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Forest and Labor in Madagascar

From Colonial Concession to Global Biosphere

Genese Marie Sodikoff

Publication Year: 2012

Protecting the unique plants and animals that live on Madagascar while fueling economic growth has been a priority for the Malagasy state, international donors, and conservation NGOs since the late 1980s. Forest and Labor in Madagascar shows how poor rural workers who must make a living from the forest balance their needs with the desire of the state to earn foreign revenue from ecotourism and forest-based enterprises. Genese Marie Sodikoff examines how the appreciation and protection of Madagascar's biodiversity depend on manual labor. She exposes the moral dilemmas workers face as both conservation representatives and peasant farmers by pointing to the hidden costs of ecological conservation.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. xi-xviii

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A Word on the Orthography and Pronunciation

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pp. xix-xxii

The Malagasy language has dialectical variation throughout the island. In the book, Malagasy words reflect either the standard Merina spelling (“official Malagasy”) or the Betsimisaraka pronunciation, depending on the context.
In the Merina dialect, the letter o is pronounced like the English oo (as in “zoom”). In the northern Betsimisaraka dialect, o is frequently pronounced long (as in the English “oh”). When I cite a Betsimisaraka...

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1. Geographies of Borrowed Time

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pp. 1-27

On June 13, 2010, a story about the plunder of rosewood trees out of several national parks in Madagascar made the cover of the New York Times (Bearak 2010). Not only Malagasy citizens but also international readers concerned about biodiversity protection had been following the story for several months, ever since the coup d’état of the previous March that ousted the pro-conservation and pro–United States president, Marc Ravalomanana,..

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2. Overland on Foot, Aloft: An Anatomy of the Social Structure

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pp. 28-49

A European traveler to Madagascar in the early nineteenth century, say 1825, would encounter a mosaic of rolling grassland and humid rain forest outside the limits of the eastern port of Toamasina. The traveler would likely head westward to pay his respects to King Radama I and his court in Antananarivo, the seat of the Merina Empire on the central high plateau. The trek from the coast to the capital was over 200 miles...

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3. Land and Languor: On What Makes Good Work

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pp. 50-73

Shortly after Madagascar was annexed to the French Empire in 1896, the colonial administration began to make a concerted, large-scale effort to bring the forest of eastern Madagascar into capitalist production. Official foresters made reconnaissance missions to distant outposts such as Mananara-Nord to survey regional resources and to assess how best to exploit and transport these resources to ports. Extracting the rain...


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pp. 74-76

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4. Toward a New Nature: Rank and Value in Conservation Bureaucracy

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pp. 87-113

With the great push toward protecting biodiversity in the late 1980s, conservation representatives coined a neologism, tontolo iainana (“the lived-in world”), to translate the concept of “environment,” for which the Malagasy language had no good equivalent. The phrase was meant to replace the more familiar term for natural resources, zavaboary, which, as the biosphere conservation agent Jafa explained, was usually understood...

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5. Contracting Space: Making Deals in a Global Hot Spot

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pp. 114-137

The first time I saw Mananara-Nord was in July of 1999, when I made an exploratory visit there with Haja. We went overland from Toamasina, where about fifteen passengers piled into the back of a camion-brousse, a vehicle that the Lonely Planet guidebook describes as an “army style truck fitted with a bench or seats down each side . . . used for particularly long or rough journeys, which you may well wish you had never begun” (Andrew et al. 2008:284). We sat atop bags of used clothes and rice...

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6. How the Dead Matter: The Production of Heritage

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pp. 138-160

In Madagascar, several cultural and natural heritage sites have been included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, including the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, consisting of a royal city and burial site, the cathedral-like limestone formations (tsingy) of Bemaraha, and the rain forests of Atsinanana, “relict” forests of the east coast. World Heritage sites possess at least one of ten criteria of value, including such things as exceptional biodiversity, ecological service, beauty, historical and archaeological...

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7. Cooked Rice Wages: Internal Contradiction and Subjective Experience

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pp. 161-181

Most conservation agents of the Mananara-Nord Biosphere Reserve thought at one time or another about quitting the ICDP. Jafa said in May 2001:
I’m lazy, tired. . . . The reason for being tired is that the wages aren’t fair. It’s been three years and the wage hasn’t moved, hasn’t risen, and the work is hard. It was already only like cooked rice wages. And we’re stuck there. (Field notes 5/11/2001)...

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Epilogue: Workers of the Vanishing World

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pp. 182-190

As I write these concluding remarks, Madagascar remains in a suspended state of “transition”: a presidential election to legitimate state officeholders has not yet occurred. Not seeing an end to the political turmoil, the international political community has resigned itself to recognizing Andry Rajoelina, the usurper of Ravalomanana over two years ago, as interim president. State authorities continue to abet the illegal...

Glossary of Malagasy Words

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pp. 191-194


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pp. 195-202


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pp. 203-238

Index, About the Author

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pp. 239-247

E-ISBN-13: 9780253005847
E-ISBN-10: 0253005841
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253003096

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 16 b&w, 1 table, 1 map
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 857953809
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Forest and Labor in Madagascar

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Subject Headings

  • Madagascar -- Economic conditions.
  • Rural poor -- Madagascar.
  • Forests and forestry -- Economic aspects -- Madagascar.
  • Forest biodiversity conservation -- Madagascar.
  • Forest conservation -- Madagascar.
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