In the Wake of Things: Speculating in and about Sapphires in Northern Madagascar



This article discusses the interrelatedness of two sorts of speculation undertaken by Malagasy sapphire miners and traders involved in the northern Malagasy sapphire trade: first, the speculating that these people do in sapphires, and, second, the speculating that they do about the uses to which sapphires are put by foreigners. Although Malagasy people involved in the local trade know a great deal about how sapphires might be profitably traded, most of them do not know why foreigners are so interested in these stones. Dubious of foreign traders' assurances that sapphires are used in the production of jewelry, they speculate a variety of alternate, secret uses for them. In this article, it is argued that these speculations emerge out of a variety of locally developed assumptions about how the sapphire trade works, and specifically, the significant roles that deception and knowledge differentials play in its operation.