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Stones, Bones and Trees: Managing Resources in Ankarana, Madagascar | Engaging Resources
New Anthropological Perspectives on Natural Resource Environments

Stones, Bones and Trees: Managing Resources in Ankarana, Madagascar

Andrew Walsh, University of Western Ontario

This paper focuses on the many ways in which different categories of people think about and try to manage three durable resources found in the Ankarana region of northern Madagascar: (1) the sapphires from which migrant small-scale miners have been making their livings for the past 15 years, (2) the bones of longtime residents’ ancestors lying entombed in local caves, and (3) the trees needed for the production of (among other things) both the coffins in which ancestral bones are placed and the charcoal used to cook miners’ meals. Through a comparative study, the paper illustrates the complex ways in which different understandings of the relative durability and/or fragility of these resources impinge on the lives of those who value, exploit, protect or otherwise relate to them.