The University of Arizona

Beyond (anti)utilitarianism: khat and alternatives to growth in northern Madagascar

Lisa L. Gezon

Abstract


Abstract: Madagascar has one of the lowest GDPs in the world. Colonization brought the country into the global economy, but left it at its margins—vulnerable to the hardships of structural adjustment and limitations of state infrastructure. This analysis reveals economic decision-making that defies the utilitarian logic of homo economicus and inspires creative thinking about alternatives to growth as a dominant paradigm. In northern Madagascar, the economy of the stimulant khat is part of one socionatural world characterized by low levels of production and consumption. Madagascar provides a case study for suggesting that "making a living" invokes an intricate web of material desires, cultural meaning, and social connections that do not necessarily revolve around a capitalist growth motive. This article proposes that a path to sustainability is not only in changing social imaginaries but also in valorizing and leveraging cognitive orientations and practices that exist but that may fall below the radar of traditional economic analysis. Keywords: Madagascar, khat, utilitarian, degrowth, economy, urban

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2458/v24i1.20895