By David Graeber
Betafo, a rural group in critical Madagascar, is split among the descendants of nobles and descendants of slaves.
Anthropologist David Graeber arrived for fieldwork on the top of tensions attributed to a disastrous communal ordeal years previous. As Graeber uncovers the layers of historic, social, and cultural wisdom required to appreciate this occasion, he elaborates a brand new view of strength, inequality, and the political function of narrative. Combining theoretical subtlety, a compelling narrative line, and vividly drawn characters, Lost People is a novel contribution to the anthropology of politics and the literature on ethnographic writing.
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Additional info for Lost People: Magic and the Legacy of Slavery in Madagascar
But I think the real answer is more subtle. Memories of violence were mainly important because they deﬁned what people imagined a state to be about. I found little notion that the state (for all its socialist pretensions) existed to provide services; at least, no one much complained about the lack of them. People seemed to accept that a government was essentially an arbitrary, predatory, coercive power. But the one theme of ofﬁcial ideology everyone did seem to take seriously was the idea of Malagasy unity.
The techniques taught in school were seen as, essentially, techniques of rule. In part this is because the school system was itself part of the infrastructure of violence: it was designed primarily to train functionaries; secondarily, technicians. The style of teaching was entirely authoritarian, with a heavy emphasis on rote memorization, and the skills that were taught were taught with the expectation they were to be employed in ofﬁces, workshops, or classrooms organized around certain forms of social relation, what might be referred to as relations of command.
The tradition of the dead generations does indeed weigh like a nightmare on the brains of the living: often, literally. But this is more than simply a comparison of assumptions about the meaning of history. I also wanted to write a particular, somewhat experimental, sort of ethnography. Perhaps the best way to put it would be: one which would treat ordinary people—people like Armand, Miadana, Ratsizafy—as historical characters. By this I mean, treating them not as exemplars of something other than themselves—or at least, not primarily so—but rather as actors, human beings actively shaping the world in which they exist, even if they are (like any of us) not entirely aware of the degree to which they are doing so.