Late Capitalism in Rural Madagascar: Hot money, cold beer, and the tactics of time-space compression

Authors: Annah Zhu*, University of California Berkeley
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Human-Environment Geography, Africa
Keywords: globalization, Madagascar, money, export economies, boom and bust, late capitalism, rosewood, vanilla
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Studio 9, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Globalization, many now acknowledge, is characterized by disconnection as much as by connection. Capital “hops” between various hubs of development, bypassing the underdeveloped spaces in between. Yet, between zones of intensive development and those areas entirely “left behind,” are the places that straddle the difference. Northeastern Madagascar provides a unique example. Through its rosewood and vanilla export markets, northeastern Madagascar is inextricably tied to the global economy despite its extreme lack of development outside of this basic connection. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper discusses the experience of the rosewood and vanilla export markets in northeastern Madagascar since 2000. In these export-producing regions, rural communities that have benefited least from what is often called capitalist “development” nonetheless experience the most volatile dynamics of the contemporary free market. This asymmetrical market experience, the paper argues, elicits a tactical, everyday approach to life in the region. Income is spent as it is earned in "hot money" sprees that trivialize money and the market, reducing their power and hold over the region. Fabulous stories rewrite the importance of local products in more favorable terms. These behaviors comprise what I refer to as the tactics of time-space compression – the tactical logic associated with the experience of global connection amidst extremely uneven development. Not at all primitive or backward, Northeastern Madagascar’s tactics reflect the everyday practice of those who confront late capitalism tangentially, not from its centers, but from the stubbornly material terrain of some of its products.

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