Academic journal article African Studies Review

The Sacrificed Generation: Youth, History, and the Colonized Mind in Madagascar

Academic journal article African Studies Review

The Sacrificed Generation: Youth, History, and the Colonized Mind in Madagascar

Article excerpt

Lesley A. Sharp. The Sacrificed Generation: Youth, History, and the Colonized Mind in Madagascar. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. xvii + 377 pp. Photographs. Maps. Appendixes. Glossary. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $65.00. Cloth. $27.50. Paper.

In the mid-1970s, the postindependence government of Madagascar, under President Didier Ratsiraka, embarked upon an ambitious program of political reorientation, economic nationalism, and cultural revivalism known as malagasization. In the classroom, Malagasy replaced French as the language of instruction and lessons focused on Malagasy, rather than French, culture and history. Although this policy had immediate cultural appeal, it left Madagascar technically and linguistically isolated, and the skills of its schoolchildren became redundant in the global market. Lesley Sharp's ethnography focuses upon the generation of students schooled under this policy, the "sacrificed generation" of the title. How, Sharp asks, do youths schooled and "sacrificed" under malagasization position themselves in relation to their elders' colonial past and their school-informed postcolonial present?

In her introduction Sharp privileges young people's narratives of, and commentary upon, colonial exploitation. Through their teachers' politically informed pedagogy, students' views have become influenced by critics of colonialism such as Frantz Fanon even though they have never read his books. The second part gives ethnographic detail of the study's location (the town of Ambanja in northwest Madagascar) and analyzes the ethnic and class make-up of the school population. The third part examines students' historical reflection upon the colonial period, particularly their critical reconstruction of French labor politics and its relation to slavery. Students weigh this against their reading of local royal authority, embodied in past and present Sakalava kingdoms. The final chapters examine the perceived perils of formal schooling such as exposure to Western mass media, AIDS, or lethal magic. These examples are extremely pertinent as they act as a metaphor for the precarious nature of schoolchildren's ambitions and the ambiguous status achieved by the schooled person in Madagascar.

Given the spectral presence of the colonial era, this book would have benefited from a more nuanced and detailed examination of that period. …

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