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3. Dez 2017

A turn from ‚concentric kingdoms‘ to the modern state?

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Some impressions of the “International Symposium of History, Culture and Civilisation”

Some 35 contributions from cultural scientists of different specialization provided insights into the on-going discussion of the origins of Malagasy civilization(s), set within the horizon of Indian Ocean connectivity („Southeast Asia, Madagascar: Odysee of a People of the Sea“). While some lecturer decided to chose a broad perspective, e.g. “Contact between Eastern Africa and South East Asia” (Félix Chami), other focused on seemingly narrow or tiny aspects like “Le chien dans la culture malgache” (Jean-Pierre Domenichini).

It is true that one might judge such divergent lectures, on a first sight, as incoherent or the symposium altogehter as an arbitrary kaleidoscope. However, if one reads the contributions as an effort to uncover the many silent origins and layers of Malagasy culture(s), a most fascinating interplay was developing between the many findings presented by the scholars. When, for example, Jean-Pierre Domenichini showed that the representation of dogs on Madagascar and the arising everyday positioning of dog in Malagasy societies has essentially two cultural layers, an older Austronesian one (with the dog as “sacrificial animal par excellence”) and a younger Islamic one (with the dog as impure animal), he urges at the same time to acknowledge the complexity of Malagasy origins in a nutshell.

Among the many contributions one offered to review the political development of Madagascar and was therefore particularly interesting within the view of the DySoMa-project. In his lecture  entitled “Towards a historical approach of Malagasy crisis”, Solofo Randrianja argues that the continual crisis of the Malagasy state might be the result of a historical shift from the ancient political model of ‘concentric kingdoms’ to the modern ‘Weberian’ state.

The term ‘concentric kingdoms’ war originally formed to describe the particularities of south-east Asian kingdoms: a clear center of power in the middle, surrounded by several circles of diminishing power, in difference to the European state which aimed to construct clear or definite frontiers. Mr. Randrianja puts forward in his hypothesis that the “non-acheivement of the hybridization of these two concepts” (le non achèvement de l’hybridation de ces deux conceptions) might be considered as one of the roots of contemporary political crisis.

While it is true that a purely structural argument would not allow to understand fully the difficulties of the contemporary Malagasy state, such idea offers nonetheless a precious possibility to exchange arguments, to deepen and to sharpen insights in the Malagasy state. Why, one might ask, in South-East Asia such turn from one political model to another was much more successful? In any case, it would be a fascinating task to reconstruct our historical understand of the Malagasy political development by analyzing the abolishment of the concentric kingdom since colonization, and the (ongoing) process of building up a totally new political idea, the democratic and republic state of Madagascar.

The symposium was completed by a exposition of the ‚Musée d’Art et d’Archeologie‘ and a hommage on the „first Malagasy scholar“, Dr. Jospeh Rasamimanana.

Abstract of Solofo Randrianja


Rice container (Fanaram-bary)

Detail of wood carving (Musée d’Art et d’Archeologie)

During the symposium (30.11.2017)

Hommage au Docteur Jospeh Rasamimanana

Über Peter Friedrich Alfons Kneitz

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