Madagascar offers an ideal laboratory to study such melding.
The island has long been buffeted by Indian Ocean trade, producing a culture neither African nor southeast Asian.
Go to almost any family reunion, and you’ll find some of the same things: gossip and posturing, old photos and favorite recipes, brand new babies and aged ancestors.
For anthropologist Jennifer Cole, these often-awkward gatherings are rich opportunities for fieldwork that offer a glimpse into the emergence of a transnational culture as it forms.
Cole was first drawn to Madagascar because of this unique history and because of personal experience (she lived for a time in France).
“There is a basic contradiction: They are supposed to be rich in Madagascar, but they are comparatively poor in France.The man has very little idea what is going on around him, or comparatively little. I want to see what the little girls think.” The trip’s climax will be an ancestor ceremony, an elaborate ritual-cum-fete that can only be performed in Madagascar.Because he relies on his wife for access to what is going on much of the time, she can try to shape his impressions, which she does! There will be a party and dancing fueled by rum and the local sugar-cane beer and, the following day, a ceremony in which Simone’s family thanks her ancestors for her good fortune by sacrificing of a bull.Or, as Cole explains it: “Imagine you were going home to meet your in-laws and your in-laws were thousands of people. ” For Simone, however, the awkwardness is more than offset by pride in her achievement.After ten years abroad, she’s going home to show off a devoted husband and two beautiful daughters, not to mention a first-world lifestyle.