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“the Vezo are not a kind of people”: identity, difference, and “ethnicity” among a fishing people of western Madagascar

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Abstract

This article presents a model of identity and difference alternative to ethnicity. It describes how the Vezo of western Madagascar construe their identity by transcending descent or descent-based features of the person. To be a Vezo is to have learned Vezo-ness, and to perform it; identity is an activity rather than a state of being. Difference is construed by an analogous process of identification: others are different because they have acquired and perform another identity. To the Vezo, neither identity nor difference is inherent in people; both are performative. [identity, difference, ethnicity, Madagascar, Vezo]

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