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Cannibal Talk – The Man-Eating Myth and Human Sacrifice in the South Seas - California Scholarship Online
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Cannibal Talk: The Man-Eating Myth and Human Sacrifice in the South Seas

Gananath Obeyesekere


In this re-examination of the notion of cannibalism, the author offers the argument that cannibalism is mostly “cannibal talk,” a discourse on the Other engaged in by both indigenous peoples and colonial intruders which results in sometimes funny and sometimes deadly cultural misunderstandings. Turning to Polynesian societies in the early periods of European contact and colonization, the author deconstructs Western eyewitness accounts, carefully examining their origins and treating them as a species of fiction writing and seamen's yarns. He argues that cannibalism is less a social or cultural ... More

Keywords: cannibalism, cannibal talk, Other, cultural misunderstandings, Polynesia, human sacrifice, colonialism, conspicuous anthropophagy

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2005 Print ISBN-13: 9780520243071
Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012 DOI:10.1525/california/9780520243071.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Gananath Obeyesekere, author