In the wake of a global surge in biodiversity conservation activities, Madagascar has become subjected to «global environmental governance» with foreign NGOs playing a key role in this development. This article investigates how farmers who live next to a national park in Madagascar conceptualise new forms of conservation-oriented power. I show that, in contrast to conservationists, farmers do not think about the park in terms of conservation issues but rather in terms of the relationships between local people and outside powers, both Malagasy and foreign. In their intellectual analysis of the present situation, farmers make use of their understanding and memories of history, particularly that of the colonial period, thus connecting the present to the past. This leads some of them to ponder over fundamental issues of social life such as the nature of servitude.