Accepted Paper:

The "church of Sakalava": towards the construction of religion by a Malagasy social setting  


Peter Kneitz (Universit├Ąt Leipzig)

Paper short abstract:

How political may be transfered into religious practice? The paper will discuss the ongoing reconstruction of Sakalava divine kingship in Western Madagascar into a social setting on the analogy of the catholic church.

Paper long abstract:

The case provides the opportunity to discuss religious syncretism within a context of power dominated by European forces and concepts. The chain of Sakalava kingdoms, a heterogene political formation in Western Madagascar dating from 17th century, became restructured and relabelled during 20th century as religion. A main step of the transformation was to replace the authority of the living king by that of the king's ancestors. This dynamic was associated with further and ongoing changes on all levels of symbolic, ritual - including spirit possession as major aspect - and material representation.

Grounded on intensive fieldwork, the paper will offer insight into the process of founding a "church of Sakalava", as the structure is termed nowadays by actors in deliberate analogy with aspects of catholic practice. The religious discourse and invention observed, it is argued, has to be seen within a hierarchical structured interrelation between two different social systems and its ideologies.

Panel W064
Interpreting religious diversity: conversion, syncretism and religious practice