Welcome Ceremony

 The new professors

The new professors

The Department of Anglophone Studies graciously hosted a welcome ceremony for the three new teachers in the department. There are two Fulbright Scholars, myself and Linda Gray, and also Roimemy RALISON. There was very nice food and very pleasant conversation. It was a great chance to meet my colleagues. The department chair, Zoly RAKOTONIERA, gave us each a very generous gift of Robert Chocolate which is very famous here in Madagascar and also very delicious. I took the opportunity to offer a kabary, which is a traditional speech given in Madagascar at weddings and other ceremonies. Kabaries are usually very long speeches that involve many illusions, employ indirect methods of speaking and have many fine phrasings. They typically have many Malagasy proverbs (ohabolana). I tried to keep mine simple, so it was rather short, direct and very light on proverbs and fine phrasing! After greeting those present, I apologized for not being able to speak indirectly in Malagasy (miolakolaka). My speaking in Malagasy has always been very direct. I also apologized for not being proficient in proverbs. Even though I am far from mastering Malagasy, I still wanted to speak to the teachers in their native language in order to show them how passionate I was about Malagasy culture and how I have some prior connection to the way of life here. I think some of them were a bit surprised. I got some compliments on my kabary and was told that there were not too many mistakes. I was very nervous, to be honest, in part because the audience was all university professors. I hope to have a chance to give a kabary again, and I hope to come closer next time to approximating the ideal of a kabary. Incidentally, my research focuses a good deal on Malagasy proverbs, so perhaps next time my kabary will benefit from this research. At the ceremony, I happened to meet a doctoral student and professor, Graziella MASINDRAZANA, who is doing research on Malagasy proverbs and how they express the Malagasy worldview. Proverbs have great currency in Malagasy culture and encode many of the key concepts that structure the Malagasy worldview such as tody (karma), tsiny (blame) and fihavanana (a special kind of kinship). She has an amazing command of the material and is focusing on proverbs that involve paradoxes and antonyms. She explained to me that to elucidate difficult metaphysical or philosophical concepts Malagasy philosophers such as Antoine de Padoue Rahajarizafy often use paradoxical proverbs. This is very intriguing and raises many interesting questions that I plan to think about in more detail.  Why does paradox provides a path to wisdom? How does this method work? Is this method of enlightenment associated with some cultures rather than others? If so, why? Malagasy proverbs in many ways are the main historical corpus of Malagasy philosophy, so they are very important to understand philosophy in Madagascar. I am grateful to have found someone as knowledgeable as Professor MASINDRAZANA and am eager to work with her going forward. All in all, I am very grateful for the warm reception I have received from all members of the University of Antananarivo I have met thus far.