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18. Jun 2016

The Dynamics of Solidarity on Madagascar (Project DySoMa)

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The Dynamics of Solidarity on Madagascar. An Ethnography of Political Conflict and Appeasement Strategies in the Context of a Pronounced Consens Norm

The anthropological research project aims at a better understanding of the pacification process of the ongoing Malagasy political crisis. A dispute regarding the Malagasy presidency, the most powerful political position on the island, marked the beginning of a particular difficult period. Tensions were limited at first to politics on the national level but soon degenerated into a general crisis of society, as international support was suspended, the economy plummeted down and a population of about 22 million had to cope with a situation of great insecurity.

In this period of acute risk to social order a number of unusual strategies of conflict solution were adopted independently. Besides the “official” level of internationally accompanied negotiation, a number of distinctively local concepts can be recognized which had clearly a positive impact on the situation. Among these, the innovative institutionalization of concepts of solidarity (fihavanana), anchored in traditional ancestor worship, as well as movements towards popular justice led by charismatic personalities, were particularly responsible for paving the way for a new beginning.

The rarity of this successful conflict solution within a postcolonial context stirs up curiosity and demands close evaluation. An attractive heuristic challenge is triggered, offering a unique chance within post-colonial research to devise an ethnography of de-escalation and peace, different from the usual focus on war and distorder. Through empirical fieldwork in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, and the western Melaky region, qualitative evidence for a profound interpretation of the sketched observation will be collected, while the inclusion of historical aspects will add further insights.

The contribution aims not only at a better understanding of the recent Malagasy crisis but also at serving as a major case study of theoretical and practical relevance for political anthropology and internationally peacebuilding.

(funded under the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie-Scheme, Horizon 2020 programme of the European Commission)

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Über Peter Friedrich Alfons Kneitz

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