Learning to be Vezo : the construction of the person among fishing people of western Madagascar
The dissertation studies the Vezo, fishing people who live on the western coast of Madagascar. It examines Vezo identity and Vezo notions of persorthood. These are shown to be construed around two apparently incompatible principles: the flexible principle of learning and the rigid principle of descent. The first part of the dissertation discusses the fact that Vezoness is learnt, acquired and lost, and that people are rendered Vezo through learning and knowing Vezo knowledge. Ch.l describes the knowledge that renders the Vezo Vezo and discusses how this knowledge is acquired. Ch.2 examines Vezo livelihood as one of the defining features of Vezo performative identity. Ch.3 treats Vezo political attitudes from a similar perspective. Ch.4 discusses some of the implications of defining identity on the basis of learning and practice, in particular the fact that although people are profoundly shaped by Vezoness, the latter does not become a permanent and essential characteristic of Vezo persons. The second part of the dissertation analyzes Vezo kinship, contrasting kinship among the living with kinship among the dead. Ch.5 explains how people come to be related to one another in life through links of common generation which are undifferentiated and ungendered. Ch.6 argues that unilineal descent only determines people's affiliation to a tomb. Descent is therefore a domain that concerns the dead, while the living are only shadowed by descent in anticipation and preparation of their death and burial. Chs.7 and 8 examine the ritual activities-funerals and the construction of tombs-through which the living imagine the existence of the dead and the latter's longing for life. The Conclusion argues that the undifferentiation and flexibility of Vezoness and the divisiveness and fixity of descent rather than co-existing within the Vezo person, constitute two opposed realms of experience, life and death. Although separate and irreducible to one another, these two realms are nonetheless linked.