By Zoë Crossland

Nineteenth-century highland Madagascar used to be a spot inhabited by way of the useless up to the dwelling. Ghosts, ancestors, and the possessed have been very important ancient actors along neighborhood kings and queens, squaddies, investors, and missionaries. This publication considers the demanding situations that such actors pose for ancient money owed of the previous and for puzzling over questions of presence and illustration. How have been the useless made current, and the way have been they famous or no longer? In getting to those multifarious encounters of the 19th century, how could we consider the ways that our personal history-writing makes the lifeless current? To take on those questions, Zoë Crossland tells an anthropological historical past of highland Madagascar from a viewpoint rooted in archaeology and Peircean semiotics, in addition to in panorama examine, oral heritage, and textual assets.

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Extra info for Ancestral Encounters in Highland Madagascar: Material Signs and Traces of the Dead

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84 Humans think in and through signs, according to Peirce, and these signs are inescapably embedded in the world of experience: they are material as much as cognitive. 85 Given that any sense of self is brought into being within particular historical and material conditions, in Chapter 2, I consider how we might look for the adjustments that the LMS missionaries made to life in highland Madagascar and what this might reveal about the unfolding of the mission. Here I consider the significance of recognition as a constituent of past encounters and in anthropological interpretation: all interpretive acts must start with a moment of (mis)recognition or nonrecognition.

Our role, then, is to trace a path along these associations and in so doing to define the entities we wish to study. As with Gell’s account, it is in delegating action to material things that the absent dead make themselves present – whether through standing stones or other physical traces. By tracing these relationships, the dead are brought into view as actors who continue to act in the present, a view that is consistent with highland Malagasy beliefs about the presence of the dead among the living.

14 Ancestral Encounters in Highland Madagascar the work of Maurice Bloch has been influential in the use of highland Madagascar as an analog for prehistoric mortuary practices. 50 Whittle observes that, despite the prevalence of ancestors in accounts of the European past, they are rarely conceptualized clearly and instead seem to stand in for generalized and commemorated forebears. This vagueness may well come in part from the use of Madagascar as a source of analogy. Here there is always uncertainty about what sort of presence is acting on the living and even about the location of ancestors.

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