The Making and Unmaking of a Colonial Cattle Frontier. Capitalism, Science and Empire in Madagascar, 1870s-1970s

January 2023 to December 2024
veterinary medicine
Université d'Antananarivo (Madagascar)
Research fields
Business and Economics
Law and Political Science
Medicine and Health Sciences

Using the lens of the cattle frontier in Madagascar in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this project explores the transformation of
livestock production, pastoralist societies, imperial economies and animal landscapes in colonial and postcolonial Africa. It builds on the concept of
commodity frontiers, moving sites of capitalist commodity production and extraction, to disentangle the complex interplay between global
capitalism, science and empire in the making and unmaking of the cattle frontier in Madagascar. COLCAT examines why and how European
(mostly French) and Malagasy administrators, entrepreneurs and veterinary experts, in often conflictual interaction with indigenous pastoralists,
tried to transform pre-existing cattle economies on the island and to turn cattle into profitable commodities. It argues that the making of a capitalist
and imperial cattle frontier implied a broad range of interventions, from the improvement of local breeds and new methods of cattle disease
management to the sedentarisation of cattle pastoralists and the establishment of meat factories and new cattle trading networks. COLCAT
analyses the rationales and dynamics of these interventions, including the manifold conflicts, negotiation processes and (intended and unintended)
social, economic and ecological consequences. It thereby pays particular attention to the role of science and expert knowledge. While COLCAT’s
main focus is on the profound transformations of the colonial era (1895-1960), it embeds them in a longue-durée perspective, spanning late Merina
rule in the precolonial period (1870s-90s) to the postcolonial era (1960s-70s). This will facilitate teasing out the tensions between capitalist,
imperial and (post)colonial expansion and development goals. Overall, COLCAT will make a substantial contribution to the history of global
capitalism, the history of (French) colonialism in Africa, environmental history and the history of science and knowledge.