Reclaiming Lost Ancestors and Acknowledging Slave Descent: Insights from Madagascar
These three statements regarding personal ancestry were made to me by villagers during life history interviews I conducted a few months into my research in northeastern Madagascar. Each statement is an admission of slave ancestry, and I highlight them to introduce this paper for three reasons. First, such statements are not uncommon in these villages. Many villagers told stories of lost or stolen ancestors, forced labor for “nobles,” and slave ancestry. Second, much of the recent scholarship addressing slavery elsewhere in Madagascar has suggested that slavery is not easily discussed among contemporary residents of this Indian Ocean island. Thus, the fact that the people among whom I studied readily acknowledged their own slave descent by referring to their “lost” or “stolen” grandparents or to their own Makoa identity prompts further comparative inquiry. What factors explain acceptance of slave ancestry among some Malagasy and its concurrent stigmatization among others? Third, examination of variations in Madagascar's responses to slavery can lead us to new insights into the forms of identity and opportunity in other post-slave societies.
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)