Dynamics of mourning celebrations in Southwest Madagascar in times of impoverishment and market integration
Johanna Friederike Goetter (Brandenburg University of Technology)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines the recent dynamics of the mourning celebrations in Southwest Madagascar, exploring the triggers and mechanisms of change. While in most regions of Madagascar mourning celebrations have been adapted to be less costly, here in turn, the celebrations became more luxurious and big.
Paper long abstract:
This paper examines the recent dynamics of the mourning celebrations, specifically the public funerary gift-giving in Southwest Madagascar. Although the high social and economic impact of such ceremonies on livelihoods in the developing world is recognized, little research has focused on the question how these systems transform over time and respond to broader political, societal and socio-economic shifts such as globalization, market integration, or impoverishment. As in many parts of the world, Malagasy groups conduct lengthy public funerary celebrations that involve hundreds of participants and a continuous flow of gifts and counter-gifts. With the general impoverishment of Madagascar as one of the poorest countries of the world in many regions funerary spending has decreased. On the Mahafaly Plateau, in turn, a contrary development is taking place: Not only do the Mahafaly people still spend a relevant share of their annual expenditure for participation in funerals, the celebrations are becoming even bigger and exorbitantly luxurious. The study based on interviews conducted in 26 Mahafaly villages explores triggers and mechanisms of change, especially the interplay between personal aspirations and societal ideologies reacting to influences from the urban areas, and how these translate into shifted societal norms and rules regarding mourning celebrations. Depicting a vicious circle of agonism and status seeking and stressing the high, however not necessary positive adaptability of traditional funerary systems and the importance of innovative individual behaviour, this paper contributes to our understanding of persistence and change in societies somewhere between tradition-focused live and modernity.