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Cannibal TalkThe Man-Eating Myth and Human Sacrifice in the South Seas$
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Gananath Obeyesekere

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780520243071

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520243071.001.0001

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Concerning Violence: A Backward Journey into Maori Anthropophagy

Concerning Violence: A Backward Journey into Maori Anthropophagy

(p.57) Three Concerning Violence: A Backward Journey into Maori Anthropophagy
Cannibal Talk

Gananath Obeyesekere

University of California Press

This chapter discusses the change in the orientation of Maori anthropophagy and the shift in the orientation of British cannibalism from a generalized fantasy to a tradition of seafaring anthropophagy. With the opening up of the world due to the voyages of discovery, starvation and shipwrecks became a regular phenomenon. Hence, in the culture of seafarers, the medieval fantasy of cannibalism became a modern reality. For the Maoris, the opening of their world brought about by the intrusion of voyages of discovery changed their rituals of human sacrifice to a more pronounced anthropophagy. Moreover, this change resulted in an expanded consubstantial community. In some instances, commoners and women were allowed to partake of human flesh, thus violating the traditional tapu on which the sacrificial anthropophagy rested. At the same time, this change also created a powerful motivation for those previously excluded to partake in the consubstantial meal. This motivation, expansion, and subsequent pejoration of the sacrifice was encouraged by the Europeans killed in the ambush because the traditional rules of the Maori did not apply to them, or could be suspended, ignored, or reformulated. Topics included in the chapter are Maori cannibalism and alternative views of Polynesian anthropophagy.

Keywords:   Maori anthropophagy, British cannibalism, seafaring anthropophagy, sacrificial anthropophagy, Maoris, Maori cannibalism, Polynesian anthropophagy

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