Contributions of the Retrieved Values of the Malagasy Culture, Globalization and Catholic Social Teaching for the Reconstruction of the Society in Madagascar

Ranaivotratra, Maminirina Jacques Cyprien (2010) Contributions of the Retrieved Values of the Malagasy Culture, Globalization and Catholic Social Teaching for the Reconstruction of the Society in Madagascar. Licentiate thesis, Santa Clara University Berkeley, California.

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Cultural anthropologists generally agree that culture is dynamic in nature. Certain elements in each culture are subject to change whereas other elements remain relatively stable. Changes occur when cultural symbols are no longer relevant to a new generation of people in a particular time period. In this case, there is a great need to find new symbols which are meaningful to the generation in question. However, the changes should not be forcibly imposed by any foreign power upon the people to whom the culture belongs. Instead, changes should be the result of dialogue or meeting between cultures and their respective values. For this reason, theologian Robert J. Schreiter says, “In ideal circumstances the process of constructing local theologies begins with a study of the culture, rather than with possible translations of the larger church tradition into the local circumstance.” Unfortunately, this is not always the case. One of my professors in Madagascar used to say that culture is the totality of the way we live our lives; in other words, it embraces all elements that constitute structures within which human life develops. Therefore, destroying someone’s culture or imposing foreign elements on it amounts to threatening, even sapping the process of human development and flourishing. In such a situation, human survival and dignity, rights and freedom are at stake. These are the challenges brought by the search for economic prosperity and the progress of technologies, both of which are at the foundation of globalization. Thus, globalization becomes a force from which no culture and no country can escape. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of globalization is that the rich become richer and the poor poorer. There is an unequal balance of economic advantage among the communities in the world and even within each nation. As a result, economic and cultural domination bring about oppressive structures. In theological terms, injustice and sinful structures are the reality of our societies today. The fact is that a great majority of people in the world are dying of hunger whereas others have a super-abundance of goods. Being aware of the reality of oppression and poverty, and having made the “preferential option for the poor,” the Church continues to reflect on these issues, and put into practice those elements which can liberate people and help us as Christians to cooperate with God’s grace in order to bring “integral” salvation to a needy world. This thesis will address the rich possibilities for dialogue between Malagasy culture, globalization, and Catholic tradition in an attempt to lay the foundations for a prophetically-critical and culturally sensitive theology and practice for the Malagasy people. It will argue that, in the current context of globalization, by bringing together Fihavanana, the core of Malagasy culture, the positive aspects of globalization, and those values we consider liberating and humanizing from the Catholic tradition, we form Malagasy Christians prepared for the challenges and opportunities of globalization. Regarding the Malagasy context, I am convinced that Fihavanana, which is the core of the traditional Malagasy culture, has remained relatively stable, though its concrete manifestations have been adversely affected by such factors as the meeting with other cultures, economic poverty, and political ideologies. Chapter One will focus on the study of this Malagasy culture. In Part One, I start by giving a panoramic view of the history of Madagascar, in which I describe the location and the geography of this country. This is followed by the history of the origins of the people and the traditional economic system. I end with the politics the traditional Malagasy people used to govern their society. In Part Two, I discuss fihavanana as the core of the Malagasy culture. This contains three points: the consideration and the meaning of life in the Malagasy culture, the respect for the ancestors, and the birth of fihavanana. Part Three studies the development of fihavanana in three aspects. First, the development begins at the familial level. Second, fihavanana is also realized in another sphere beyond the family, that of the communal. And third, Fati-dra (blood pact) is another form of the development of fihavanana. Part Four analyzes the impacts of Fihavanana on different aspects of the life of the Malagasy people. Primarily, I speak about the impact of Fihavanana on Malagasy social life. Its impact on economic life follows. I end this segment with a consideration of the impact of Fihavanana on the Malagasy culture. Part Five examines the ways of preserving the values of the Malagasy traditional culture. The first way is telling stories to children. Another way is the use of systems of taboos. And the third stresses the belief in Tsiny and Tody, which punish any disrespect of taboos. Part Six deals with the evaluation of the Malagasy culture. Here, I apply Mary Douglas’ method of categorizing cultural differences and cultural change. This method helps identify the strengths and the weaknesses of the Malagasy culture. Three positive aspects of this culture are highlighted. The first is the stability of the social structures and harmony in the society. The second stresses the unity of the culture without undermining some particularities of each tribe. The last point identifies justice as an expression of Fihavanana. The negative aspects of the Malagasy culture are underscored in three points. First of all, the culture brings about a fearful attitude which leads to dependency. The next point shows the impact of Fihavanana on economic activities. The lack of creativity and selfdetermination are emphasized here. The third point argues that Fihavanana can discourage individual responsibility. This results in different forms of frustration such as hypocrisy, jealousy and violence. The second chapter analyzes globalization in the Malagasy context. To do so, I study some aspects of globalization under different periods of Madagascar history. These periods started with the coming of the Christian missionaries to Madagascar and continue to the year 2009. The chapter begins with a panoramic view of globalization, starting with some basic working definitions. Then an examination of some of the trends of globalization follows. Some key factors accelerating its process end this part. Part Two focuses on the major periods of the history of Madagascar. The first period (1817-1896) is marked by the first contact of the Malagasy people with the missionaries. Three aspects are studied here: Christianity, schools and new technologies. The second period (1896- 1960) was the time of the colonization of Madagascar by France. The three key points in this period are: the idea of civilizing the indigenous people and their culture, the politics of diviser pour regner (divide in order to rule over), and the creation of modern infrastructure such as roads, railways, etcetera. I mention without going into much detail the post-colonial period (1960-1975), because this period is beyond my immediate scope of study. The period of the socialist regime (1975-1991) follows. I focus on three points here. The first discusses the socialist politics which encouraged the nepotism of the leaders. The second emphasizes the corruption and injustice of the regime. And the last looks at the censorship of the means of communication. I identify the above-mentioned periods as the seeds of globalization because the term “globalization” starts to emerge around the end of those periods in question. Then the era of globalization proper ensued. It begins with post- socialist period (1991-1996). It is marked by three points. The first concerns the lax political leadership in contrast to the previous dictator regime. The second is the sluggish economy. And the third highlights the beginning of the liberalization of the means of communication, the abrogation of censorship, and the emergence of mobile phones. Then the period of 1996-2001 followed. This is marked first of all by the return to power of Didier Ratsiraka, the former socialist president. This period experienced some economic progress. The area of technologies, communication and information in Madagascar also started to develop. The last period is called the era of President Ravalomanana (2001-2009). This period was born out of a great political crisis due to the distortion of the result of the presidential election by the ousted president. Such a situation of crisis was quickly overcome after the victory of Ravalomanana. The economic crisis brought about by the political crisis was also rapidly improved thanks to the creation and reconstruction of many infrastructures. And this period experiences the expansion and blossoming of technologies, communication, and information. Part Three of this chapter is an evaluation of the impact of globalization on the Malagasy society, and highlights the opportunities and challenges brought by globalization. Chapter Three identifies the values we consider liberating and humanizing from the Catholic tradition. The introduction is followed by Part One, an overview of Catholic social teaching. From this overview, I develop four main points. I begin with the dignity of the human person, which stems from the very ‘fundamental principle’ that the ‘human person is created in the image of God’ (Gen 1:27), endowed with intelligence and freedom. Then, I discuss human rights and correlative duties. Human rights come from our dignity as human persons. The common good, which is the means for the human person to “fulfill his or her perfection,” is the next point. This part ends with a consideration of charity and the preferential option for the poor. I then analyze the response of the Catholic Church in Madagascar to the impacts of globalization. I focus on three points here: the relevance of the prophetic role of the Church, which denounces and criticizes any form of oppression and injustice (this was the case until the current political crisis of February 2009 to the present, in which the Church leaders are failing to denounce the political injustice of the current coup regime); the relevance of the kingly mission of the Church, through which concrete actions to serve the people of God are undertaken; and the importance of the priestly role, through which the Church mediates God to the people, to strengthen and encourage them with the words of God and the sacraments. The last part of Chapter Three deals with the necessary action toward the reconstruction of the Malagasy society. Three points emerge from this analysis: the need for conversion and reconciliation, the need to form a new and stable constitution, and the need to establish healthy institutions and an independent judiciary. Taken together, these three elements -- namely the retrieved of cultural values, the positives aspects of globalization, and Catholic social teaching -- will enable us to form Malagasy Christians prepared to face both the challenges and opportunities of globalization. My methodological approach is primarily historical, but also includes cultural studies, theological anthropology, Catholic Social Teaching, and my own lived experience as a Malagasy Christian.

Item Type: Thesis (Licentiate)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Divisions: Africana
Depositing User: Tim Khabala
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2017 09:11
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2017 09:11

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