Jennifer Cole is a cultural anthropologist and Professor of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago where she also chairs the Committee on African Studies. A specialist of Madagascar, her first book examined the legacies of French colonial rule and the everyday arts of memory that Malagasy used to erase, rework, and remember the colonial past. She is the recipient of numerous awards including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship and a senior research award from the National Science Foundation. Her current book explores the role of gender and kinship in mobility, focusing on contemporary Malagasy marriage migration to France.
African studies; gender and mobility; youth and generational change, memory and forgetting; historical anthropology; anthropology of emotions.
Le Bal des Mariés: Coastal Malagasy Women, French men, and the Making of a Double Diasporic Formation
Over the last twenty-five years, thousands of coastal Malagasy women have married Frenchmen and migrated to France. Unlike the pattern that characterizes many other immigrant groups, Malagasy women who marry Frenchmen do not form separate ethnic enclaves, nor are they isolated from wider French life. Rather, they join their French husbands who usually live in villages and small towns scattered throughout provincial France. My project asks how, given the French climate of rising xenophobia, government efforts to block immigration, and often-conflicting expectations about marriage and family life, coastal Malagasy women nevertheless manage to incorporate themselves into French families and communities at the same time that they continue to sustain their families in Madagascar. I show how they draw upon a long-standing female Malagasy social role of the vadimbazaha, which denotes the spouse of a European, to intertwine Malagasy and French kinship systems. They do so in such a way that they regenerate French and Malagasy families simultaneously. My study examines how women manage this difficult social feat, while at the same time examining the social and cultural consequences of their role as unifiers for their French and Malagasy families. Ultimately, my analysis reveals some of the conditions under which an influx of migrants enriches, instead of threatening, French life ways. In fact, Malagasy marriage migration sustains French cultural institutions.