Madagascar: Conflicts of Authority in the Great Island

By Philip M. Allen | Go to book overview

doubt she was going through the same kind of problems that are experienced by developing nations the world over, especially when faced with the influence and even threats from the great powers. . . . Through contacts with Europeans and as a result of her free and enthusiastic acceptance of foreign ideas and influence, Madagascar had achieved many of those things in the name of which European colonialism was imposed on Africa in the nineteenth century.76

What remained after centralized controls broke down -- or where they never reached -- was an indomitable substructure of peasant life. Among Merina people as well as among Betsileo and côtiers, this "unmodern" system filled the productive gaps for local, not national or imperial, purposes. Often embodied in communal deliberative councils, the fokon'olona, decentralized (or dis-organized) authority had its roots in kinship, in geographical and functional proximity, and in other natural affinities. It exercised a political legitimacy denied to the distant monarchy. As we shall see in subsequent chapters, all central regimes have tried in vain to mobilize this indigenous legitimacy for modern purposes. The autonomy of fundamental peasant communal structures has by now survived still another century of authoritarian imposition, defying the will of sovereigns whether monarchical, colonial, bourgeois, or even revolutionary socialist.


NOTES
1
To explore Madagascar's place in the great Indian Ocean system, see Pierre Vérin , The History of Civilisation in North Madagascar, trans. David Smith ( Rotterdam and Boston: A. A. Balkema, 1986); Auguste Toussaint, History of the Indian Ocean, trans. June Guicharnaud ( London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966); Alan Villiers, Monsoon Seas: The Story of the Indian Ocean ( New York: McGraw Hill, 1952); André Bourde, "Ré- surgences de l'histoire", Annuaire des Pays de l'Océan Indien (APOI), no. 1, 1974 (Aix-en- Provence: CERSOI, 1976), pp. 137-153; Philip M. Allen, Security and Nationalism in the Indian Ocean: Lessons from the Latin Quarter Islands ( Boulder and London: Westview Press, 1987), ch. 1.
2
See Michel Mollat du Jourdin, "Les contacts historiques de l'Afrique et de Madagascar avec l'Asie du Sud et du Sud-Est: Le rôle de l'océan indien", Archipel: budes interdisciplinaires sur le Monde Insulindien, no. 21, 1981 ( Paris: SECMI-CNRS), pp. 35-53.
3
Alison Jolly, A World Like Our Own: Man and Nature in Madagascar ( New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1980), p. xiii.
4
Periplus maris Erythraei: The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century, trans. and annot. Wilfred H. Schoff ( London: Longmans, Green, 1912).
5
Jolly, A World Like Our Own, p. 11.
6
Portuguese name for the archipelago of Réunion, Mauritius, and the latter's dependent island of Rodriguez.
7
For Mauritius, see Larry W. Bowman, Mauritius: Democracy and Development in the Indian Ocean ( Boulder and London: Westview Press, 1992); Adele Smith Simmons, Modern Mauritius: The Politics of Decolonization ( Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982); Allen, Security and Nationalism, ch. 4. For Ré see Andréer Scherer, La Réunion,

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Madagascar: Conflicts of Authority in the Great Island
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Tables and Illustrations xi
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - The Virtue of Insularity 1
  • Notes 26
  • 2 - Politics: From Paternalism to Revolution 31
  • Notes 74
  • 3 - Ratsiraka's Republic: Revolution as Myth 79
  • Notes 117
  • 4 - Society in Modern Madagascar 121
  • Notes 162
  • 5 - Madagascar's Economy: Flight from Reality 168
  • Notes 213
  • 6 - Conclusion: Continuity as Revolution 220
  • Notes 236
  • Glossary 239
  • Selected Bibliography 242
  • About the Book and Author 247
  • Index 248
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