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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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Chapter 6. Urban Citizens in Search of a Living: A Story of Changes in and Around Antsirabe


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Throughout my childhood, my everyday life was framed by Antsirabe. In this city, with its exotic shops, lively markets, diverse population and beautiful location, I grew up. As an adult I have had an opportunity to get to know the city from a development studies and anthropological perspective.

The city of Antsirabe is situated in the Vakinankaratra region, an agricultural area in the inland of Madagascar. Vakinankaratra is populated by the Merina population group,59 which is commonly thought to be the largest population group in Madagascar, and has around 3 million inhabitants (Eriksen 2010, 233).

The Merina people live in the area called Imerina. For most people this denotes the area that corresponds to the area of the Merina monarchy toward the end of the eighteenth century. For political authorities from the beginning of colonial times, however, Imerina has denoted an administrative unit, i.e. the Antananarivo area. Andrianampoinimerina, who was king of the Merina kingdom from 1787–1810, divided Imerina into eight different districts. Of these, Vakinankaratra is the district that lies furthest south in the region. Vakinankaratra is today an administrative area, and since 2004 it has been one of Madagascar’s 22 regions.

← 99 | 100 → Below I will present a broad contextual description of the cultural, social, religious and economic conditions that form the background for understanding the life situation...

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