Building Publics, Shaping Public Opinion: Interanimating Registers in Malagasy Kabary Oratory and Political Cartooning


Department of Anthropology,
University of Toronto,
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G3 Canada


This article discusses socially productive aspects of register shifts in political oratory (kabary politika) and political cartoons of the urban capital province of Madagascar, Imerina. In their daily mediated interactions, politicians and cartoonists interanimate varying registers associated with different social fields, effectively framing and navigating particular publics for particular interests. In this context, the article will explore the semiotic process in which registers drawn from different speech contexts—the proverbs of kabary, Christian sermons, and Western political and international development rhetoric—discursively circulate to hearken toward or contest imaginaries of community belonging and solidarity undergirding these publics, the agency of participant roles they presuppose, and the public opinion they entail. [Madagascar, oratory, political cartoons, linguistic variation, publics]