The Weight of the Past: Living with History in Mahajanga, by M. Lambek

By M. Lambek

Within the Weight of the previous , Michael Lambek explores the complicated ways in which historical past shapes, constrains, and permits lifestyle. concentrating on ritual performances of spirit mediumship in a multifaceted non secular panorama, Lambek's research finds the a number of ways in which Sakalava 'bear' historical past. In Mahajanga, Madagascar, to endure historical past is right away a weighty legal responsibility, an artistic re-birthing, a scrupulous cultivation, and an exuberant functionality of the previous. To undergo historical past is to serve and to undergo it, but in addition to be told, enlightened, and sanctified. Royal ancestors emerge in spirit mediums to touch upon the current from a number of voices and generate a refracted, ironic old awareness. This publication describes the department of labour, inventive creation (poiesis), and moral perform (phronesis) entailed in imagining, embodying, and serving the prior. it's straight away a vibrant ethnography of Sakalava existence and an important intervention in anthropological debates on tradition and background, constitution and perform, advocating a theoretical technique trained by means of Aristotelian different types of figuring out. Ethnographically wealthy and engagingly written, this ebook might be crucial studying for classes within the anthropology of faith, ritual, or old realization.

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For one thing, Sakalava themselves do not conceive a difference between them. ” I am sorry to disappoint them. I do attempt historical sketches in some places in the text, notably in chapter 4, but I have not conducted a full and properly historical inquiry. ” What people in Mahajanga expected from me was an event history that would focus on acts of royalty, not an account of colonialism or the structural transformations that it wrought. Historical anthropologists with converse expectations are equally likely to be disappointed in this respect.

An encyclopedic version is impossible for a number of reasons: not only that I am not Sakalava and that my powers of recording are not up to the task, but also because, of course, Sakalava do not agree among themselves, and because it would reduce the dynamism inherent in a dialectical process. Nor do I choose between a Sakalava version of history and an “objective” account—between attempting to be true to local ways of speaking the past and attempting to be true to the past itself. For one thing, Sakalava themselves do not conceive a difference between them.

It makes of our misprisions, of our partialities and disagreements not a relativistic chaos, an “anything goes,” but a deepening. Worthwhile interpretations, criticism to be taken seriously, are those which make their limitations, their defeats visible. In turn, this visibility helps make manifest the inexhaustibility of the object. The Bush burned brighter because its interpreter was not allowed too near. —George Steiner, Errata: An Examined Life . . [the] task is to demonstrate how those whom power-holders consider to be marginal are central to themselves.

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