Island in the Stream: An Ethnographic History of Mayotte

By Michael Lambek
With a foreword by Michael Jackson

© 2018

Island in the Stream introduces an original genre of ethnographic history as it follows a community on Mayotte, an East African island in the Mozambique Channel, through eleven periods of fieldwork between 1975 and 2015. Over this 40-year span Mayotte shifted from a declining and neglected colonial backwater to a full département of the French state. In a highly unusual postcolonial trajectory, citizens of Mayotte demanded this incorporation within France rather than joining the independent republic of the Comoros. The Malagasy-speaking Muslim villagers Michael Lambek encountered in 1975 practiced subsistence cultivation and lived without roads, schools, electricity, or running water; today they are educated citizens of the EU who travel regularly to metropolitan France and beyond.

Offering a series of ethnographic slices of life across time, Island in the Stream highlights community members' ethical engagement in their own history as they looked to the future, acknowledged the past, and engaged and transformed local forms of sociality, exchange, and ritual performance. This is a unique account of the changing horizons and historical consciousness of an African community and an intimate portrait of the inhabitants and their concerns, as well as a glimpse into the changing perspective of the ethnographer.

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Product Details

  • Series: Anthropological Horizons
  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 376 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
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SKU# SP005320

  • PUBLISHED OCT 2018

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Quick Overview

This book follows the trajectory of life in an African island community as composed of ethnographic portraits taken over eleven visits across 40 years. It initiates an original genre of ethnographic history and describes people's ongoing ethical engagement with their past and future.

Island in the Stream: An Ethnographic History of Mayotte

By Michael Lambek
With a foreword by Michael Jackson

© 2018

Island in the Stream introduces an original genre of ethnographic history as it follows a community on Mayotte, an East African island in the Mozambique Channel, through eleven periods of fieldwork between 1975 and 2015. Over this 40-year span Mayotte shifted from a declining and neglected colonial backwater to a full département of the French state. In a highly unusual postcolonial trajectory, citizens of Mayotte demanded this incorporation within France rather than joining the independent republic of the Comoros. The Malagasy-speaking Muslim villagers Michael Lambek encountered in 1975 practiced subsistence cultivation and lived without roads, schools, electricity, or running water; today they are educated citizens of the EU who travel regularly to metropolitan France and beyond.

Offering a series of ethnographic slices of life across time, Island in the Stream highlights community members' ethical engagement in their own history as they looked to the future, acknowledged the past, and engaged and transformed local forms of sociality, exchange, and ritual performance. This is a unique account of the changing horizons and historical consciousness of an African community and an intimate portrait of the inhabitants and their concerns, as well as a glimpse into the changing perspective of the ethnographer.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Anthropological Horizons
  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 376 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    "Michael Lambek’s study of the vicissitudes of Mahorais 'in the stream of time' recognizes the importance given to Mayotte’s shifting relationship to France, culminating (for now) in Mayotte’s incorporation as a départmente d’outre-mer (DOM) of France in 2011. But Lambek is mainly concerned with how Maorais relate their changing ideas and practices of streams of times in their larger circumstances to their shifting understanding of being in the world: the nature of experience, and the relationship of experience to awareness, or consciousness, of selves and others."


    Gillian Feeley-Harnik, Professor Emerita in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan

    "The product of more than 40 years of scholarship and intimate engagement with the lives of people of Mayotte, Island in the Stream is a work of depth and maturity, written with the subtlety, vividness, and analytic dexterity that we have come to expect from Michael Lambek. The main themes of how life has changed over this period for people in Mayotte, how they themselves view the past, present, and future, and their own historical consciousness – as evidenced in their actions and their articulated reflections – are shown to be fundamentally ethical concerns. So, this is also a work about ethical engagement – of the Mahorais and of the ethnographer."


    Janet Carsten, Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh

    "Michael Lambek’s name is synonymous with Mayotte anthropology, and his engagement here, across so impressive a professional arc, is a gift to the field. In Island in the Stream, Lambek provides refreshingly unique insights that enable the reader to encounter three masterful 'ethnographic histories' at once: of Mayotte and its people, of the anthropologist himself, and, finally, of his expertise in a corpus of theory. As one advances through the book’s chronologically-ordered essays, one looks forward at every turn to learning what might transpire next in terms of these entwined histories. This is a wonderful read, a delightfully informative journey from its start on through to the very last page."


    Lesley Sharp, Barbara Chamberlain and Helen Chamberlain Josefsberg ‘30 Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Senior Research Scientist in Sociomedical Sciences in the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University
  • Author Information

    Michael Lambek is a Canada Research Chair and professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto Scarborough.


    Michael D. Jackson is a New Zealand poet and anthropologist who has taught in anthropology departments at Massey University, the Australian National University, Indiana University Bloomington, and the University of Copenhagen. He is a religion professor at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, USA.
  • Table of contents

    List of Figures
    Foreword by Michael Jackson
    Note on Orthography
    Glossary
    Preface

    Part One: Prelude
    1 Introduction: The Presence of History
    2 Village Life: Kinship, Community, and Islam, 1975 and After
    3 Founding the Villages, before 1975

    Part Two: Exchange, Celebration, Ceremony, through 1995
    4 Citizenship and Sociality: Practising Equality, 1975–1976
    5 Exchange, Time, and Person in Mayotte: The Structure and Destructuring of a Cultural System, 1975–1985
    6 Localizing Islamic Performances in Mayotte, 1975–1995

    Part Three: Dancing to the Music of Time, through 2001
    7 Choking on the Qur’an and Other Consuming Parables, 1975–1992
    8 Nuriaty, the Saint, and the Sultan: Virtuous Subject and Subjective Virtuoso of the Postmodern Colony, to 1995
    9 The Saint, the Sea Monster, and an Invitation to a Dîner-dansant, to 2001
    10 On the Move, through 2001

    Part Four: Contingent Conviviality, through 2015
    11 Marriage and Moral Horizons, 2015
    12 Present Horizons, 2015
    13 Summation: Mariam’s Mirror

    Acknowledgments
    Notes
    References
    Credits
    Index