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Why do Malagasy cows speak French?

Latifa Mansoor Sumaira Batool Irshad Baig Atifa Durrani


Cognitive Anthropology

Out line of presentation 


Summary of the article Madagascar Before Colonization Madagascar During Colonization Basic Reasons for European Colonization of Africa Characteristics of French Colonialism Particular Contexts: the villagers use French Link with French Manipulation of French by the villagers: Factors influenced Malagasy and made them to use French in particular context Emerging themes Use of Analogies by the peasants Conclusion

Summary of the article 

This article is about Malagasy peasants who are when drunk or in anger address their cows in French language though their native language is Malagasy . Their use of French, which is a foreigner language has links to their history of French colonialism in Madagascar.

Madagascar Before Colonization  




The Madagascar people are a mix of Africans and Asians, the Asian facial feature are predominant but their heritage culture is mainly African Constant immigration from Indonesia up until the 1400¶s Most of the people lived on the coasts In the 18th century, Madagascar had pretty much disintegrated King Andrianampoinimerina (1787±1810) ruled (1787± the major kingdom on the island and his son King Radama I (1810 ± 1828), brought there people together and united most of the island In the 1800¶s the Marina Kingdom rose as the most powerful in Madagascar Protestant London Missionary Society s welcomed and they started to make churches and help transcribe the Merina language, which all help the spread of Merina culture all over Madagascar  

In the 1840¶s Queen Ranavalona I tried to ban the European influence in Madagascar, but when she died in 1861, they all returned and continued their influence. Only the native Merina people to attend these schools and churches After she passed away in 1861, her successor, Radama II and his successor reinstated the foreign trade policies and allowed European traders back to Madagascar In 1869, France extended their influence and fights started to break out during the reigns of Ranavalona II (1868±83) and (1868± Ranavalona III (1883±96), most of Madagascar was (1883± united under the Merina colony.   

Madagascar During Colonization    


During the sixteenth century, European colonization began with Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French people exploring Madagascar¶s shoreline. In 1634, the French established a settlement in South Madagascar and occupied the Reunion and some Islands. Several of the French settlements lasted more than 30 years, because of the relations that were established with the Antanosy, the ethnic group living there. During the French colonization of Madagascar, French became the dominant language of the island. The most powerful ethnic group who gained control over Madagascar was the Merinas. Two monarchs played key roles in establishing political dominance over Madagascar. In 1904, the French had complete control over the entire island In 1916, the Merina planned an overthrow, but the French caught on and suppressed the uprising From 1947 to 1948, the were many uprisings and about 11 000 to 80 000 people were killed

‡In 1956, and the Social Democratic party (SDP), led by Philibert Tsiranana (a Tsimihety), gained predominance in Madagascar. ‡Madagascar gained full independence from colonial rule on June 26, 1960, and renamed themselves the Malagasy Republic 3.html 3-history_1894.html

Madagascar Village

Basic Reasons for European Colonization of Africa

Basic Reasons for European Colonization of Africa 

Geo-Strategic: Geo-Strategic: Since Africa was being colonized it was important that the European powers all get a piece in order to keep up with their enemies. Religious: Religious: Colonization was done on religious grounds«bringing Christianity to the ³heathen´ Africans. Mercantilist: Mercantilist: Free labor (Africans) was available for the taking, labor that would provide goods and resources for colonial powers that operated on mercantilist policies. Economic: Economic: harvesting the vast natural resources for European good (linked to mercantilism), would provide a boost to the sagging economies of Europe as well as provide markets for manufactured goods (forced buying of European goods by Africans.   

Mike DiMatteo: Map image taken from:

Characteristics of French Colonialism 

Assimilation: Assimilation: This was the dominant method of French involvement in Africa. They chose to attempt to supplant traditional African culture with French culture. Teach the Africans French language, French dress, French mannerisms. The basic problem: How is one to truly become French if they look problem: different (skin tone)? This cannot be supplanted. Color is the definer. This resulted in a class of people known as Evolues«those Evolues«those Africans who were educated in the French language, manner of dress, and etiquette. The Evolues were the ones who ultimately led the independence movement from French colonialism. Note: Note: There was an arrogance and an air of superiority by the French over the Evolues«this played games on the mind of the Africans and led to the psychosis that was to plague them after decolonization. 


Particular Contexts: the villagers use French: 

French is used not as a choice of language but because of other characteristics: Drunken state, shows semi professional minstrels (who are invited on ceremonies,, public or private rejoicings (Independence(Independence-day, marriages, funerals). Minstrel is composed of varied element:( of poetry reciting, of singing of long moral tales, of dancing, extravagant speechspeechmaking & acrobatics). Lastly, French is used for government administration.

Link with French 

There is a connection to French, as dancing & acrobatics is concerned. For these activities there is always a chosen character among the villagers.

Manipulation of French by the villagers: 

One of the villagers act as ³a ridiculous leader, blowing whistle time to time & shouting orders in a voice as violent as possible,´ He behaves like a master of a gym & a major sergeant.

Factors influenced Malagasy and made them to use French in particular context:, 


Colonial Administration, Taxation Payments, Exercise of power through the medium French, Ordering in French (all absolute orders), French left remains after independence (1960) as administration is divided French at higher level & Malagasy at lower level. Pesants receive government orders still (a part) in French Ministers¶ speeches had French phrases.

Social Relations between Colonizer & Colonized

Emerging themes
Internalized Oppression  Colonialist Ideology  Postcolonial Identity  Mimicry 

Internalized Oppression
Colonialism creates an oppressive environment whereby people are disallowed or unable (because it¶s too dangerous or risky) to express anger and frustration. These feelings are turned inward and directed at one¶s self and/or family/community. This anger can be expressed in violence, for example, through domestic violence, sexual abuse, suicide, or murder (of one¶s own people). It can also be expressed more subtly through depression, low ³self´ (or community) esteem, apathy, substance abuse, or mental illness.

Colonialist Ideology
Barthes: Myth today (1957)

Meaning 1: a black soldier is giving the French flag a salute Meaning 2: ³that France is a great Empire, and that all her sons, without any colour discrimination, faithfully serve under her flag, and that there is no better answer to the detractors of an alleged colonialism than the zeal shown by this Negro in serving his so-called oppressors.´

Colonialist Ideology 

Results ³colonial subjects´ (colonized people who did not resist colonial subjugation because they believed in French superiority and, therefore, in their own inferiority.)


Colonialist Ideology cont«.  

Believed their own European culture was civilized, sophisticated, or metropolitan. metropolitan. Based on the colonizers¶ assumption of their own superiority, which they contrasted with the alleged inferiority of native (indigenous) peoples, the original inhabitants of the lands they invaded.

Postcolonial Identity 

Psychological and social interplay between ‡ native, indigenous, pre-colonial cultures pre‡ what French culture imposed upon that culture
‡ Fanon was an anti-colonial thinker who antibelieved that by speaking a certain language, a person assumes all of the cultural values of that society

Postcolonial Identity 

One of Fanon's more famous works is Black Skin, White Masks. In this book, he analyzes the effects of racism and colonization on black men. He also examines the colonizer/colonized relationship from a psychological standpoint, and points out that in order for the black man to overcome the association of "black" to "evil", he must put on a white mask.


metaphor for a process of acculturation and adaptation of imposed cultural concepts and patterns by the colonized; a strategic adaptation by the colonized as a subtle act of resistance. In its contradictions it unfolds the whole ambivalence of the colonial discourse. Many tried to imitate the colonizers (mimicry) (mimicry) ‡ Dress - Behavior ‡ Speech - Lifestyle

Use of Analogies by the peasants  

It is all about communication b/w powerful & powerless actors among the community. Example; powerful colonials/ administrators communicate the powerless peasants in French, in the same way; the powerful peasants (cattle owners) communicate the powerless cattle in French using the analogous model of colonial relationship:

So, one language is used for the social relationship which is transacted in among the Malagasy cows  a bureaucrat to the cultivator, a man to the beast.