This post builds on the research article “Governmentality, Language Ideology, and the Production of Needs in Malagasy Conservation-Development,” which was published in the May 2007 issue of the Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cultural Anthropology.
Cultural Anthropology has published a number of essays on conservation issues, including David McDermott Hughes' "Third Nature: Making Space and Time in the Great Limpopo Conservation Area" (2005); Celia Lowe's "Making the Monkey: How the Togean Macaque Went from 'New Form' to 'Endemic Species' in Indonesians' Conservation Biology" (2004); and Stephen Brush's "Bioprospecting the Public Domain" (1999).
Cultural Anthropology has also published a number of essays that examine the political implications of language practice. See, for example, Kaushik Ghosh's "Between Global Flows and Local Dams: Indigenousness, Locality, and the Transnational Sphere in Jharkhand, India" (2006), Clare Ignatowksi's "Multipartyism and Nostalgia for the Unified Past: Discourses of Democracy in a Dance Association in Cameroon" (2004); Teresa Pires do Rio Caldeira's "The Art of Being Indirect: Talking About Politics in Brazil" (1988) and Bradd Shore's "Is Language a Prisonhouse?" (1987).
Lost in translation - that's literally what happens to the needs of resident people when they attempt to explain their needs to international development experts, observes Paul Hanson in the May 2007 issue of Cultural Anthropology. In "Governmentality, Language Ideology, and the Production of Needs in Malagasy Conservation-Development," Hanson, describes how a USAID team sought input from the Sambinoro, who claim "master of the land" status over 1,700 hectares of land enclosed by Madagascar's Ranomafana National Park Project. The Golden Bamboo Lemur was discovered in the Ranomafana region in 1986, galvanizing efforts to enclose land and protect it from a range of threats, including the slash and burn agriculture practiced by Sambinoro.
Analyzing the dialogue between AID officials and the Sambinoro as well as translations by Malagasy staff, Hanson shows how differing language ideologies complicate efforts to involve resident people in externally framed and managed development projects. As with other Integrated Conservation-Development Programs (ICDP) throughout the world, the land enclosures that were part of the Ranomafana Park Project were legitimated by claims that the needs of displaced residents would be assessed and respected. The needs assessment process, however, is complex, and involves many steps where meaning and authority are negotiated, with powerful effects. The "technology of needs production," Hanson argues, is "part of a green neoliberal rationality through which the Malagasy state and its citizens are being transformed, and from which an increasingly sophisticated countergovernmentality grows." Hanson's essay builds on the work of Michel Foucault, showing how the micropolitics of language underpin the way governmentaliity works.
Hanson's essay will be of particular relevant to readers interested in development and conservation, in the political implications of language, and in how Foucault can orient ethnographic projects.