By Gananath Obeyesekere
During this radical reexamination of the thought of cannibalism, Gananath Obeyesekere deals a desirable and convincing argument that cannibalism is usually "cannibal talk," a discourse at the different engaged in by means of either indigenous peoples and colonial intruders that leads to occasionally humorous and occasionally lethal cultural misunderstandings. Turning his prepared intelligence to Polynesian societies within the early classes of ecu touch and colonization, Obeyesekere deconstructs Western eyewitness money owed, rigorously analyzing their origins and treating them as a species of fiction writing and seamen's yarns. Cannibalism is much less a social or cultural truth than a mythic illustration of eu writing that displays even more the realities of eu societies and their fascination with the perform of cannibalism, he argues. And whereas very restricted kinds of cannibalism may have happened in Polynesian societies, they have been mostly in reference to human sacrifice and conducted by means of a decide upon neighborhood in well-defined sacramental rituals. Cannibal speak considers how the colonial intrusion produced a fancy self-fulfilling prophecy wherein the fable of cannibalism grew to become a truth as natives from time to time started to devour either Europeans and their very own enemies in acts of "conspicuous anthropophagy."
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Extra info for Cannibal Talk: The Man-eating Myth and Human Sacrifice in the South Seas
This poses a further problem: If the dread of the cannibal Other is omnipresent as fantasy, how is it that the ethnographers and historians have been ready to believe in humans eating other humans as an actuality of the empirical record? Are the fantasy and the reality independent of each other, or are they inextricably related in the complex ways I shall elucidate in this book? Cannibalism is like sorcery in this regard: the imputation of sorcery to others is common crossculturally but the practice of sorcery is rare.
13 Chanca’s description is, one might say, the “elementary form” of the cannibal scene in which the existence of a few bones is suﬃcient to indicate the existence of cannibalism. This scene then can be elaborated in various ways in its later development. ”14 This description becomes further elaborated and magniﬁed in later engravings and neatly described in an account of 1892 celebrating the Columbus quarter-centenary. In the kitchens were found skulls in use as bowls or vases. . The Spaniards entered apartments which were veritable human butcher-shops.
The impossibility of ﬁnding monsters in the actual world as it expanded before the European consciousness had one notable exception. The anthropophagi of the medieval world were converted into the cannibal. The term “cannibal” replaced the term “anthropophagi” and became a sign of savagism. 31 The killing of monsters was after all a part of the fantasy and of the heroic myths of Western culture throughout its history. If the monsters of the medieval imagination were symbolically or metaphorically represented in the new wild man, the savage of the voyages of discovery, so also was the cannibal, initially in the Americas and then much later in the South Seas.
Cannibal Talk: The Man-eating Myth and Human Sacrifice in the South Seas by Gananath Obeyesekere