Accepted paper:

Water, solidarity and the hereafter in Madagascar: or how to keep society and the pump running?


Sara de Wit (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the two particular notions of fihavanana and adidy that are invoked by the users of the Malagasy bush pump. Based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in southeastern Madagascar it will interrogate the (im)possibilities of translating these idiosyncratic terms.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores how the Malagasy bush pump is made to work (or not) through the eyes of its users. Based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in southeastern Madagascar I seeks to shed light on the cultural practices surrounding the pumps and ask whether there are ways to translate the idiosyncratic notions of fihavanana (caring, sharing, giving, solidarity, reciprocity and/ or social bonds) and adidy (moral obligation to pay, everyone contributes to the obligation to share wealth, contribution fee to upkeep and maintain the pumps) meaningfully. The notion of fihavanana (which encapsulates, but is not limited to, the idea of care) is an imbricative concept that belongs both to the cultural as well as to the spiritual realm. By shining light on the manifold translations that these notions invoke by the pumps' users, it will be demonstrated that caring for water essentially means caring for each other, in the here and in the hereafter. But what does caring really mean in practice when it seeks to bridge the gap between the past and the present, the rich and the poor, the dead and the living? In other words, do we exhaust all its cultural meanings by simply adding words?

panel A14
In other words: caring for water