Margaret Broughton Featured in AFA Spotlight
Margaret Broughton, who graduated from EKU in 2015 and currently lives in the African country of Madagascar after completing a study abroad program there, is featured in this series intended to let EKU faculty, staff, students, or alumni discuss their encounters with African or African-American studies, peoples, and societies as students, instructors, researchers, or travelers.
Briefly state your educational background, past and current academic positions held, most recent or significant publications or creative works, if any?
My name is Margaret Broughton and I graduated from EKU with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology in 2015. While at EKU, I took some African history courses. Inspired by my mentor, Dr. Benjamin Freed, and supported by the EKU study abroad office and Kennamer Scholarship, I went to Madagascar for a study abroad program in 2014. It was a life-changing experience.
How have you encountered African studies, peoples, and societies in your research, studies, travels, scholarships, teaching, or associations.
Africa has impacted me in both an emic and etic perspective, primarily in the country of Madagascar where I now call home. In 2014, I came to do independent research in ethnoprimatology and to participate in SIT Study Abroad: Traditional Medicine and Healthcare Systems in Madagascar. I absolutely fell in love with the island because of its people and environment, where at least 85% of its species are endemic (especially with pharmaceutical plants). After completing my study broad, I returned in 2015 to teach English, ecology, and culture to primary and secondary levels, but I also came back to be with my “family,” the people I first came to know in Madagascar who accepted me as their daughter/sister. I was truly inspired by the people I encountered in the north of Madagascar, especially how they perceive the forest (lemurs being seen as ancestors and “farmers”) and their dedication to protect it. They shaped the focus of my research interest, which is conservation strategies and the relationship between primates and the environment, especially when impacted by globalization, exploitation, and anthropogenic disturbances. I also have a passion for medical anthropology, which is unique as traditional medicine is still widely practiced here and I learn everyday of a new plant or food used for medicine, leaving nothing to go to waste. I have been living in rural area of Madagascar for almost 3 years now, and I live a very simple life (with little running water, no car, no refrigerator or stove) and I wouldn’t trade it in for anything else in the world.
What is the most gratifying experience of those encounters and why?
My many experiences of both living and traveling throughout rural and urban areas of Madagascar has not only helped me discover my role in anthropology, but my purpose as a person. By living in local settings, I realized what it means to be “Malagasy.” As the only foreigner in my neighborhood, I now have a unique awareness and perception of my ethnicity, gender, and identity that I never would have experienced in the U.S. My daily interaction with the people has dispelled some of the negative stereotypes I had about Africans and Malagasy have of foreigners, thus developing a mutualistic relationship and a greater understanding of cultural differences and similarities. One of most gratifying experiences for me is the ability to embrace the deep family and kinship ties that binds the people together. Living with my host family in Madagascar has deepened my appreciation and respect for my family and friends in the U.S. I have also been able to participate in many cultural traditions, that for some may seem strange, when in actuality these practices are performed to continue and respect cultural identity as well as both practical and logical means. The oral legends and myths are also a gratifying experience, as the diversity of stories from different regions make history come alive and are applied to the daily lives of people. Stories can range from kings, witches, sorcerers, centaurs, mermaids, and animals with incredible (sometimes humanistic) abilities. Although from an outsider’s perspective it would be seen as illogical or childish, these stories serve a purpose and help reinstall the power of cultural belief and identity.
What should anyone who is yet to experience Africana studies learn from your experience?
How life-changing Africa can be, that the misconception of “we need to save Africa” actually should be “Africa is saving us”. The world has a lot to learn from Africa. I can’t imagine my life without these experiences, the people I now call family and the environment I call home. What I would like most for someone to learn from my journey is the importance of kinship, and how incredibly resourceful, innovative, and hopeful Africans live day to day, despite some unimaginable life circumstances. Yes, life is extremely tough in many rural areas in Africa with the overwhelming amounts of poverty and deprivation. However, once you look beyond these barriers you will unlock a world of inspiration, seeing the land and people for what they truly are. For me, it is truly a humbling and moving experience for people to offer me everything they have even when they themselves have almost nothing. The generosity of their spirit restores one’s faith in humanity. If it weren’t for my mentor Dr. Benjamin Freed who motivated and inspired me to travel to the Red Island, the EKU study abroad office, especially Jennifer White, and the Kennamer Scholarship, I never would have been able to discover not only this magical island and my purpose as a person and researcher. Thank you, EKU.
Published on February 07, 2018