Prof. Susan Kus of the Rhodes Department of Anthropology and Sociology has been doing archaeological and ethnographic fieldwork and research in Madagascar for more than 25 years. Recently, she collaborated with two professional colleagues—Dr. Victor Raharijaoana and Dr. Clarisse Rasoamampionona—in writing an article for the French professional journal Etudes Océan Indien. Published since 1982, the journal presents linguistic, ethnological, archaeological, history, and literature articles on the Eastern islands and coasts of Africa.
The title of Kus’ article is “Rakelimalaza, Can the Higher Powers ‘Take a joke’? Some (A)Musings on Human Encounters with Powerful ‘Things’ and on the Poetics of Non-Anthropomorphic Forces in the Highlands of Madagascar.”
The research is based on ethnographic fieldwork in the Betsileo highland region of Madagascar and explores examples drawn from the poetic and occasionally humorous practices of both ritual specialists and non-specialists. Kus and her colleagues argue that traditional vocabulary and conceptualizations of “religion” and “magic” need to be re-examined in order to begin to appreciate the particular “stance” of these individuals.