Clean people, unclean people: the essentialisation of 'slaves' among the southern Betsileo of Madagascar

Social Anthropology 23 (2):152-168 (2015)
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In this article I argue that among the southern Betsileo slave descendants are essentialised by free descendants. After explaining how this striking case of psychological essentialism manifests in the local context, I provide experimental evidence for it and discuss the results of three cognitive tasks that I ran in the field. I then suggest that slaves were not essentialised in the pre-colonial era and contend that the essentialist construal only became entrenched in the aftermath of the 1896 abolition of slavery, which paradoxically triggered the historical process of essentialisation.
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