms throughout much of this chapter in order to avoid confusing readers. Informants in Ambanja, however, typically used the word tanindrazaña, as did I in my questions, because we were speaking the northern Sakalava dialect. Thus the ñ appears below in interview excerpts.

    (32.) The Loza River lies approximately 200 kilometers south of Ambanja, near Analalava.

    (33.) Official French reports estimated that in the 1947 insurrection 60,000–89,000 Malagasy died (later reduced to 11,200), but Simone de Beauvoir, writing to Nelson Algren in November 1948, gives the much higher figure of 90,000 (“On a massacré 90 000 Noirs dans la rébellion, où 150 Blancs ont trouvé la mort” [Lettres à Nelson Algren: Un amour transatlantique, 1947–1964 (Paris: Gallimard, 1997), 373–74]; I wish to thank Peter Dreyerfor drawing my attention to de Beauvoir's account). As many as 5,000–6,000 Malagasy were convicted, and their military leaders were tried and condemned to death or life imprisonment (Bunge 1983, 23; Covell 1995, 211–13; Rakotomalala 1983; Tronchon 1982).

    (34.) Some of the arguments and data presented here draw in part on Sharp 2001a.

    (35.) F. Hawkins, personal communication, June, 1998.

    (36.) Young informants in Ambanja often searched for alternative models, clamoring for a copy of the U.S. Bill of Rights (which I located, with great difficulty, in French translation, ironically in the home of someone I considered to be among the most corrupt men in Antsiranana Province). Our discussions often turned to such topics as Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

    (p.325) (37.) For a concise discussion of the significance of these and other related terms in the French context, see Conor Cruise O'Brien 1988 and Kamenka 1988.

    (38.) The French Revolution also permeates discussions of precolonial Imerina. Raison-Jourde 1990, for example, argues that the English and French alike envisioned the Merina ruler Radama I as a Malagasy Napoleon (cf. M. Esoavelomandroso 1990), whereas Domenichini 1990 describes Radama II (r. 1861–63) assuming command of Imerina at a revolutionary moment following the overthrow of the isolationist Queen Ranavalovana I.

    (39.) Rambeloson-Rapiera 1990, 30: “Le regard porté sur l'Autre ramène toujours à soimême.” Cf. Kramer 1993.

    (40.) The fact that Ratsiraka did not take up residence in Tsiranana's former palace can also be read in these terms: by occupying the former French embassy, he redefined this captured space as belonging to the revolution. By assuming a new residence different from his predecessor, he followed a pattern typical of Malagasy rulers, who generally build new palaces following the deaths of their predecessors (see chapter 4).

    (41.) I employ the concept of ethnicity loosely here, since current constructions are in fact rooted in categories of difference as originally conceived of by the French. For discussions of the expansion of the Merina state in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, see Brown 1978; Heseltine 1971; and Labatut and Raharinarivonirina 1969. Brown 1978, 146, provides a map designed to show the expansions of the kingdom under Andrianampoinimerina and Radama I. Radama's territory encompassed much of northern and Sakalava territory, contradicting indigenous (and at times his own) accounts. The original notion of an islandwide Malagasy government (that is, a Merina one) was solidified by French agreement. The Franco-Malagasy treaty of 1868 recognized Queen Ranavalona I as the sovereign of the entire island of Madagascar. This is repeated in a subsequent treaty of 1881 with Queen Ranavalona II. Ranavalona II, when confronted with the news of French naval attacks on Nosy Be (Sakalava territory) in 1883, described the island as a whole as the land of her ancestors in a kabary she addressed to her troops (Brown 1978, 223–27). Merina hegemony over the entire island is likewise asserted by a portrait of the ruler Radama II (fig. 3); the original is labeled “Mpanjaka ny Madagascar” or “King of Madagascar.”

    (42.) It is no wonder, then, that (reelected) Ratsiraka's earliest revisionist platform included a federalist agenda that would have granted greater political and economic autonomy to all provinces. This was a topic of great debate when I was on the island from 1993 to 1995. I wish to stress here, too, that on the coast especially, national policies frequently favor Merina hegemony. Although Tsiranana, Ratsiraka, and Zafy in fact all hail from the different regions of the coast (they are Tsimihety, Betsimisaraka, and Antankaraña, respectively), they are, nevertheless, assumed to be in cahoots with Merina elite said to control much of the nation's political apparatus. In response, elite Merina professionals living in Ambanja often pass as Betsileo so that they may work peacefully in town.

    (43.) Nigel Heseltine's 1971 detailed study focuses heavily on Merina history, for example; and see also Frederica Bunge's “Unification under the Merina, 1810–95” (Bunge 1983, 16) and Valette 1979. In contrast, Labatut and Raharinarivonirina 1969, a school text still in circulation today, provides a more inclusive or decentralized rendering of history, as does Stratton 1964, an oddly chatty and often blatantly racist travelogue.

    (44.) This holiday is most frequently referred to in Madagascar as “le 26 juin” (June 26). This wording is again reminiscent of French nationalism, since it so clearly references “le quatorze juillet,” Bastille Day (July 14).

    (45.) The Lycée Mixte Tsiaraso I is co-educational, hence the mixte. In order to avoid the cumbersome quality of its name, I shall refer to it as the Lycée Tsiaraso I, or simply as “the state-run lycée.”

    (46.) Their entrance heralded an elite and primarily highlander-led takeover of institutions previously dominated by French and métis (that is, of mixed Malagasy and foreign origins). The first to fall was the Alliance Française, a battle that had ensued the year before.

    (47.) French soldiers do not, in fact, goose-step, although the Foreign Legion does have its own particular march style, approximating a slow and highly abbreviated goose-step movement. My assumption, however, is that Malagasy soldiers, scouts, and students have probably incorporated a Soviet marching style, one that may have come into vogue under Ratsiraka. I have been unable, however, to confirm this theory.

    (48.) Faranirina Esoavelomandroso 1990, 145: “la fête de tout un peuple libre.”

    (49.) Red and white are also important symbols of Sakalava dynastic power, although no coastal informant ever made this connection in reference to the national flag. Instead, its Merina origin is always underscored.

    (50.) Throughout this book, la mentalité colonisée is glossed as “the colonized mind,” even though this is not the language used, e.g., by Mannoni 1990 or Bouillon 1981. Official Malagasy distinguishes between saina (mind, intellect) and fanahy (spirit or soul), and my informants in Madagascar regularly used the term mentalité (for example, when a young informant spoke of Malagasy identity as being defined by one's soul). Only in a few instances did informants use the French word esprit (spirit or mind), and rarely âme. I have encountered similar uses of mentalité and esprit in colonial documents that focus on education. (At times, too, esprit was used by students as a means to gloss the notion of life essence in a manner reminiscent of spirit possession.) For a discussion of what distinguishes mentalité (mentality, or state of mind) from âme (soul), see Bouillon 1981, esp. 144 ff.

    (51.) For an interesting critique of the value of ethnocentrism in anthropology, see Mudimbe 1988, 19.

    (52.) Colonial Senegalese, Malagasy, and Algerian foot soldiers (FR: tirailleurs) served on their own as well as on one another's soil and were often commanded to commit violent acts against other colonized people. As a pair of disturbing photos in Rasoanasy 1976 (17–18; see also 101) make clear, such orders included the execution of nationalists who fought for the liberation of France's African subjects.

    (53.) Students' ages are provided along with a word on their backgrounds as a means to introduce key informants who will appear repeatedly throughout this book. Appendix 1 provides a succinct overview of all informants who figure prominently in this study.

    (54.) Adherence to these work-day taboos implies unequivocally that one follows royal custom. As a result, they were a source of great aggravation for colonial employers. They are a sign among Malagasy that one accepts local royalty as one's superiors and, thus, that one also embraces Sakalava identity (see chapter 4).

    (55.) Rabenoro 1986, 146 ff., and Mangalaza 1977 identify fihavanana as a central philosophical concept in Malagasy culture. Given that both of these men are also well-known university professors in Madagascar, it is possible that Hasina's inspiration came partly from one or more of his own teachers, who might have studied with either of these scholars.

    (56.) Mr. Q had lived in the Sambirano for decades and was the director of a large plantation. His father had been a Frenchman in the colonial service, and his mother was from (p.327) the highlands. He was generally identified as a vazaha and made a point of describing himself as French or, sometimes, as French métis, but he had married in the Sambirano and spoke Sakalava fluently. Although he certainly had his enemies, he differed from the rest of the local elite in that he was respected and even loved by most of the valley's inhabitants. Unlike other powerful, wealthy men in the region, he had a strong sense of justice and fairness. Two mornings a week, he sat in his private office with the doors to the outside open wide and received any and all visitors, whom he would often assist administratively, financially, or otherwise when he could. As a result, workers from his own and other plantations often came to his office when all other authorities had failed them. He has, since, sadly, passed away.