Lex Loci meets Lex Fori: Merging Customary Law and National Land Legislation in Madagascar

Mini-Beatty Lecture: Sandra Evers

October 10th, 2008 5-7pm

Leacock Building, Room 232 McGill Universty, 855 Sherbrooke St. West

Land registration is one of the cornerstones of the Malagasy government plans to improve economic development. Acting under strong pressure exerted by the IMF, the Malagasy government launched the PNF (Plan National Foncier) in 2004 to implement a national land registration system. The land registry system is also intended to provide a platform for further land and forest conservation measures. However, land registration has proven to be complex and problematic, due to competing notions between positive law and customary law. This paper proposes historical and anthropological perspectives on this issue and will discuss notions of the natural environment and its conservation, land access, registration, dispute resolution and the legitimacy of local fora anchored in customs versus a judicial system inspired by French Civil Law. Land registration is a key area where Malagasy customs collide with vazaha (foreign) economic and cultural references.

This paper is the fruit of a joint research project between the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology (VU University Amsterdam) and the Institut de Civilisations/Musée d’Art et Archéologie (Université d’Antananarivo), which was launched in January 2005. During the first three years of this research, fourteen Dutch master students and fourteen Malagasy students jointly carried out fieldwork and research on natural resource management and poverty. This unique project allowed Malagasy and Dutch researchers to exchange viewpoints and combine synergies to better approach this important societal and academic thematic in a comprehensive manner.

Reception to Follow.


This lecture is made possible by a grant from the Beatty Memorial Lectures Committee
Cette conférence est présentée grâce à l'aide financière du Comité des conférences commémoratives Beatty


Dr Sandra J.T.M. Evers is associate professor and senior researcher at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, VU University Amsterdam. She specialises in South West Indian Ocean studies, with a particular focus on Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles. Dr Evers’ principal areas of research cover migration, slavery, memory and cognition, identity construction, frontier societies within the context of globalisation, natural resource management, poverty and sustainable development. She is acting director of a joint research programme on natural resource management and poverty undertaken by the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology (VU University Amsterdam) and the Institut de Civilisations/Musée d’Art et Archéologie (Université d’Antananarivo).