“Nobody wants to kill”: Economies of affect and violence in Madagascar's vanilla boom

by SARAH R. OSTERHOUDT

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Vanilla prices in Madagascar have reached historic highs. For the country's vanilla‐producing smallholders, the influx of new wealth has resulted in profound affective changes—in large part owing to vanilla theft, which has become widespread. Anxiety and anger are rampant in vanilla‐producing communities, and these feelings are increasingly channeled into deadly mob violence against accused thieves. Rather than random acts, these extrajudicial killings are structured by localized cultural, material, and affective forms, as people enact and embody commodity violence in intimate, often contradictory ways. Commodity violence emerges as an additional form of unwanted emotional and physical labor for smallholders. With the vanilla market, as with commodity markets more generally, it is those with the least to gain who are disproportionately exposed to violence and harm.