The search for knowledge among the Seventh-Day Adventists in the area of Maroantsetra, Madagascar
The thesis is an ethnographic inquiry into the nature of Seventh-day Adventism in Maroantsetra, a small town on the northeast coast of Madagascar, and Sahameloka, a nearby village. The Seventh-day Adventists in Maroantsetra and Sahameloka do not participate in traditional practices through which local people communicate with their ancestors, because they consider such practices to be the work of the devil. This is highly significant in the context of Madagascar and causes serious tension between Adventist and non-Adventist kin. The thesis examines whether the members of the church form a discrete community, but finds that they remain firmly embedded in existing kinship networks despite the difficulties involved. The main body of the thesis is concerned with the nature of the commitment of local church members to Seventh-day Adventism. It is argued that the core of their commitment, and what they value most, is the practice of Bible study and the pleasure which derives from that activity. Moreover, it is suggested that Adventist Bible study is similar to certain aspects of scientific practice. The thesis further examines the ways in which Bible study is conceptually linked to an image of clarity, an image of dis-covering the truth from beneath Satan's many deceptions and of acquiring a clear vision of reality. In conclusion, it is argued that while other studies of phenomena labelled 'religious fundamentalism' have tried to understand what kinds of people join movements such as Seventh-day Adventism, and why they do so, insufficient attention has been paid to the nature of converts' commitment beyond initial conversion. Finally, it is suggested that Seventh-day Adventism in Maroantsetra and Sahameloka does not correspond to the modern concept of Christianity based on belief as an inner state.