Fieldsite in Central Madagascar

Maurice Bloch

Primary Site Researcher

Maurice Bloch

Professor Bloch is emeritus professor at the London School of Economics London. At present he is a visiting professor at The New School for Social Research New York. He is also adjunct professor at the free university of Amsterdam. His ethnographic work has been mainly in Madagascar. His theoretical work has been on religion, ritual, social organisation. His most recent work has concerned culture and cognition.


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The Zafimaniry village of Ranomena in Madagascar. This is situated sixty kilometres east of the town Ambositra. To get there one must first go to the village of Ambohimitombo which is sometimes reachable by four wheel drive vehicles and from there one must continue on foot. The villagers are very poor and there is no electricity, running water and the only direct contact with the outside world are radio programmes available to the few villagers with serviceable radios.


Approximately 500.


The Zafimaniry dialect of Malagasy. Most people understand official Malagasy. No one speaks any other language fluently.

Group Identity

The people of the village identify themselves as Zafimaniry. This term partly indicates hypothesised descent and partly indicates a certain way of life linked with a special type of forest dwelling.

Economic Activities

The principal activity is swidden (slash and burn) agriculture. The villagers also occasionally sell logs of various types of wood. They serve as middle men (often as carriers of various goods between the coast and the plateau. Young men go to other parts of the island for periods of about three month to work as woodcutters often for Indian traders.


All the villagers reckon themselves to be Catholic through their involvement in the church and their commitment. However all are involved in ancestral practices concerned with houses and ancestors. The Zafimaniry are always willing to try out any religio/magical practices that they may come across.


Zafimaniry kinship cannot be understood if not taken together with ideas about the house. The greatest value is having descendants who can maintain their parent’s house and ensure the continuation of life in the place where their forebears have established themselves. There is a shadowy moiety system and marriage, which depends on the production of children and the construction of a house is virilocal. The terminology is Hawian.


There is a single class school that is opened irregularly. Very few villagers can read or write with any ease.

Health Care

There is no significant access to western health care. Occasionally some priviledged villagers seek medical help in towns. Infant mortality is high. Bubonic Plague is endemic.

Explore this Fieldsite with Google Earth

Google Earth allows you to explore sites anywhere in the world using satellite images of those sites. So you can go to the fieldsite and navigate around to explore it in detail. To use this feature, you may need to download the Google Earth program onto your computer. This program is available for free here: Google Earth. Once you have done this, just click on the following links and navigate around the fieldsite from there.

Google Earth KMZ files for Central Madagascar Site. NB: right-click on these files & save to your computer.


Maurice Bloch (Forthcoming). Going In and Out of Each Other's Bodies. in H. Whitehouse & J. Laidlaw (eds.) The Salvaged Mind: Social anthropology, religion, and the cognitive sciences, Durham: Carolina Academic.

Maurice Bloch (2006). L’anthropologie Cognitive a L’epreuve du terrain. Paris :Fayard.

Maurice Bloch (2005). Essay on Cultural Transmission. London: Berg.

Maurice Bloch (1996). How We Think They Think: Anthropological Approaches to Cognition, Memory, and Literacy. Boulder: Westview.

Maurice Bloch, Gregg Solomon, and Susan Carey (2001). Zafimaniry: An Understanding of What Is Passed on from Parents to Children: A Cross-Cultural Investigation. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 1, 43-68.

Maurice Bloch (2001). A Well Disposed Anthroplogist's Problems with Memes. In R. Aunger (ed.) Darwinizing Culture: The Status of Memetics as a Science, OUP.

Maurice Bloch (2001).What goes without saying: the conceptualisation of Zafimaniry society. in A. Kuper (ed.) Conceptualising Society. London: Routledge.

Maurice Bloch (2001). Language, Anthropology and Cognitive Science. Man, .26, pp .183-198. (reprinted in J. Borowsky (ed) Anthropology: the State of the Art and several other places).

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