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7. Cooked Rice Wages

Genese Marie Sodikoff Indiana University Press ePub

Internal Contradiction and Subjective Experience

Most conservation agents of the Mananara-Nord Biosphere Reserve thought at one time or another about quitting the ICDP. Jafa said in May 2001:

I'm lazy, tired…. The reason for being tired is that the wages aren't fair. It's been three years and the wage hasn't moved, hasn't risen, and the work is hard. It was already only like cooked rice wages. And we're stuck there. (Field notes 5/11/2001)

“Cooked rice wages” (karama vary masaka) was an idiom for the bare minimum needed to buy rice for one's household—rice being the foundation of all meals in Madagascar. Since Jafa, like the other conservation agents, never got the raise he expected with the biosphere project, he felt structurally stuck (tsy mietsika, “to not move”). The job dashed his ambition and made him feel lazy (kamo) and exhausted (visaka).

The phrase “cooked rice wages” conjoins two “media of value,” rice and money, which are “the concrete, material means by which…value is realized” in the subsistence economy and in capitalist workplaces of the eastern Malagasy forests (Graeber 2001:75). Wages (really the monthly salary) equal money, the medium of value par excellence. As David Graeber (2001:66) writes, money is the “very embodiment of value, the ultimate object of desire” in capitalist society.

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Part 1. The Social Construction of Biotic Extinction

Edited by Genese Marie Sodikoff Indiana University Press ePub

Janet Chernela

In recent decades science has reached a critical juncture that calls our attention to its fundamental character and the contradictions within it. The crisis was brought about by the observation, by some scientists, that the Earth is facing a massive sixth extinction, one that may have been provoked by human activity. Reaction to this revelation has been complex; it points to some of the ways in which science is influenced by and inextricably integrated into the social fabric.

The degree to which science, as a pursuit of knowledge, is emancipated from the ideological underpinnings of society is an ongoing debate within the social and philosophical disciplines (Althusser 1971; Eagleton 1991; Giddens 1979). Theoretically, science and ideology represent two kinds of knowing, of which the first is open and the second closed. This profound difference has far-reaching implications, suggesting, among other things, that science reaches toward the unknown, whereas ideology continually reproduces itself. From the viewpoint of its proponents, science is an enterprise that not only is open to questions, but is built upon them.

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Part 4. Prehistories of an Apex Predator

Edited by Genese Marie Sodikoff Indiana University Press ePub

Laurie R. Godfrey and Emilienne Rasoazanabary

This chapter results from the collaborative efforts of Laurie Godfrey, a primate paleontologist, and Emilienne Rasoazanabary, a specialist on the behavior of living nonhuman primates. Both of us study the primates that live or once lived on the island of Madagascar—lemurs. In this chapter, we examine extinction, taking as our example recent extinctions on Madagascar (including the extinction of giant lemurs) and threats to the smaller-bodied lemur species that remain there today. Extinctions can be viewed in deep time, in near time, or in today’s world; each view generates insights that cannot be gained from any of the others. A “deep time” perspective is usually reserved for extinctions that occurred before humans evolved, so humans cannot have been responsible. There have periodically been major mass extinctions in the past (called extinction “events” because of the unusually high number of species extinctions concentrated in relatively short periods of time), each with different but profound effects on the evolutionary history of life on Earth. Quaternary extinctions, “extinctions in near time,” demand a consideration of humans as at least possible agents of extermination (MacPhee 1999). It was during the very last part (the most recent 100,000 years) of the geological period called the Quaternary (or Pleistocene and Holocene) that people began to populate many regions that had never before experienced their presence, and these regions, one after the other, suffered dramatic species loss. In many ways, such “near-time” extinctions rivaled or surpassed some of the worst mass extinctions of the distant past, and tools that have been applied to the analysis of species rarefaction in the deep past have been applied as well to late Quaternary extinctions.

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Part 3. Red-Listed Languages

Edited by Genese Marie Sodikoff Indiana University Press ePub

Bernard C. Perley

In the summer of 1994 a meeting was organized to gather support for a Maliseet language immersion program for the Tobique First Nation community in New Brunswick, Canada. The meeting took place in the native language classroom at the reservation elementary school. In attendance were the native language teacher, the organizer of the meeting, the Head Start teachers, several mothers of children attending the school, and me. We were all trying to look comfortable in the child-sized desks. Once we had settled in, the organizer began the meeting by arguing that the reservation needed a Maliseet language immersion program. The participants were discussing the merits of the proposal while the organizer distributed photocopies of articles on language endangerment in Canada. As everyone scanned the photocopies, the organizer called our attention to the appendix of one article. She pointed out a chart that listed three categories. First listed were the aboriginal languages spoken in Canada. Second was the number of speakers speaking each language in comparison to the population of that community. The last column indicated the state of the language on a scale of “viable,” “endangered,” “on the verge of extinction,” and “extinct.” As a group we all flipped the pages until we found the listing for Maliseet. There, in cold black-and-white text, Maliseet was listed as “on the verge of extinction.” Everyone in the room was silent as we all contemplated what “extinction” meant to each of us. The organizer allowed that moment of silence to continue until it turned into group discomfort. When she broke the silence, she reiterated her belief that the only way to avoid Maliseet language extinction was to support a Maliseet language immersion program for the school and for the community. One additional article predicted that, within two decades, only three aboriginal languages would be spoken in Canada. Maliseet was not one of them. That morning, we all had to come to grips with the prospect of Maliseet language extinction within the next two decades. The realization that the Maliseet language could become extinct within our lifetimes was not only discouraging but also suggested collateral extinctions that would undermine Maliseet cultural survival. In light of such dire predictions, it is difficult to find any positive or encouraging news.

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2. Overland on Foot, Aloft:

Genese Marie Sodikoff Indiana University Press ePub

An Anatomy of the Social Structure

A European traveler to Madagascar in the early nineteenth century, say 1825, would encounter a mosaic of rolling grassland and humid rain forest outside the limits of the eastern port of Toamasina. The traveler would likely head westward to pay his respects to King Radama I and his court in Antananarivo, the seat of the Merina Empire on the central high plateau. The trek from the coast to the capital was over 200 miles long, and the traveler, possessing heavy trunks of clothing and food provisions, faced an uphill and uncomfortable journey through a rain forest that, for all of its botanical and zoological wonders, could be lethal. Malaria had felled many. It was said that King Radama's military strategy relied on “General Hazo” and “General Tazo” (Generals “Forest” and “Fever”) to shelter the Merina kingdom from foreign invaders (Gallieni 1908:149; Campbell 2005:245).

Madagascar's east coast had heavily trafficked ports because of the relatively calm waters of its harbors. Toamasina in particular was reputed to offer the best anchorage of the island (Lloyd 1850:59). The east coast was thick with precious timbers, minerals, and fruits, and it possessed a well-trafficked footpath between Toamasina and the highland capital, Antananarivo. Automobiles would not appear on the island until 1900, four years after France's annexation of Madagascar and two years after Governor-General Gallieni actually purchased the cars from abroad—two Panhard-Levassors (Gruss 1902:194). In 1900, a celebrated “road to the east” from Antananarivo was opened (Gallieni 1908:170). The Tananarive-Côte-Est (TCE) railway would not be completed until 1913, built with the exertions of Malagasy laborers who were drafted by the French state during a huge public works campaign (Gallieni 1908:226; Porter 1940).

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