Ancestral Encounters in Highland Madagascar: Material Signs and Traces of the Dead

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Nineteenth-century highland Madagascar was a place inhabited by the dead as much as the living. Ghosts, ancestors, and the possessed were important historical actors alongside local kings and queens, soldiers, traders, and missionaries. This book considers the challenges that such actors pose for historical accounts of the past and for thinking about questions of presence and representation. How were the dead made present, and how were they recognized or not? In attending to these multifarious encounters of the nineteenth century, how might we reflect on the ways in which our own history-writing makes the dead present? To tackle these questions, ZoŽ Crossland tells an anthropological history of highland Madagascar from a perspective rooted in archaeology and Peircean semiotics, as well as in landscape study, oral history, and textual sources.

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Book Description:

Nineteenth-century highland Madagascar was a place inhabited by the dead as much as the living. Ghosts, ancestors, and the possessed were important historical actors alongside local kings and queens, soldiers, traders, and missionaries. This book considers the challenges that such actors pose for writing history. How do we take proper account of the dead, and what might this reveal about the practice of writing and creating history? To tackle these questions, this book draws on archaeology, landscape study, oral history, and textual sources to trace the many different encounters between the living and the dead in highland Madagascar.

About the Author:

ZoŽ Crossland is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Her research focuses on the historical archaeology of Madagascar, as well as forensic archaeology and evidential practices around human remains. She is the co-author of A Fine and Private Place: The Archaeology of Death and Burial in Post-Medieval Britain and Ireland (with Annia Cherryson and Sarah Tarlow) and the editor of Disturbing Bodies: Perspectives on Forensic Anthropology (with Rosemary Joyce, forthcoming). Her work has appeared in American Anthropologist and Archaeological Dialogues, and is forthcoming from the Annual Review of Anthropology. She established the U.S. branch of the Theoretical Archaeology Group, an international conference devoted to discussing archaeological theory.

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