Malagasy and Western Conceptions of Memory: Implications for Postcolonial Politics and the Study of Memory


  • Jennifer Cole


In this article, I analyze the social dynamics of memory during two electoral crises that took place in Madagascar in 1993 and 2002, respectively. These crises were accompanied by intense surges of memory. For some participants, the surge of remembering was simultaneously discursive, emotional, and embodied; for others it remained primarily discursive, with important consequences for how people related to the political changes taking place. Rather than turn to Western social theories of memory, which tend to separate the discursive, embodied, and emotional dimensions of memory, I suggest that the Malagasy practice of memory—mahatsiaro—offers a better analytic, one that combines the different aspects of memory together. The highly contingent ways in which the political, emotional, and embodied dimensions of memory converge to motivate political action suggests the need to integrate attention to personal experience with wider sociopolitical events and structures of power in particular historical settings. [Madagascar, discursive memory, emotion, embodiment, politics]