In the first millennium AD when international trade brought silver coins to Madagascar, they were melted down for jewelry or cut into pieces to meet the needs of small-scale local trade. The Merina culture of the highland interior saw in the original uncut silver coin an image of completeness and perfection. Such coins became obligatory ritual offerings acknowledging the sanctity of the sovereign. “Ritual economy” is brought into fine grain relief when pieces of “all-purpose money” are used in ritual prestation and when markets become a symbol of morality indexing political legitimacy. Today traditions of the highlands have co-opted the royal offering of “uncut coins” for local ritual purposes and local ritual specialists engage in symbolic assaults on “all-purpose money.” This chapter draws upon Merina royal oral traditions, ethnohistoric accounts, and contemporary ethnographic work with Betsileo ritual specialists to argue that the poetic and the syncretic necessarily enter into discussions of the economic.
Kus, S.M. and Raharijaona, V. (2008), "“Desires of the heart” and laws of the marketplace: Money and poetics, past and present, in highland Madagascar", Christian Wells, E. and McAnany, P.A. (Ed.) Dimensions of Ritual Economy (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 149-185. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0190-1281(08)00007-3
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