Restoring Dignity in Rural and Urban Madagascar

On How Religion Creates New Life-stories

by Marianne Skjortnes (Author)
©2014 Monographs XIV, 183 Pages
Series: Bible and Theology in Africa, Volume 18


Christian churches across the world such as the Lutheran church in Madagascar have long been engaged in what we would today term «development». The church has been deeply involved in humanitarian assistance and development work, especially in the areas of education and health. Restoring Dignity in Rural and Urban Madagascar analyzes this phenomenon and presents stories of human dignity in the lives of the people in this society, a society that survives in a context of vulnerability, both social and economic. The stories show how everyday life is lived despite unfulfilled needs and when decent living conditions are but a dream. The book is primarily concerned with a commitment to Christianity in a changing society and focuses on church members’ experiences of the development work of the Lutheran church in their everyday lives. Christian faith and Christian values such as human dignity, ethics, and belonging represent added values to these people and express value systems that are tied to ethical reflection and moral action. For those who choose to participate in the church’s development work and spiritual activity, therefore, new ethical standards and norms are created. This approach challenges the traditional emphasis on cultural continuity thinking to explain the sudden change in values that people say that they have experienced.
The book will be essential assigned reading in university courses in development studies, anthropology, and missiology.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Chapter 1. Introduction – A Life-Long Relationship
  • Stories of Changed Life
  • Chapter 2. The Resurgence of Religion
  • The Desecularization of the World
  • Churches in Changing Contexts
  • The Role of Religion in Development
  • Aid Work and Faith Identity
  • Chapter 3. The Setting
  • The Concept of Religion
  • Views of Christianity
  • Ancestral Malagasy Religion
  • Spirit Possession
  • Establishing Christian Churches
  • Lutheran Christianity
  • The Malagasy Lutheran Church and Development Work
  • Fifohazana – Local Christian Initiatives
  • Chapter 4. Bara Becoming Malagasy: A Story of Change in Southwestern Madagascar
  • A Pastoral People
  • Relations to Greater Society
  • Cattle as Capital
  • A Kinship-Based Society
  • Sexual Relations as Exchange
  • Customs in Change – Securing Continuity
  • Addressing Vulnerability
  • Chapter 5. Life Stories on Restoring Human Dignity
  • Tsara
  • Zefa
  • Soavita
  • The Road to Modernity
  • Chapter 6. Urban Citizens in Search of a Living: A Story of Changes in and Around Antsirabe
  • Antsirabe – the City of Expectations
  • City Dwellers and Peasants
  • Suffering a Shortage of Land
  • The Ambiguity of Education
  • The Ways of the Ancestors
  • Maintaining Social Relations
  • Approaching Urban Marginalization
  • Chapter 7. Life Stories About Finding New Foundations
  • Justine
  • Mihantra
  • Harimalala
  • Searching for a Better Life
  • Chapter 8. Restoring Dignity
  • Enhancing Human Dignity
  • Ethics and Belonging
  • Reinterpreting the Ways of the Ancestors
  • Christianizing Fomban-Drazana
  • Continuity and Discontinuity
  • Local Culture and Global Values
  • Changing Religion and Maintaining Local Identity
  • Religious Added Value
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index


This book revolves around three themes that constitute long-standing research interests for me: Madagascar, studies in social anthropology, and the role of the Christian religion.

Madagascar has been a large part of my life ever since I first arrived on the island as a three-year old. I grew up there, I have lived and worked there, and even while living in Norway Madagascar has been an important part of my life and my identity. Throughout my adult life I have worked on themes that either directly or indirectly are tied to Madagascar and the people there, or on questions that have been evoked by my encounters and experiences there.

I give a more detailed account of this in the first chapter of the book, which is really an attempt to sum up some of the aspects of my relationship with this fascinating island and the friendly people who live on it, and at the same time a wish to perhaps be able to give something in return – in the way that I am able – to all the people I have met, have worked with, and who have shown me friendship and trust.

Studies in social anthropology are based on ethnographic fieldwork as the most important source of knowledge about society and culture. Such studies are made possible by the people one encounters during fieldwork. Therefore, I would first and foremost like to thank all the inhabitants of the villages ← IX | X → Tsingilofilobe and Ankasy who shared their stories and experiences with me, and all the young employment seekers and entrepreneurs in Antsirabe whom I was able to meet and who told me their life stories. Talking and being with people in the field has been an enriching experience for me, and has been an important source of inspiration for the work presented in this book. Therefore I dedicate this book to them.

I would also like to thank everybody else who has contributed information, knowledge and insight, and made it possible for me to write these chapters: all the staff of the development project among the Bara and the staff at the diaconal center in Antsirabe. The two project leaders deserve a special thank you: Andriamananarivo Frederic in the project center in Ihosy and Tahina Rabeson in Antsirabe. By mentioning them, I also include the other employees of the two development projects who facilitated and made the fieldwork possible. I am especially grateful to the heads of departments and the project driver in Ihosy, who let me and my field assistant join them for drives along arduous country roads to get to the two villages, and who went far beyond the call of duty in order to help me carry out fieldwork in an area that was difficult to access.

The projects I describe are all part of the development work of the Malagasy Lutheran Church. I attempt in this book to look more closely at how the work carried out by the church through these projects affects people’s lives. In my meetings with the church’s administration in Antananarivo I have encountered great goodwill and interest. Church President Rakoto Endor Modeste has been very accommodating, and has taken time out of his busy schedule to talk me through the reasons for why it is important for the Lutheran church to carry out development work. I would also like to mention the church’s General Secretary Samoela Georges, and the Director of the church’s Department for Development Work, Andrianandrasana Noël, who have always shown an interest in discussing the church’s work and how this is organized in various work areas.

Thanks also to Arild Bakke, the Representative of the Norwegian Mission Society in Madagascar, who was willing to contribute based on his experience and knowledge of the Lutheran church’s work in Madagascar.

Several scholarly colleagues have provided constructive comments throughout the process, and have helped to make the end result much better. At the University in Antananarivo, anthropologists such as Randriamarolaza Louis Paul, Razafindralambo Lolona and Razafiarivony Michel have been important sources of information and conversation partners. Thanks also to ← X | XI → Manjakahery Barthélémy, professor at the University in Toliara, for help in proofreading quotations in the Bara dialect. And not least, a big thank you to Derason Yvette, lecturer at the University in Toliara, who accompanied me during the last fieldwork in the Bara region, and who provided fruitful viewpoints en route.

Thank you also to my colleagues at the School of Mission and Theology, and especially the members of our research group ‘Religion and Culture – Locally and Globally Negotiated’, who have encouraged me in this project. Ingeborg Hovland has, in addition to commenting on the written presentation, also helped with the English prose. Some of the research material has been presented at seminars, leading to useful discussions and feedback.

Not least, a big thank you to my husband, Kjetil Aano, for support and encouragement throughout the process of working on this material, and for always believing that the book would become a reality.

Research and fieldwork are expensive processes, and need to be financed. Thanks to all who have contributed financial support and who have made it possible to carry out this research. The work on the book has been financed through several sources. Funding for fieldwork and travels was provided by The School of Mission and Theology. In addition I have received grant support from Birkeland Legat, and from the research group Religion, Culture and Globalization, which is a collaborative project between the University in Stavanger and the School of Mission and Theology, in which I participate. In an early phase of the work I also received travel support from The Norwegian Non-fiction Writers and Translators Association (NFF).← XI | XII →


AIC – African Initiated Churches, or African Indigenous Churches. These independent congregations share many aspects with the Malagasy Fifohazana Movement, and the Fifohazana has often been compared to the AIC’s.

ARHAP – African Religious Health Assets Programme, an international research program begun at the University of Cape Town, which explores the relationship of religion and health in Africa.

FBO – Faith-based organization, an organization that is based on religious inspiration and guidance for its activities.

FFKM – Fiombonan’ny Fiangonana Kristiana eto Madagasikara, the National Council of Christian Churches in Madagascar.

FJKM – Fiangonan’i Jesoa Kristy eto Madagasikara, the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar, the successor body of the LMS mission. A federated denomination of bodies of different tradition, the United church, it is the second largest Protestant body on the island, and Merina people are predominant in its membership.

← XIII | XIV → FLM – Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy, the Malagasy Lutheran Church, the largest Protestant body on the island, particularly strong in the southern highlands and in the southeast.

INTRAC – The International NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) Training and Research Centre in Oxford, U.K.

LFMB – Loharanon’ny Fampandrosoana Maharitra ny faritra Bara, the Center for Long-Term development for the Bara Region.

LMS – the London Missionary Society sent the first Protestant missionaries to the island in 1820, and founded the church that became the FJKM, the United church.

LWF – Lutheran World Federation, the global Lutheran fellowship.

MIRD – the Malagasy Integrated Rural Development Program, a national development program in The Malagasy Lutheran Church.

NMS – the Norwegian Mission Society, headquartered in Stavanger, Norway, which sent the first Lutheran missionaries to the island in 1866.

SDL – Soritr’asa Diakonaly Loterana, the Lutheran Diaconal Programme related to the development work of FLM in Antsirabe.

SoFaBa – Soritr’asa Fampandrosoana ny Bara, a development project among the Bara, organized by the Malagasy Lutheran Church.

WCC – The World Council of Churches, an inter-church organization founded in 1948. Its members today include most mainstream Christian churches, but not the Roman Catholic Church.

← XIV | 1 → ·1·


XIV, 183
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (July)
education health ethics cultural continuity humanitarian assistance
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 183 pp.

Biographical notes

Marianne Skjortnes (Author)

Marianne Skjortnes is Professor in Social Anthropology at the School of Mission and Theology in Stavanger, Norway. She has had extensive experience working with development issues in several African countries, particularly in Madagascar, where she has lived, taught, and researched for several decades. She has published widely in academic journals on cultural and social processes of change in Madagascar, on gender issues in a global context, and on development-related questions. She is currently involved in research on religion and development.


Title: Restoring Dignity in Rural and Urban Madagascar
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
200 pages