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The Catholic Mission, Sport and Renewal of Elites: St Michel de Tananarive Jesuit College (1906-1975)

The emblem of Jesuit ambition was St. Michel College, built in the heart of the capital in ‘fortress’ style proclaiming the educational plan for training the country’s elites. Our intention here is to show how, within the specific framework of this Catholic establishment, the disciplinary, associative and identitary functions of gymnastics and sports played their part from the 1920s in the training and renewal of Malagasy elites, and accompanied the process of decolonisation. Over seven decades, the establishment developed evolving, pragmatic and even opportunistic strategies which were above all adaptations of policy with a view to consolidating its position in Malagasy society. Thus, in order to reinforce its opposition to the Protestant missions, the establishment initially relied on help from the coloniser. From 1906, in a political context sustained by anti-clericalism and the promotion of secular education, the Catholic missions took deeper root in Malagasy demands.