Cannibal Feasts in Nineteenth-Century Fiji: Seamen’s Yarns and the Ethnographic Imagination

Gananath Obeyesekere

in Cannibal Talk

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780520243071
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520938311 | DOI:
Cannibal Feasts in Nineteenth-Century Fiji: Seamen’s Yarns and the Ethnographic Imagination

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This chapter focuses on nineteenth-century Fiji. It discusses its anthropophagy, its cannibalism, and its political developments in the early nineteenth century. The first section of the chapter discusses the metaphysics of savagism. The second section discusses Fijian cannibalism, focusing on eye-witnesses of anthropophagy-cannibalism. It looks at John Jackson and William Endicott, who described cannibal feasts so persuasively that their accounts were regarded as “unimpeachable testimony” of the truth of Fijian cannibalism. In this section, the narratives of the two writers are ridded of their “unimpeachable” nature and regarded as fictional narratives based on the tradition of yarning of ships and islands. The third section of the chapter investigates whether Henry Fowler confirmed he was the author of the Danvers Courier, which was believed to have been written by Endicott. The fourth section focuses on the cannibal narratives of John Jackson. It discusses his books, Jack, the Cannibal Killer and Cannibal Jack. The fifth section of the chapter tackles yarning and narrative fiction in John Jackson's adventures. It discusses the beginnings of adventure stories whose imaginary locale is an idyllic island in the South Seas where Englishmen thwart cannibalism and savagery and exemplify in their own lives Evangelical morality and the “message of the empire.”

Keywords: nineteenth-century Fiji; anthropophagy; cannibalism; metaphysics of savagism; Fijian cannibalism; John Jackson; William Endicott; yarning

Chapter.  19824 words. 

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