AAA Annual Meeting Program

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Paper Information:
Type: Paper
Paper Title: TRADING IN TRIFLES AND TASTES: TRANSFORMATION OF BAUBLES AND SMALL OBJECTS IN CENTRAL MADAGASCAR THROUGH TIME INTO THE PRESENT
Author: SUSAN KUS (Rhodes University), VICTOR RAHARIJAONA   
Date/Time: Fri., 9:30 AM
Co-Author(s): SUSAN KUS (Rhodes University), VICTOR RAHARIJAONA 
Abstract: Madagascar was occupied less than 2,000 years ago and, it was involved in the Indian Ocean trade network for over 1,500 years. Everyone and many things in Madagascar come from elsewhere, yet once arrived they have become Malagasy. The work of archaeologists and economic historians testify to the movement of “big ticket” items off and onto the island, including cattle, muskets, precious wood, and slaves. Yet, archaeological excavations and written accounts of European traders reveal that accompanying such major transactions were items of “small change” including beads and coins of all realms. To have become human is to have taken self-decoration seriously. Consequently, we should not be surprised by the “infuriating habit” of natives of piercing silver specie money for jewelry or by the exigent tastes of natives unwilling to accept just any shape and color of glass beads in trade. Today, over 70 named varieties of beads are still available for purchase in the market places of Madagascar. Bearing powerful names such as “Alive for 1,000 years” (velonarivotaona) and “You did it!” (tafita), such beads are employed today by both ritual specialists, who see to the well-being of individuals and families, and by thieves of cattle and of “love”. Contemporary ethnographic research with ritual specialists, merchants of coins and beads, and plastic bead makers from the central highlands of the island give us momentary pause to examine the complex idiosyncratic cultural depth that may have characterized earlier trafficking in trifles to please indigenous tastes as well as aesthetico-logics.

Program Number: 3-0220
Session Title: HOT TRADE: FRONTIERS AND FRICTION IN PAST ECONOMIES
Session Sponsor: Archaeology Division
Session Date/Time: Fri., 8:00 AM-11:45 AM
Organizer(s): KATHRYN FRANKLIN (University of Chicago) 
Chair(s): SHANNON DAWDY (University of Chicago)  
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