You are on page 1of 13

GENESE SODI KOFF

The Low-Wage Conservationist: Biodiversity


and Perversities of Value in Madagascar
ABSTRACT In the early 1990s, donors began to implement integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs) in Madagas-
car to stem deforestation, develop ecotourism, and promote forest conservation practices in rural areas. ICDPs recruited agrarian labor
to groom and police parks and disseminate rules. In this article, I present a Marxian analysis of biodiversitys value in the global north,
focusing on the role of manual workers in a Biosphere Reserve. I argue that ICDPs reliance on cheap local labor has maintained the
historical interdependency of slash-and-burn agriculture, wage work, and forest conservation. By facilitating the discovery of species
while unintentionally perpetuating the conditions of habitat endangerment, the conservation labor process creates forms of rain forest
value. [Keywords: conservation, labor, value, capitalism, ecology]
W
E SAT ON mats in the smoky kitchen, backs
against the split bamboo and ravinala leaf walls.
Illuminated by the light of a tin kerosene lamp, Sylvestre
was telling me stories about the tour of the d eguerpissement
(the forest sweep) that he had conducted recently with
his crew mates. When it rained, he hooted, we were
up to our asses in leeches! Jafa, another employee of
the project overseeing the Mananara-Nord Biosphere Re-
serve, also laughed, shaking his head over the miserable
days the crew had spent in the thick of the rain forest.
Teams of half a dozen menconservation workers and rie-
toting gendarmeshad staged descents from various en-
try points of the national park searching for conservation
scofaws (see Figure 1). Over the course of several weeks
between September and October of 2001, the men clam-
bered the root-gnarled footpaths of the rain forest by day
and camped in villages or on the forest oor by night.
Raleva, another conservation agent, as these men
were ofcially called, had taken to hiding a pistol in his
fanny pack during routine forays into the park. He feared
the looming threat of retaliation from peasants who would
be forcefully removed by the conservation crew for clearing
land in the protected forest. Sometimes peasants refused to
leave their hard-toiled plots and inicted curses (mana na
aody, lit. to have dangerous medicine) on the gendarmes
and conservationagents. Sometimes they wielded machetes
to stand their ground. The peasants sometimes get very ag-
gressive, very angry, Raleva explained, embarrassed, when
AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, Vol. 111, Issue 4, pp. 443455, ISSN 0002-7294 online ISSN 1548-1433. C
2009 by the American Anthropological Association.
All rights reserved. DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1433.2009.01154.x
I spied his gun (conversation with author, February 28,
2001).
The experiences of Sylvestre, Raleva, and Jafa serve as a
point of departure from which to explore the signicance
of labor in Madagascars environmental program. Biodiver-
sity protection in Madagascar became a top funding priority
for Western donors in the mid-1980s when the rate of de-
forestation had reached a peak (Durbin et al. 1993). The
island is still designated a biodiversity hotspot because of
high rates of habitat loss. Scientists identify shifting swid-
den agriculture, known widely as tavy, as the leading cause
of deforestation. They predict that, at 1980s rates of ero-
sion, the extant rain forests standing on 22 percent of the
islands total land area will shrink to cover only the steepest
slopes by 2025 (Green and Sussman 1990; IMF 2007:27).
Neoliberalization and the greening of development
in the late 1980s changed the face of national job markets
in sub-Saharan Africa. In Madagascar, citizens with skills in
agronomy, agroforestry, conservation biology, and meth-
ods of community development sought employment in
NGOs and agencies devoted to environmental conservation
and development. Locally hired workers of Integrated Con-
servation and Development Projects (ICDPs) epitomized
the new conguration of developments key players
in the global south. Decentralized natural-resource man-
agement alongside participatory bottom-up approaches
to planning and implementation have helped to dis-
solve the conceptual triangulate of First World experts
444 American Anthropologist Vol. 111, No. 4 December 2009
FIGURE 1. Gendarmes and conservation agent traversing the bio-
sphere reserve during the 2001 d eguerpissement. (Photograph by
Genese Sodikoff, 2001)
and nanciers, nation-states, backward places and their
backward populations, according to K. Sivaramakrishnan
(2000:432). As he notes, however, these conceptual cat-
egories never reected reality anyway. The participatory
ideal of putting the interests of all stakeholders of con-
servation and development interventions on equal footing
has obfuscated the enduring inequalities of development
bureaucracies (Gezon 1997; Walley 2004). My study of un-
skilled manual labor in the transnational conservation bu-
reaucracy focuses on the blur between implementer and
target of development intervention. It explores the inter-
mediary social space in which parks hire people.
Decentralized conservation in Madagascar took the
form of these NGO-managed ICDPs from the early 1990s to
the mid-2000s (Kaufmann 2008). The ICDP model has since
disintegrated, insofar as the national park service stopped
delivering compensatory development to rural populations
and instead allowed donors to contract out these activi-
ties to North Americanbased organizations. Nonetheless,
the basic social organization of conservation and develop-
ment has remained the same. High-end intellectual jobs are
delegated to expatriate experts and university-educated na-
tionals, while the low-paid jobs go to well-placed members
of the grassroots, individuals with at least an elementary-
school education and with good standing in their com-
munities. Typically, manual-labor conservation workers do
not migrate out of their places of residence once they get
hired by conservation projects but remain in rural villages
as conservation representatives, patrolling the rain forest
and disseminating the conservation message to people of
their own ilk. As insiders, however, they also maintain their
social ties to the moral economy of subsistence (Scott 1976).
Their delity to ancestral custom frequently poses conicts
of interest to conservation.
In this article, I explore how the division of conserva-
tion labor in Madagascar perpetuates conditions that have
induced rural Betsimisaraka people, who comprise the dom-
inant ethnic population of eastern Madagascar, to clear rain
forest despite their awareness of the ecological damages. I
argue that the repeated failure of conservation efforts in
Madagascar has not derived solely or even primarily from
externalities such as peasant resistance to land enclosure.
Instead, the institutional dependence on cheap agrarian
labor has meant that conservation internalizes the nega-
tive effects of tavy and therefore ensures the endurance
of both tavy and conservation and development interven-
tions. However, the tasks of low-wage workers have also
been directly responsible for slowing the rate of rain for-
est erosion and improving tourists experience of national
parks. Unexpectedly and perversely, the dynamic of pro-
tecting biodiversity while degrading it adds value to rain
forest.
My data are based on 14 months of structured and
unstructured interviews, participant-observation, and mul-
tisited eldwork between 2000 and 2002 in the northeast-
ern prefecture of Mananara-Nord, where UNESCOcreated a
Biosphere Reserve in 1989. The theme developed out of an
earlier period of eldwork in the Andasibe-Mantadia Pro-
tected Area Complex, where I spent a total of 12 months
(199495, 1997, 1999) examining tensions between the
ICDP and Betsimisaraka villagers living near a newly desig-
nated national park. On one follow-up visit to Andasibe in
1997, I learned that the manual workers of the ICDP had
held a strike against the management and had organized a
union, the rst of its kind, comprised of contractual work-
ers of a foreign NGO. The key organizers of the strike were
laid off when the national park service, lAssociation Na-
tionale de la Gestion des Aires Proteg ees (ANGAP), assumed
control of the ICDP shortly afterward (Sodikoff 2007). U.S.
employees of USAID in Madagascar knew about the general
problem of ICDP work strikes around the island but had no
idea about the union formed by the small contingent from
Andasibe.
The Mananara-Nord Biosphere Reserve (see Figure 2)
presented different circumstances. Conservation agents
were in charge of disseminating conservation rules in ru-
ral villages, patrolling a terrestrial park and a marine park,
grooming trails, building and posting signage, guiding
tourists and scientic researchers, monitoring species, and
reporting on and routing out delinquents. Unlike the
ICDP workers in Andasibe who resided in town, however,
Mananara-Nord workers were dispersed over the 124,000
hectares of the protected area. Some lived in town, but most
lived in traditional villages. As workers and peasants, they
had to negotiate the conicting social values integral to this
dual existence (Applebaum 1984).
CONSERVATION AND THE LABOR QUESTION
The gray literature of development institutions scarcely
makes mention of labor tensions in conservation projects
or the contributions of manual workers. The silence here
reects a development culture that emphasizes success and
downplays failure. Project managers seek to safeguard their
good standing with funding agencies because their liveli-
hoods depend on winning job contracts and renewals.
Sodikoff The Low-Wage Conservationist 445
FIGURE 2. Map of the Mananara-Nord Biosphere Reserve, Mada-
gascar. (Created by Rutgers Cartography Services, 2009)
Their decision to hush up labor disputes is pragmatic. Labor
unrest may suggest mismanagement and could jeopardize
consultants and managers job prospects.
Despite the scope of conservation and development ef-
forts in the tropical southern hemisphere, scholarly analy-
ses of conservation labor have also been virtually absent.
The neglect is not for lack of political sympathy with
local labor but, rather, relates to the way conservation
has been imagined. Conservation is commonly depicted
as the antithesis of production, an imposed abstinence.
At the same time, scholars have acknowledged the exis-
tence of a conservation workforce. Karl Jacobys (2001) so-
cial history of conservation in the United States devotes
a chapter to the difcult position of locally hired forest
guards in the Adirondacks, who confronted many of the
same social pressurestheir neighbors suspicions, resent-
ment, and threatsas the Malagasy conservation agents
I knew.
In her study of an ICDP in Papua New Guinea, Paige
West discusses the difculty that residents of the rural set-
tlement of Maimafu had in deciphering the work of con-
servation (2006:227228). These residents, who were not
bona de employees of the ICDP but participated in the
project for elusive future gains, could not understand why
some conservation work, such as carrying bags and other
cargo for scientists; selling net bags to people; protecting
certain species, was remunerated while other work, such
as building and maintaining the guesthouse, working with
the artifact business, and giving their time and money
to the project activities was not. Wests ethnography reveals
the ways, intuited by Maimafu residents, in which ICDPs
extract surplus labor from localities for the global public
good.
Abody of literature onforestry traces the social world of
forest-service bureaucracies, particularly in Southeast Asia.
Scholars trace the way foresters perceptions have been
shaped by scientic method (Agrawal 2005; Sivaramakrish-
nan 1999) as well as howforesters have treated peasants and
farmers differentially, based on class, ethnicity, and gender
allegiances (see Dove 1992; Robbins 2000). In these works,
the roles of forest guards and grassroots labor constitute
an intermediate social sphere that clouds insideroutsider
categories and typically hinders the goals of state planners
or NGO representatives.
But one question remains: As a labor process, how is
forest conservation productive? The question is signicant
because it reveals howconservation and development insti-
tutions reproduce the material conditions of the periphery
that justify their presence (see Ferguson 1990). The analytic
neglect of conservation as a mode of capitalist production
may be explained by the intellectual foundations of West-
ern environmentalism wherein society was pitted against
nature. Richard White (1996:171) argues that most mod-
ern environmentalists equate productive work in nature
with destruction while a smaller group sentimentalizes ar-
chaic forms of farming and other land work. The latter often
perceive subsistence practices as fostering a conservation
ethic. North American conservation established a model
of cordoning off from productive activity those landscapes
judged to be exceptionally beautiful and ecologically valu-
able, while the violent means of achieving pristine nature
have been morally justied and even erased from historical
memory (Croll and Parkin 1992; Escobar 1999; Neumann
1998).
In Africas colonial history, however, African subsis-
tence practices were never much sentimentalized by Euro-
peans, who instead favored the policy of fortress conser-
vation (Brockington 2002). Part of the civilizing mission
of European empires, conservation efforts aimed to recip-
rocally valorize African land and labor (Beinart 1984). The
biogeography of Africa, perceived as savagely beautiful and
primordial, contrasted to a view of African human nature
as unevolved and brutish. The French and British believed
that only by alienating Africans froma hand-to-mouthexis-
tence in nature, on the land, could they instill in them the
capitalist values of diligence, industriousness, obedience,
and frugality thought to stimulate economic growth. Colo-
nial states coerced African subjects into edgling industrial
worksites, such as plantations, docks, and mines, by impos-
ing head and hut taxes and corv ee (compulsory labor) and
by enclosing land for game and nature reserves (Beinart
1989; Conklin 1998; Cooper 1980; MacKenzie 1997). Con-
servation legislation regulated the position of agrarian
446 American Anthropologist Vol. 111, No. 4 December 2009
populations within the emerging capitalist social order
(Munro 1998:xxxviii).
In Madagascar, where colonial settlers complained of
the labor shortage, the French state sought to sever the
Malagasy peasantry from their means of subsistence by im-
posing a ban on tavy in 1896 and commercializing rice, the
stable crop (Feeley-Harnik 1984; Jarosz 1993). At the sites
of public works and in colonial forest concessions, Mala-
gasy workers were expected to nd their own meals as a
means of keeping costs low for the state. Entrepreneurs
also frequently borrowed the free labor delegated to
public works (Sodikoff 2005). Malagasy workers had to
rely on their spouses or extended kin networks to feed
themselves.
In 2001, one of my informants, a man in his late sixties
who lived in Varary, a village located near the Biosphere Re-
serves national park boundary, recalled the prestation la-
bor of the colonial era: They didnt feed you. You had
to go get your own food. Ah! You might be away for
two daysit took a long time. If someone had a foolish
wife here, hed starve to death (conversation with au-
thor, February 17, 2001). The states maneuver of banning
tavy while forcing labor to rely on tavy to reproduce it-
self put Malagasy peasants in a double bind. It also left
room for ambiguity about how labors value could be en-
hanced as well as how strictly the ban on tavy should be
enforced.
Forest conservation efforts in Madagascar began in
earnest shortly after colonization. Because the colonial for-
est service devalued Malagasy labor and sought a science-
educated European staff, it never attained the manpower
necessary to sufciently curtail tavy and illegal logging in
the primary forest. The forest service hired unskilled labor
for menial tasks, such as portage and cutting lumber for
the locomotives, while European employees suffered the
difcult conditions of life in the rain forest and often suc-
cumbed to malaria (Sodikoff 2005). After independence in
1960, the Malagasy state maintained forest-service stations
staffed by lone functionaries, who allotted forest conces-
sions to local residents and entrepreneurs. Gradually, the
payroll of the forest service increased signicantly, partic-
ularly during Madagascars socialist period that spanned
from 1975 to 1980 (Kull 2004:204). During this time, the
state had shelved conservation efforts for a program of
agricultural self-sufciency involving decentralized, Soviet-
style collectives (fokonolona) overseen by councils of vil-
lage elders (see Gow 1997:413). The program was never
very effective, and the nationalization of major industries
nally led to economic crisis. Educational standards dete-
riorated, the rural-development schemes failed, and unem-
ployed educated graduates joined the overstaffed civil ser-
vice (Gow1997:420). Economic crisis forced then-president
Didier Ratsiraka to turn to support from the Bretton Woods
Institutions. By 1986, liberalization measures were in full
force, including deregulation, privatization, the establish-
ment of free-trade zones for foreign businesses, a prolifer-
ation of USAID-backed conservation and development in-
terventions, and decentralization informed by neoliberal
economic doctrine (Kull 1996).
Today, rural Malagasy people interpret conservation
as a proteering land grab by foreigners (vazaha) indis-
tinguishable from colonialism (Feeley-Harnik 1995; Harper
2002; Walsh 2005). Unlike colonial conservation, however,
ICDPs have introduced into remote, rural villages a ow
of foreign ecotourists who also enjoy cultural encounters
in Malagasy villages. They also provide environmental les-
son plans for primary schools, extension agents who train
residents in agroforestry techniques, and open meetings in
which residents and ICDP representatives engage in debate
and dialogue, not to mention the diverse development ac-
tivities geared to win over peasants support for conserva-
tion (Hanson 2007). As Arturo Escobar argues:
while capitalism in the periphery requires the continu-
ous supply of cheap food and cheap labor, it has been
development that has brought the peasantry to a promi-
nent role in the fulllment of those conditions through
the series of discourses and programs produced to deal
with their reality. [1988:436]
Despite the changes since colonialism and the institutional
effort to educate the environmental sensibility of Betsimis-
araka peasants, rural residents in Mananara-Nord insisted
on the injustice of land expropriation in the name of con-
servation. President Marc Ravalomanana, elected in 2001,
announced in 2003 a plan to triple the amount of pro-
tected areas on the island within ve years. An expansion
of this magnitude would enclose ten percent of the islands
land in protected areas. More controversially, in January
of 2009, Ravalomananas administration considered a pro-
posal to lease 1.3 million hectares of arable land to the
South Korean company, Daewoo Logistics. The lease would
have enabled the company to secure South Koreas food
demands through the cultivation of maize and palm oil
(Oliver 2008). The potential deal incited mass protests in
the capital against a state that, opponents claim, supported
neocolonialism for its private gain and starved its cit-
izenry. The presidential police force in turn opened re
on the demonstrators in early February of 2009. The in-
cident led to Ravalomananas ouster and the swearing in of
his opponent, Andry Rajoelina, who immediately canceled
the deal with Daewoo Logistics. Rajoelina, however, did
not rule out selling or renting land to foreign investors if
Madagascars constitution were amended to allowit (Lough
2009).
The political unrest incited general lawlessness in a few
of the islands national parks, including Marojejy and Ma-
soala, and forced them to close. Foreign proteers collab-
orating with rich local maa looted rosewood and ebony
from the parks and paid villagers to collect endangered
bushmeat. For a couple of months, between March and
May of 2009, park rangers (conservation agents) chose to
abandon their posts to escape violence (Braun 2009).
Sodikoff The Low-Wage Conservationist 447
CONSERVATION, DEGRADATION, AND VALUE
A central dilemma for conservation agents was summed up
by Jafa, who in May of 2001 was considering quitting his
job with the Biospheres ICDP:
Im tired of it. The reason Im tired is because the wage is
unacceptable. Its been three years and the wage hasnt
moved, hasnt risen, and the work is hard. It was already
only like cooked-rice wages. And were stuck. [conversa-
tion with author, May 31, 2001]
Nearly all of the conservation agents of Mananara-Nord
thought seriously at one time or another about quitting
their jobs. Cooked-rice wages (karama vary masaka) refers
to the bare-minimum amount of cash needed to buy rice
for ones householdrice being the foundation of all meals
in Madagascar. Jafas metaphor equates the projects salary
to the countrys staple crop. Tavy yields a avorful reddish
rice varietal preferred by residents of the Mananara-Nord
prefecture. Jafas words suggest a paradox: the ability of
manual ICDP workers to procure tavy rice or cultivate it
themselves has enabled international and Malagasy envi-
ronmental planners to keep the operating costs of projects
relatively low; conversely, the lowness of the project salary,
as well as job insecurity and the negative social conse-
quences of conservation work, have motivated manual la-
borers to nurture their ties to the subsistence economy.
Conservations paradox arises from the internal rela-
tions of tavy, conservation, and wage work as embodied
by conservation agents. Karl Marx conceived capitalism as
comprised of mutually constitutive and transformative el-
ements or internal relations. Production, consumption,
exchange, and distribution, explains David Harvey, are
all relevant moments within the social process, each inter-
nalizing effects of the others (1996:74). Conservation is
only partially a form of capitalist production insofar as it
turns forests into experiential commodities for tourism
(West and Carrier 2004). Conservation also banks raw ma-
terials for potential exploitation. Biotechnology and phar-
maceutical rms are particularly interested in the rain for-
ests biological resources, including genes, venoms, and per-
fumes (Hayden 2003). These late-capitalist industries os-
tensibly resolve the erosive effects of mining and logging
while accruing rents (nature reserve access fees) for the state
(see Coronil 2000).
Marx (1976) argued that the exploitation of workers
potential labor by capitalists generates value over and above
the wage rate. As a meditation on the social relations of la-
bor, his theory offers a way to think about the creation of
diverse kinds of value (Eiss and Pedersen 2002:286). The
capitalist and subsistence processes that inform ecologi-
cal conservation entail alternative means of measuring and
morally judging labor and its product. The moral and com-
modity value of rain forests reects, as a whole, people mak-
ing meaning out of the phenomenon of extinction, while
the construct of value itself obfuscates the social relation-
ships that underlie it (see Graeber 2001).
Geographers and anthropologists theorize that space is
not an objective reality but, rather, a social product that
is also inherently temporal (Coronil 1997; Smith 1984).
Spacetime is constituted through interactions among peo-
ple, people and nature, and the evolving social constructs
and material realities that result (Lefebvre 1992). Marxs
conception of value is intrinsically spatiotemporal in that
the transference of energy (work) from producer to prod-
uct describes a spatial relationship bounded by duration
(Turner 2008:52). In Madagascar, time, measured by the
rate of species deaths, is running out as tavy consumes
rain forest. For Westerners, the social valuation of rain for-
est takes shape in part through a selective translation of in-
digenous practices and understandings of nature in specic
locations (West 2005) and through the identication and
parade of endemic species in global media circuits (Lowe
2006). But value also derives from the relations of land-
based labor processes and the meanings they hold for work-
ers (Feeley-Harnik 1986).
Conservation agents in Madagascar groom trails, post
signs that identify species names in both Latin and the
local language, compile species inventories, guide tourists
and researchers over difcult terrain, rehabilitate passage-
way houses, port supplies and baggage, and spot and point
out wildlife species for tourists (see Figure 3). All this ac-
tivity makes the rain forest as commodity more legible
to tourists who hope to glimpse the nature they have
seen in photographs (Scott 1999:11). However, conserva-
tion agents engagement in cash cropping and tavy, hunt-
ing and shing, and selective logging for construction ma-
terials contributes to the depletion of that now-legible
nature.
The exploitation of agrarian labor for conservation pur-
poses ends up skewing workers productive hours toward
subsistence practices. Conservation labor facilitates sustain-
able development by extending the life of innitely har-
vestable materials, such as genes, essences, aromas, and
serums, as well as the living architecture of rain forest. The
FIGURE 3. Conservation agent next to a sign staked by his crew
in the biosphere reserves national park. (Photograph by Genese
Sodikoff, 2001)
448 American Anthropologist Vol. 111, No. 4 December 2009
sensory and aesthetic qualities of nature, so protected, con-
stitute the ecotourists purchased experience. Manual labor
also performs the tasks of guidance and portage, which fa-
cilitate scientic study and widen the exposure of new
species in print and visual media. Meanwhile, economic
and ecological pressures on the ground compel manual
workers to consume the products of their conservation la-
bor, all of which describes an interlinked process of accu-
mulating value.
The dialectic inspires the genre of Edenic narrative
found in conservation discourse and travel writing. Can-
dace Slater (1996) conceptualizes the genre as simulta-
neously restorative and nostalgic. Edenic narratives offer
hope of redemption, an opportunity for human beings
to unburden themselves of their own histories (Handley
2005:202). They also express longing for premodern land-
scapes, and nostalgia is that uniquely modern senti-
ment driving the conservationand tourismindustries (Frow
1997). As affective value, environmental nostalgia derives
from a contradictory mode of production that brings un-
known life forms into our purview as ever-receding objects
of desire: extinguishing species, contracting jungles.
WORKERS OF THE BIOSPHERE
Located along the Antongil Bay of the northeast coast, the
Mananara-Nord Biosphere Reserve was established by UN-
ESCO and the Dutch and Malagasy governments. The Bio-
sphere Reserves protected area consists of 24,000 hectares
of lowland tropical rain forest and about 1,200 hectares of
marine park. UNESCO and the Dutch and Malagasy states
administered both the reserve and the countrys pilot ICDP
until December of 2001, at which time ANGAP, the na-
tional park service, took over. To decentralize conservation
and park management, donors created ANGAP in 1991 to
replace the ineffectual Directionof Waters and Forests (Eaux
et Forets) and referred to ANGAP as a parastatal organiza-
tion. ANGAP administered park-entry fees for tourists and
granted authorizations to conduct research in protected ar-
eas. ICDPs were the preferred instruments to establish a
national park system and expand the countrys ecotourism
industry. They sought to alleviate rural poverty as a means
of building support for conservation in subsistence-based
villages. Ideally peasants support would manifest in their
adoption of sustainable agricultural and shing techniques
as well as in their efforts to capture revenue from eco-
tourism. Donors also promoted participatory methods as
a means of garnering the trust and conservation commit-
ment of peasants involved in ICDP activities (Ribot 1995).
Arguably, the rural residents most deeply invested in the
outcomes of development interventions have been those
hired by ICDPs and their successor projects, which have fo-
cused exclusively on conservation and ecotourism and not
on other development activities.
The islands pilot ICDP was launched in 1989 in the
Mananara-Nord Biosphere Reserve. Until the early 2000s,
the biosphere included a settled development zone of ap-
proximately 93,000 hectares in which lived approximately
95,000 people. Most of the coastal and montane villages of
the district fell within the biosphere reserves peripheral
zone. Many protected areas in Madagascar contain similar
multiuse zones, in which residents may harvest natural re-
sources while obeying rules prohibiting the consumption of
endangered species (Nicoll and Langrand 1989; Orlove and
Brush 1996). In this zone, the biosphere staff built a num-
ber of small dams, tree nurseries, and apiaries in the devel-
opment zone and had trained residents in improved agri-
cultural and shing technologies. The staff also began the
onerous work of preparing the site for ecotourism, which,
it was thought, would improve the lives of villagers while
protecting an extant rain forest and coral reef system. In
Madagascar, the protected areas system generated $6 mil-
lion in net revenues per year according to 2001 estimates
(Christie and Crompton 2003). The International Finance
Corporation (IFC), a group member of the World Bank,
hopes to increase the number of visitors to the island and
to attract annual investments of $500 to the sector by 2012
(International Finance Corporation n.d.).
The staff of the Mananara-Nord Biosphere Reserve
project, as well as government ministers, NGO represen-
tatives, and planners involved, used the term Biosph` ere to
denote the physical space of the reserve and the organized
relationships of the project. The majority of the Mananara-
Nord prefecture identies ethnically as Betsimisaraka. Most
residents describe themselves with the synonyms peasant
(tantsaha), cultivator (mpamboly), and landworker (mpiasa-
tany). Peasants vehemently opposed the creation of the
biosphere in 1989, claiming their property had been cons-
cated for the national park. Many deed conservation rules
by secretly clearing plots in the protected rain forest.
At Mananara-Nord, conservation agents were the struc-
tural counterparts of the development agents, who car-
ried out the poverty-alleviationmeasures, including the cre-
ation of tree nurseries, building dams for irrigation, and
training villagers in bee keeping, sustainable-shing tech-
niques, and child nutrition. These activities for the most
part stagnated after the rst couple of years and were then
phased out when ANGAP took over in 2002. Plagued by
budget decits in the early 1990s, and in spite of its promise
to village communities that 50 percent of park-ticket en-
try fees would fund local development activities, ANGAP
eliminated the development component of all ICDPs over
which it assumed control. Donors delegated the tasks of
agricultural and infrastructural development around pro-
tected areas to a Washington, D.C.-based NGO, Chemon-
ics, throughthe Landscape Development Interventions pro-
gram, funded by USAID. In addition, NGOs have organized
community conservation efforts in which village associ-
ations may obtain statutory forest commons from the state
if they sustainably manage the natural resources. Although
this initiative has shown promise, it is limited in scope by
the relatively small amount of primary forest unincorpo-
rated into the protected area system.
Sodikoff The Low-Wage Conservationist 449
To diffuse opposition to the Biosphere Reserve, the
ICDP administrators in Mananara-Nord heeded politi-
cians call to ll positions with local Betsimisaraka
people. This meant they should not employ Me-
rina people, whose natal territory lies in the cen-
tral High Plateaus. Prior to French colonization, the
Merina Kingdom colonized other polities on the island,
subjecting and enslaving coastal populations (c otiers; see
Cole 2001). C otiers despise Merina for their historical role
as slave masters and later abettors of French colonialism. In
todays conservation bureaucracy, Merina individuals oc-
cupy most ICDP directorships and other high-level admin-
istrative positions. For the Biosphere project, it was critical
that the director of the project be a zanatany (child of the
land or local), because that individual would assume
full control once the Dutch technical consultant departed.
The chosen director came from the neighboring district of
Maroantsetra. Although suspiciously light skinnedhe was
said to be part vazaha (white foreigner, outsider)he was
accepted by Mananara-Nords residents as sufciently of
the people.
In the early 2000s, the structural positions and pay
scales of the biosphere reserves project workers depended
on their educational level, relevant experiences, and train-
ing. The ICDP employed approximately 57 people. The
Dutch representative for UNESCO served as the technical
consultant in charge of the budget. His Malagasy counter-
part was the national director of the project. Each man
on the conservation crew had achieved at least a junior
high school level of education and had obtained the BEPC
(brevet d etudes du premier cycle) certicate. Each possessed
a lifetimes worth of regional ecological knowledge or else
some practical experience in agricultural technologies or
forestry. Men with higher levels of educationjunior high
school level plus certied technical trainingcould hold
positions as crew leaders or special trainers of community
forest-management schemes with salaries twice as large as
regular conservation agents.
Project workers closely guarded the amount of their
salaries. People around the Mananara-Nord region were
generally reluctant to say howmuchmoney they made, and
the conservation agents were no exception. When I asked
conservation agents, they would often laugh, embarrassed,
avert their eyes, laugh again, and either shake their heads
to say, no, I wont answer that or would give me a range
of wagesbetween 350,000 to 500,000 FMG (approxi-
mately $56 to $80) per month for conservation agents in
2000 and 2001. Aculture of secrecy about salaries prevented
me from getting salary gures for administrators, but in the
mid-1990s, expatriate ICDP workers at Andasibe-Mantadia
earned between $55,000 and $90,000 tax free annually.
Based on my knowledge of workers salaries between
2000 and 2002, I estimate the total low-wage conservation
staff in 2002 was paid about $2 million in annual wages
for policing six million hectares (14,826,000 acres) of land
and raising the environmental consciousness of subsistence
farmers. As the direct recipients of grant money, NGOs have
absorbed most foreign aid for environment and develop-
ment projects. The bulk of funds allocated to individual
projects gets eaten up by physical capital purchases and the
salaries and fees of foreign and national experts (Ferraro
2001:996).
Over the course of my research, the number of con-
servation agents in the biosphere reserve project varied be-
tween 9 and 18 men because of resignations and new hires.
Most ranged in age from their mid-twenties to early thirties
and identied as northern Betsimisaraka. In addition to pa-
trolling the terrestrial and marine reserves of the Biosphere,
they sporadically had to catalogue extant species in the
reserve, report on law breakers, maintain trails and signs,
accompany and carry supplies for tourists and researchers,
and conduct forest sweeps. A couple of themwere delegated
the task of training village residents in setting up associa-
tions for community forestry.
Between 2000 and 2002, most conservation agents in
the biosphere reserve participated in both project wage
work and subsistence horticulture. Not all conservation
agents engaged directly in the ritual work of tavy, but vir-
tually the whole crew relied to some extent on obtaining
a share of kins harvests. Zalahely, for example, was a bio-
sphere conservation agent assigned to work in the western
side of the biosphere reserve near the national park. His
wife resided there, but he actually spent most of his time
in the town of Mananara-Nord, estranged from his wife. He
claimed initially that the project wages are my only source
of revenue but soon admitted that his wife owned land on
which they both cultivated rice and other crops. The wages
are not sufcient, he said with reference to his ICDP work
(conversation with author, November 28, 2001).
Stationed in a roadside village on the western ank of
the biosphere reserve, Stanislas and Thomas instead sold
crops on the side for extra income. In the roadside village
of Antanambaobe, they shared a simple, wooden house that
served as a biosphere reserve information center. Fifty-year-
old Stanislas was trained in the cultivation of cash crops
and rice varietals and was in charge of training peasants
in improved agricultural techniques. He bought rice rela-
tively cheaply in the villages where he did extension work
and sold it in the roadside village market of Antanambaobe.
Thomas sold greens and other crops in the town market-
place.
Conservation agents based in villages near the national
park, such as Sylvester and Jafa, directly engaged in subsis-
tence agriculture, cash cropping, hunting, and shing (see
Figures 4 and 5). I observed that they devoted more man
hours to subsistence labor than to unsupervised conserva-
tion duties. They were not necessarily stealing time from
the ICDP. Apart from sporadic forest sweeps or other activi-
ties, ICDP bosses failed to coordinate the monthly task load
so there were long stretches of downtime. In Varary village,
Sylvestre was the head of the national park, the point
man for tourists passing through with their guides. He was
450 American Anthropologist Vol. 111, No. 4 December 2009
FIGURE 4. Conservation agent leaving his tavy at the end of a work
day. (Photograph by Genese Sodikoff 2001)
also the son of the tangalamena, a Betsimisaraka honorary
title for a spiritual leader who presides over commemorative
rituals to ancestors. Sylvestre would inherit this position on
his fathers death. Jafas father was also an elder of the vil-
lage who deeply resented the biosphere project for expropri-
ating his ancestral land. He also resented the tangalamena,
his cousin, because he, too, had vied for the position. Iron-
ically, although Sylvestres parents claimed to fully endorse
the biosphere reserve and its project, the family owned plots
of tavy at the fringe of the national park. And Jafa, whose
father was adamantly opposed to conservation and the bio-
sphere reserve and quite open about it, did not own tavy
land but cultivated parcels of paddy rice (h oraka), in which
he had laboriously carved terraces to prevent erosion. In
other words, each conservation agents demonstration of
commitment to conservation was inversely related to his
parents expression of support.
The ICDP bosses expected conservation agents to ad-
here to animplicit honor code by whichthey would enforce
conservation rules in the village without being supervised.
In reality, village-based conservation agents had to respect
FIGURE 5. Conservation agent laboring his terraced rice plot with
zebu. (Photograph by Genese Sodikoff, 2001)
their moral obligations to kin members and neighbors in
matters of agricultural and ritual labor. The ability of low-
wage workers to reproduce themselves through rice farm-
ing, cultivating vanilla and cloves, selling surplus crops,
and hunting wild animals were the very sorts of activities
that threatened the integrity of the protected rain forest.
Not only did many subsistence activities break conserva-
tion rules, they also reinforced the social bonds of the vil-
lage. Moreover, the cultivation of rice and cash crops (par-
ticularly cloves and vanilla) occupied conservation agents
energy during certain periods. Conservation agents delity
to their own people, reliance on group labor for agricultural
tasks, and energy spent on subsistence tasks opened win-
dows of opportunity for others to clear land in the national
park or extract resources, such as timber, plants, and pro-
tein, without fear of reprisal.
For example, on a hot day in March of 2001, the time
of year when peasants spent time weeding elds, weaving
mats and baskets, and building houses, Sylvestre guided me
from his village into the protected core of the reserve. Our
view of the village and surrounding lands widened as we
ascended the trail until we gazed on a panorama of shorn
mountains and valleys with occasional clumps of forest.
These were remains of the parks earlier limits, explained
Sylvestre. In the years following the establishment of the
Biosphere Reserve in 1989, Betsimisaraka rice peasants had
cut and burned the Verezanantsoro forest to its current di-
mensions.
The path led us into the cool woods. We passed green
and yellow signs, constructed and staked by the conser-
vation crew, that noted the distance to a waterfall, the
Latin name of a massive thicket of bamboo, and the el-
evation of the highest peak. Clove trees and red bands
of paint around the tree trunks of one side of the trail
marked the boundary between buffer zone, in which we
walked, and the ofcial park. The clove trees on the parks
boundary symbolized the workerpeasant dualism of con-
servation labor. They had been planted by members of
the conservation crew, who had formed a secret clove
cooperative (unknown to the ICDP bosses). Because the
trees belonged to none of them individually, the men col-
lectively agreed to harvest the buds and split the earn-
ings. Sylvestre stopped to pluck a leaf from a sapling on
the path. He crushed it to extrude the licorice-scented
sap. This is mamitranjetry, or Vipris lindriana, he an-
nounced, exhibiting his knowledge of the vernacular and
Latin names of ora. He crushed a different leaf between his
ngers. This ones lemony. Its tolongoala. Vipris nitida.
He was literally reading nature to me, making biodiversity
legible.
But to my eyes, the surrounding forest looked parched,
monotonous, and thinly populated with trees, like a newly
planted suburban woods. No rivulets or creeks, no owers.
In one area, a stand of trees stood tall and leaess, killed by
re. Here and there, the steep narrow trail was strewn with
reddish wood chips. There was some life: birds, enormous
Sodikoff The Low-Wage Conservationist 451
re-orange millipedes, and giant green beetles. The melo-
dious wail of indri lemurs echoed from the canopy. Then
came the sound of chopping.
We approached a young couple. The woman sat at the
edge of a thick, fallen nanto tree nursing her baby, and the
man, clutching an axe, stood on a blanket of wood chips.
He was hacking away at the outer bark of the fallen tree
to get at the heartwood, good for construction. He greeted
Sylvestre, and the two exchanged friendly small talk. I asked
the man if I could take their photograph and promised to
give him a copy, to which he gladly consented as long as I
did not reveal him to the biosphere reserve project bosses.
We then left the couple and ascended a crest on the trail
at the forest edge. Sylvestre said that Mananara-Nords na-
tional park had no buffer zone, so there had been no reason
to reprimand the woodcutter. Everything beyond and inte-
rior to the red-banded trees along the trail was protected, he
gestured, and everything exterior to the border was open to
exploitation. The biosphere project maps did in fact depict
a buffer zone around the park in which extracting timber
was prohibited. More important to Sylvestre, however, was
maintaining good relations in his village. To report on this
young family collecting wood would expose Sylvestre to
the anger of residents of the village, to ostracism, to theft,
and potentially to sorcery. Sylvestres moment of compro-
mise reects the more generalized problem for workers of
wishing to keep the peace in their resident villages by show-
ing leniency to their kin and neighbors. The social value of
havana na, familial relations, is central to agrarian life
throughout Madagascar and is opposed to the concept of
individualism.
Greediness (ti-hina na, to be hungry), or stinginess,
was generally derided by village residents. Individuals who
acquired extra cash from a lucrative clove or vanilla har-
vest tended to either deny themselves creature comforts
by hiding their wealth, a suspicion that neighbors whis-
pered behind their backs, or else aunted their wealth (mit-
era manambola, to show one has money) in public acts
of excessive generosity, such as buying food and drink for
large crowds at village celebrations. Betsimisaraka ethnog-
rapher Eugene Mangalaza writes that, in Betsimsaraka vil-
lages, each individual may count on his network of ha-
vana na [familial relations] to accumulate necessary goods.
In turn, this capital may not be used for simple capitalist
accumulation. Those who helped create surplus must be
able to participate in the expedient of ostentatious prac-
tices, where the essential aim is to reinforce havana na
(1994:4041). The social value of havana na made it pos-
sible for conservation agents to make a living but also un-
dercut the idea of long-term planning inherent in the con-
servationist ethos.
DILEMMAS OF THE NEW WORKERPEASANT
The rain forest is at times impenetrably darka total
eclipse! in the words of one conservation agent who
sought to make light of his and coworkers fears during
their search for park trespassers in September of 2001. Con-
servation agents dreaded the chore of rustling up forest
clearers (mpiteviala) and bringing them to court in the
town of Mananara-Nord, where a judge imposed terms
of community service or jail time. The d eguerpissement,
the forest sweep, was mainly why peasants detested the
biosphere. Betsimisaraka peasants considered conservation
agents participation in the d eguerpissement a betrayal of
kin and kind and a capitulation to vazaha (foreigners).
The d eguerpissement was supposed to take place every
year, but public outcry induced the ICDP bosses to cancel
the sweeps for three successive years. The long hiatus be-
tween sweeps had emboldened peasants to clear land in the
national park. During the d eguerpissements, most conser-
vation agents took on an identity of strict enforcer. Despite
their leniency at other times, the transfer of the project to
ANGAP was imminent in September of 2001, and conser-
vation agents worried about being retained. Yet they also
avoided coming across as too harsh, which would make life
in the village difcult afterward. Their conict of interest
shaped their interpretation of conservations failures.
Conservation agents complained of bosses decision to
conduct d eguerpissements in September as being too late,
because many peasants had already cleared land by then
or were in the process of doing so. Conservation agents
also complained that when the last sweep took place in
1998, local ofcials did not enforce conservation laws or
sentences against delinquents. I dont like the corruption
of the state, said one conservation agent. Reports are falsi-
ed, especially at court. People are let off. Nothing changes.
The forest clearers dont get enough punishment. Thats
what makes me bitter (conversation with author, October
26, 2001). Their vain social sacrices made conservation
agents feel devalued. The construction of deforestation as
a failure of state authority justied and absolved the other-
wise counter-conservationist practices of ICDP workers.
The d eguerpissement in September of 2001 was staged
to rid the national park of rule breakers before ANGAP,
the park service, would take over the biosphere reserve and
project. Conservation agents at this time fretted about their
prospects of being retained by ANGAP. For many, resign-
ing from the project was appealing. It would relieve stress
on their aging bodies, for one. It would also defuse ten-
sions with neighbors, allowing them to carry out their sub-
sistence labors without interruptions due to ICDP duties,
which sometimes kept them away from their villages for
weeks.
Conservation agents tried to warn people in the vil-
lages of their approach during a period of d eguerpissement.
They wanted to give peasants ample time to evacuate any
settlements in the national park. When reporting forest
clearers, moreover, a conservation agent confessed that
he didnt write down peoples actual names (conversa-
tion with author, November 8, 2001). Instead, he went
through the motions, hoping fear would be enough to im-
pel villagers to abandon their plots. Conservation agents
justied stealing time from the ICDP and practicing
452 American Anthropologist Vol. 111, No. 4 December 2009
leniency. They pointed out the unfair allocation of ben-
ets and due credit by the conservation bureaucracy as
well as the harm to their social lives caused by the
d eguerpissements and their association with conservation
authorities. They reasoned that if the project bosses were
unorganized and unwilling to heed their input regarding
the timing of d eguerpissements, if bosses arbitrarily reas-
signed workers to distant stations without their prior con-
sent, and if local ofcials cared more about holding their
ofces and reaping bribes than enforcing penalties, then
why should they have to suffer the social consequences of
cracking down on rule breakers?
Despite their efforts to soften hardships on peasants,
the conservation agents were scorned and ostracized by vil-
lagers of the biosphere reserve after the d eguerpissement in
September of 2001. One conservation agent explained:
If a lot of people manage to cut down the forest, then a
lot of these forest clearers get penalties. . . . [Those who]
are really angry, theyd refuse me a drink of water. [con-
versation with author, November 29, 2001]
Other agents, like Jafa, suffered nancially. Varary resi-
dents shunned his small store. Such behavior by neighbors
put conservation agents on the defensive. They know the
rules, Sylvestre said rmly (conversation with author, Oc-
tober 29, 2001). For as long as they worked in teams with
the gendarmes, the conservationagents expressed righteous
indignation at the behavior of their fellowvillagers. As time
passed, however, and conservation agents returned to their
everyday lives, devoting most of their time to tavy pro-
duction and cash cropping, their air of self-righteousness
mellowed, as did the resentment of their neighbors.
The transfer of the ICDP from UNESCOs control to
ANGAP, the park service, caused intense anxiety in conser-
vation agents because ANGAP might dismiss any employ-
ees they deemed as disloyal to conservations mandates. At
the end of 2001, biosphere conservation agents were fac-
ing relocation by ANGAP to another sector of the reserve,
a management decision toward which they voiced anger
and disbelief. Sylvestre was devastated that ANGAP would
relocate him from his home village to the other side of the
reserve. The director tried to x his mind (manambao-
tra saina)that is, to console him by promising his station
would not be permanent. But in the meantime, Sylvestres
disappointment made him more candid then usual about
his job. He claimed that among all the biosphere employ-
ees, conservation agents work the hardest. He went on to
say:
Its like nothing is planned. No program, just the
d eguerpissements, which agitate the population and do
not promote awareness about the environment. . . . In
the beginning, we were doing [conservation] conscious-
ness raising every month, but it has had no effect. And
the law isnt supported by the state. The work we do is
not supported. [conversation with author, November 8,
2001]
He worried that ANGAP had not yet mapped out a work
plan for the agents nor had their monthly wages arrived.
He dreaded walking seven hours from his new station in
Antanambe into town every month to collect his wages.
He complained that it was also too far, too difcult, for
tourists to enter the park from Antanambe. Bitter about
his job and prospects for skill development, and pragmatic
about peasants refusal to abandontavy inthe rainforest, he
predicted that in ten more years, the little bit of park that
remains will be gone (conversation with author, December
13, 2001).
The next month, I visited the home of Raleva, who
in my mind was the most committed conservationist of
the crew. He had been laid up at home for weeks, his legs
swollen and aching from what he said was rheumatism or a
problem of his veins (conversation with author, January
15, 2002). Each rheumatic crisis would trigger a malarial
fever. He rst experienced this disability in 1996. He g-
ured it was caused by the long treks through the forest. He
said, I need to get treated in Tana [Antananarivo] but the
paperwork with ANGAP isnt all set up yet for me to get
my medical expenses reimbursed. He could not afford to
pay out of pocket, so he suffered in bed. He was distraught
that ANGAP decided to transfer him to another sector of
the biosphere reserve. His children were in school full-time
in the town of Mananara-Nord, so this posed a great incon-
venience. Because his wife worked in Antananarivo, Raleva
took care of his children by himself. Theyre my future, he
said. I cant spend three months in the forest doing patrols
any more. If thats what ANGAP wants, Ill have to quit.
But salaried jobs that could offer wages and benets com-
parable to those of an international NGO or the national
park service were rare, and he could not afford to resign. He
believed conservation and development were moral prac-
tices that would bring modernization to the countryside.
Raleva also recognized the relative inequalities intrinsic to
the conservation bureaucracy, where an employees value
was determined by his or her nationality, ethnicity, class,
gender, and social capital (education, access to telecommu-
nications, contacts in the NGO and development world,
etc.). As a symbol of these historical inequalities, he saw
that the ICDP nurtured in Betsimisaraka peasants the post-
colonial sensibility, whether or not it could also cultivate
environmentalism.
CONCLUSION
Marx (1976:283) believed that the labor process not only
transformed external, physical nature but also the per-
ceptions, desires, aspirations, and moral imaginations of
workers. In Madagascar, the transformation of forest-based
capitalism into a proenvironment mode of production
has placed new ethical expectations on agrarian labor,
and lower-tier ICDP workers seemed at times to embrace
tenets of environmentalism. This was most evident dur-
ing d eguerpissements, when conservation agents spoke pe-
joratively about the problem of delinquents in the park,
Sodikoff The Low-Wage Conservationist 453
a psychologically defensive strategy, perhaps, to bear the
task of arresting neighbors. It was also evident during
village meetings, where conservation agents took on a
teacherly role, enumerating the benets of community-
forest management. However, frustrations with ICDP work
also checked workers endorsement of conservation as a
way of life. Their wages were low relative to the difculty
of their task load. They resented their lack of voice in work
meetings, the reneged promises of bosses to provide train-
ing to enhance their skills, the poor coordination of tasks,
and the denial of medical benets to family members. Job
insecurity made them reluctant to abandon the practices
and mores of village life. Their engagement in agricultural
work diverted their attention from illicit goings-on in the
national park, toward which they preferred to turn a blind
eye most of the time anyway. The moral idiom of famil-
iality compelled their leniency toward rule breakers and
guaranteed that they had extra hands when they needed
help sowing and reaping their rice plots or preparing ritual
feasts for the ancestors.
Since the recent strife in Madagascar last spring,
tourism is recovering. Marojejy National Park, hit hard by
the rosewood maa, reopened in May of 2009, according
to its website (Marojejy.com n.d.). If tourist revenue in-
creases to the point where ANGAPrenamed Madagascar
National Parks Association in 2008can offer substantial
raises to park staff, conservation agents might be induced
to more rigorously enforce conservation rules and suffer
ostracism in their communities. But these changes would
not necessarily resolve the contradictions inherent in the
division of conservation labor. First, the very thing that
makes conservation agents effective emissaries of conserva-
tion, their insiderness, would weaken as other peasants
identied them as more staunchly in the camp of vazaha
(foreigners). Second, a better-paid but still-understaffed
conservation crew would not logically cultivate the en-
vironmental subjectivity of the Betsimisaraka peasantry
(Agrawal 2005). Heavier penalization might aggravate acts
of delinquency beyond the means of the conservation
crew to handle them. Although community conservation
initiatives in villages located next to unclassied primary
forest have shown promise of success, state-classied pro-
tected areas are not open to such schemes. The states pol-
icy of devoting a greater percentage of land to conservation
and, possibly, foreign agribusiness paints a dim future.
The practices of conservation and subsistence labor
appear to cancel each other out. What appears counter-
productive is simultaneously productive. An analysis of
conservation as an evolving capitalist mode of production
sheds light on the internal coherence of degrading sub-
sistence practices and sustainable capitalism. These coter-
minous labor processes produce a timespace continuum
in which extinction events are suspended but not perma-
nently evaded as well as produce value that exceeds the
ecological services or utilitarian value of forest. The work
of identifying oral and faunal species and making forest
space more accessible to Western tourists and scientists di-
rects global attention to Madagascars threatened wildlife.
On the face of it, conservation is a project to rescue nonhu-
man nature and redeem humanitys history. As the value of
rare biodiversity rises, so does the scale of conservation and
development intervention. And as aid agencies and orga-
nizations reinvent their relevance, they help engineer the
very brink of extinction that capitalism now claims to
repair.
GENESE SODIKOFF Department of Sociology and Anthro-
pology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey,
Newark, NJ 07102-1801; sodikoff@andromeda.rutgers.edu
NOTE
Acknowledgments. This article is based on 14 months of ethno-
graphic research in Madagascar (200002), funded by Fulbright-
Hays, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the Social Science
Research Council, and the Department of Anthropology and the
Program in Labor and Global Change of the International Labor
and Industrial Relations Department at the University of Michi-
gan. The Wenner-Gren Foundation provided a Hunt Postdoctoral
Fellowship. I am grateful for their support. I am indebted to the
staff of the Mananara-Nord Biosphere Reserve, whose members
are given pseudonyms in this article, as well as to residents of
Varary, to Samy, Tiana, and Misa Ranaivoson, to Zosy Gabrielle,
and to Haja Rakotoniasy and family. For their helpful comments
on drafts of this article, I thank Fernando Coronil, Paul Hanson,
Michael Hathaway, David Hughes, and the anonymous reviewers.
Finally, Gillian Feeley-Harnik has been an invaluable mentor at all
stages of the project.
REFERENCES CITED
Agrawal, Arun
2005 Environmentality: Technologies of Government and the
Making of Subjects. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Applebaum, Herbert, ed.
1984 Work in Market and Industrial Societies. New York: State
University of New York Press.
Beinart, William
1984 Soil Erosion, Conservationism and Ideas about Develop-
ment: A Southern African Exploration, 19001960. Journal of
Southern African Studies 11:5283.
1989 Introduction: The Politics of Colonial Conservation. Jour-
nal of Southern African Studies 15(2):143162.
Braun, David
2009 Lemurs, Rare Forests Threatened by Madagascar
Strife. NATGEO Newswatch, March 23. Electronic docu-
ment, http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/-news/
chiefeditor/2009/03/lemurs-threatened-by-madagascar-strife.
html, accessed June 25.
Brockington, Dan
2002 Fortress Conservation: The Preservation of the Mkomazi
Game Reserve, Tanzania. Bloomington: University of Indiana
Press.
Christie, Iain T., and D. Elizabeth Crompton
2003 Republic of Madagascar: Tourism Sector Study. Africa Re-
gion Working Paper Series, 63(E). Washington, DC: World
Bank.
Cole, Jennifer
2001 Forget Colonialism? Sacrice and the Art of Memory in
Madagascar. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Conklin, Alice L.
1998 A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in
France and West Africa, 18951930. Stanford: Stanford Uni-
versity Press.
Cooper, Frederick
1980 From Slaves to Squatters: Plantation Labor and Agriculture
in Zanzibar and Coastal Kenya, 18901925. New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press.
454 American Anthropologist Vol. 111, No. 4 December 2009
Coronil, Fernando
1997 The Magical State: Nature, Money, and Modernity in
Venezuela. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
2000 Globalcentrism: Speculations on Capitalisms Nature. Pub-
lic Culture 12(2):351374.
Croll, Elizabeth, and David Parkin
1992 Bush Base: Forest Farm: Culture, Environment and Devel-
opment. New York: Routledge.
Dove, Michael R.
1992 Foresters Beliefs about Farmers: A Priority for Social Science
Research in Social Forestry. Agroforestry Systems 17(1):1341.
Durbin, J., K. Bernard, and M. Fenn
1993 The Role of Socioeconomic Factors in Loss of Malagasy
Biodiversity. In The Natural History of Madagascar. Steven
M. Goodman and Jonathan P. Benstead, eds. Pp. 142146.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Eiss, Paul K., and David Pedersen
2002 Introduction: Values of Value. Cultural Anthropology
17(3):283291.
Escobar, Arturo
1988 Power and Visibility: Development and the Invention
and Management of the Third World. Cultural Anthropology
3(4):428443.
1999 After Nature: Steps to an Antiessentialist Political Ecology.
Current Anthropology 40:130.
Feeley-Harnik, Gillian
1984 The Political Economy of Death: Communication and
Change in Malagasy Colonial History. American Ethnologist
11(1):119.
1986 Ritual and Work in Madagascar. In Madagascar: Society
and History. Conrad P. Kottak, ed. Pp. 157174. Durham, NC:
Carolina Academic Press.
1995 Plants and People, Children or Wealth: Shifting Grounds
of Choice in Madagascar. PoLAR 18(2):4564.
Ferguson, James
1990 The Anti-Politics Machine: Development, Depoliticiza-
tion, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho. Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press.
Ferraro, Paul J.
2001 Global Habitat Protection: Limitations of Development In-
terventions and a Role for Conservation Performance Pay-
ments. Conservation Biology 15(4):9901000.
Frow, John
1997 Time and Commodity Culture: Essays on Cultural Theory
and Postmodernity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gezon, Lisa
1997 Institutional Structure and the Effectiveness of Integrated
Conservation and Development Projects: Case Study from
Madagascar. Human Organization 56(4):462470.
Gow, Bonar A.
1997 Admiral Didier Ratsirist Revolution. Journal of Modern
African Studies 35(3):409439.
Graeber, David
2001 Toward anAnthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin
of Our Own Dreams. New York: Palgrave.
Green, Glen M., and Robert W. Sussman
1990 Deforestation History of the Eastern Rain Forests of
Madagascar from Satellite Images. Science 248(4952):212
215.
Handley, George
2005 Derek Walcotts Poetics of the Environment in the Bounty.
Calaloo 28(1):201215.
Hanson, Paul W.
2007 Governmentality, Language Ideology, and the Production
of Needs in Malagasy Conservation and Development. Cul-
tural Anthropology 22(2):244284.
Harper, Janice
2002 Endangered Species: Health, Illness, and Death among
Madagascars People of the Forest. Durham, NC: Carolina Aca-
demic Press.
Harvey, David
1996 Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference. Cam-
bridge, MA: Blackwell.
Hayden, Cori
2003 When Nature Goes Public: The Making and Unmaking
of Bioprospecting in Mexico. Princeton: Princeton University
Press.
International Monetary Fund
2007 Republic of Madagascar: First Review under the Three-
Year Arrangement under the Poverty Reduction and Growth
Facility and Request for Waiver and Modication of Perfor-
mance Criteria. IMF Country Report, 07/7. Washington, DC:
IMF.
International Finance Corporation
N.d. Homepage. Electronic document, http://www.ifc.org, ac-
cessed February 3, 2009.
Jacoby, Karl
2001 Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and
the Hidden History of American Conservation. Berkeley: Uni-
versity of California Press.
Jarosz, Lucy
1993 Dening and Explaining Tropical Deforestation: Shifting
Cultivation and Population Growth in Colonial Madagascar
(18961940). Economic Geography 69(4):366379.
Kaufmann, Jeffrey C., ed.
2008 Greening the Great Red Island: Madagascar in Nature and
Culture. Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa.
Kull, Christian
1996 The Evolution of Conservation Efforts in Madagascar. In-
ternational Environmental Affairs 8(1):5086.
2004 Isle of Fire: The Political Ecology of Landscape Burning in
Madagascar. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lefebvre, Henri
1992 The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.
Lough, Richard
2009 UPDATE 1: Madagascars New Leader Says Daewoo
Land Deal Off. Reuters. March 18. Electronic document:
http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssIndustryMaterialsUtilities
News-/idUSLI8971720090318, accessed June 24.
Lowe, Celia
2006 Wild Profusion: Biodiversity Conservation in an Indone-
sian Archipelago. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
MacKenzie, John
1997 The Empire of Nature: Hunting, Conservation and British
Imperialism. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Mangalaza, Eug` ene R egis
1994 La Poule de Dieu: Essai danthropologie philosophique chez
les Betsimisaraka (The Hen of God: Philosophical anthropol-
ogy essay on the Betsimisaraka). M emoires des Cahiers Eth-
nologiques, 4. Bordeaux: Les Presses Universitaires de Bor-
deaux.
Marojejy.com
N.d. Marojejy Reopens to Tourism. Electronic document,
http://www.marojejy.com/Crise_e.htm, accessed September
4, 2009.
Marx, Karl
1976 Capital, Volume One. Ernest Mandel, intro. Ben Fowkes,
trans. New York: Vintage.
Munro, William A.
1998 The Moral Economy of the State: Conservation, Commu-
nity Development, and State Making in Zimbabwe. Athens:
Ohio University Center for International Studies.
Neumann, Roderick P.
1998 Imposing Wilderness: Struggles over Livelihood and Nature
Preservation in Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Nicoll, Martin E., and Olivier Langrand
1989 Madagascar: Revue de la conservation et des aires prot eg ees
(Madagascar: Journal of protected area conservation). Gland,
Switzerland: World Wide Fund for Nature.
Oliver, Christian
2008 Daewoo Unsure of Madagascar Deal. Financial
Times (Asia-Pacic), December 5. Electronic document,
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c899cd3c-c25b-11dd-a350-
000077b07658.html, accessed January 23, 2009.
Orlove, Benjamin S., and Stephen B. Brush
1996 Anthropology and the Conservation of Biodiversity. An-
nual Review of Anthropology 25:329352.
Ribot, Jesse C.
1995 FromExclusion to Participation: Turning Senegals Forestry
Policy Around? World Development 23(9):15971599.
Sodikoff The Low-Wage Conservationist 455
Robbins, Paul
2000 The Rotten Institution: Corruption in Natural Resource
Management. Political Geography 19(4):423443.
Scott, James C.
1976 The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Sub-
sistence in Southeast Asia. New Haven, CT: Yale University
Press.
1999 Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the
Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale Univer-
sity Press.
Sivaramakrishnan, K.
1999 Modern Forests: Statemaking and Environmental Change
in Colonial Eastern India. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
2000 Crafting the Public Sphere in the Forests of West Ben-
gal: Democracy, Development, and Political Action. American
Ethnologist 27(2):431461.
Slater, Candace
1996 Amazonia as Edenic Narrative. In Uncommon Ground.
William Cronon, ed. Pp. 114131. New York: W. W. Norton.
Smith, Neil
1984 Uneven Development. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell.
Sodikoff, Genese
2005 Forced and Forest Labor Regimes in Colonial Madagascar,
19261936. Ethnohistory 52(2):407435.
2007 An Exceptional Strike: A Micro-History of People versus
Park in Madagascar. Journal of Political Ecology 14:1033.
Turner, Terence
2008 Marxian Value Theory: An Anthropological Perspective.
Anthropological Theory 8(1):4356.
Walley, Christine J.
2004 Rough Waters: Nature and Development in an East African
Marine Park. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Walsh, Andrew
2005 The Obvious Aspects of Ecological Underprivilege in
Ankarana, Northern Madagascar. American Anthropologist
107(4):654665.
West, Paige
2005 Translation, Value, and Space: Theorizing an Ethnographic
and Engaged Environmental Anthropology. American An-
thropologist 107(4):632642.
2006 Conservation Is Our Government Now: The Politics of Ecol-
ogy in Papua New Guinea. Durham, NC: Duke University
Press.
West, Paige, and James G. Carrier
2004 Ecotourism and Authenticity: Getting Away from It All?
Current Anthropology 45(4):483498.
White, Richard
1996 Are You an Environmentalist or Do You Work for a Living?
In Uncommon Ground. William Cronon, ed. Pp. 171185.
New York: W. W. Norton.
FOR FURTHER READING
(These selections were made by the American Anthropologist Editorial
Interns as examples of research related in some way to this article. They
do not necessarily reect the views of the author.)
Hanson, Paul W.
2007 Governmentality, Language Ideologogy, and the Produc-
tion of Needs in Malagasy Conservation and Development.
Cultural Anthropology 22(2):244284.
Hughes, David McDermott
2005 Third Nature: Making Space and Time inthe Great Limpopo
Conservation Area. Cultural Anthropology 20(2):157184.
Jackson, Jean E., and Mara Clemencia Ramrez
2009 Traditional, Transnational, and Cosmopolitan: The Colom-
bian Yanacona Look to the Past and to the Future. American
Ethnologist 36(3):521544.
Keller, Eva
2008 The Banana Plant and the Moon: Conservation and the
Malagasy Ethos of Life in Masoala, Madagascar. American Eth-
nologist 35(4):650664.
Litzinger, Ralph A.
2006 Contested Sovereignties and the Critical EcosystemPartner-
ship Fund. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review
29(1):6687.