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The Weight of the Past: Living with History in Mahajanga, Madagascar
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Author: Michael Lambek.
ISBN-10: 1-4039-6067-4 (1403960674)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4039-6067-2 (9781403960672)
Language: English
No. of Pages: xxi + 319
Dimensions: 160mm x 241mm x 24mm

Item Identification Code (UID#): 721
Shelving Location: Ethnography & Ethnology
Estimated Value: £50.00
Purchase Date: 12 August 2006
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Price Paid: Log In to view this

The Weight of the Past

Living with History in Mahajanga, Madagascar

First Edition
(Contemporary Anthropology of Religion)
St. Martin's Press / Palgrave Macmillan (2002).
Hardcover Book

A book about the formation and meaning of history. The author examines the role played by history among the Sakalava of Majunga.

Description (from the Publisher's Website)

In The Weight of the Past, Michael Lambek explores the complex ways that history shapes, constrains, and enables daily life. Focusing on ritual performances of spirit mediumship in a multifaceted religious landscape, Lambek's analysis reveals the multiple ways that Sakalava "bear" history. In Mahajanga, Madagascar, to bear history is at once a weighty obligation, a creative re-birthing, a scrupulous cultivation, and an exuberant performance of the past. To bear history is to serve and to suffer it, but also to be informed, enlightened, and sanctified. Royal ancestors emerge in spirit mediums to comment on the present from multiple voices and generate a refracted, ironic historical consciousness. This book describes the division of labor, creative production (poiesis), and ethical practice (phronesis) entailed in imagining, embodying, and serving the past. It is at once a vivid ethnography of Sakalava life and a significant intervention in anthropological debates on culture and history, structure and practice, advocating a theoretical approach informed by Aristotelian categories of understanding. Ethnographically rich and engagingly written, this book will be essential reading for courses in the anthropology of religion, ritual, or historical consciousness.

About the Author (from the Publisher's Website)

Michael J. Lambek is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. He is author of Human Spirits: A Cultural Account of Trance in Mayotte, Knowledge and Practice in Mayotte: Local Discourses of Islam, Sorcery, and Spirit Possession, and editor of A Reader in the Anthropology of Religion.


  • Contents
  • List of Figures and Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Stylistic Conventions
  • Exchange Rates
  • Glossary of Frequently Cited Words
  • Key Personae
  • Part I: A Poiesis of History
  • Chapter 1. Bearing Sakalava History: A Glossary of Some Key Terms
  • Chapter 2. Into the Maze: Surface and Centre, Place, Person, and Potency
  • Chapter 3. The Sakalava Poiesis of History: Realizing the Past through Spirit Possession
  • Part II: Structural Remains: Contemporary Divisions of Historical Labor
  • Chapter 4. Mechanical Division: Structure and History in the Northwest
  • Chapter 5. The Legacy of Lord Diviner, Ndramisara: Organic Division, Kindedness, and Sakalava Subjects
  • Chapter 6. Personal Particularism, Mediumship, and Distributive Memory
  • Part III: Serving the Ancestors
  • Chapter 7. Popular Performances: Paying Homage and Gaining Respect
  • Chapter 8. The Great Service (Fanompoa Be)
  • Part IV: Practicing History
  • Chapter 9. Kassim's Burden: The Practice of an Exemplary Spirit Medium
  • Chapter 10. Answering to History: Conflict, Conscience, and Change
  • Chapter 11. The Play of the Past: Historicity in Daily Life
  • Chapter 12. Conclusion: Imagined Continuities
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

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