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Restoring Dignity in Rural and Urban Madagascar

On How Religion Creates New Life-stories


Marianne Skjortnes

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.
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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...

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