Lasting problems of disorder on the island of Madagascar, and the incapacity of state actors to control or to prevent insecurity effectively, are driving villagers in rural areas to search urgently for solutions. The ethnographic case study focuses on the recent establishment of two vigilante groups in the Bongolava region of middle-western Madagascar, the so-called Zazamainty and Lambamena, whose work is based, among others, on a magic worldview and a locally well-known cultural code related to the precolonial past. The inactivity of the state sets the precondition for such magic momentum, as villagers are taking recourse on ideas and practices based on what is presented as ‘traditional authority,’ the only and last refuge they have. Villagers, by consequence, appear to navigate between two parallel, partly concurrently and overlapping registers of authority and legitimacy: State authority, and the connected global normativity of the legal state, of democracy, of peacemaking, or civil society on the one side, and local expressions of authority on the other. Malagasy actors, however, are particularly able and experienced to act within such dynamic world of plural legitimacies and authorities, as an additional regard on the horizon of long-standing cultural patterns allows to conclude.
Kneitz, Peter. “A Magic Momentum: Negotiating Authority in the Bongolava Region, Madagascar.” In Challenging Authorities: Ethnographies of Legitimacy and Power in Eastern and Southern Africa. Edited by Arne S. Steinforth and Sabine Klocke-Daffa, 319–45. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.