On Quartering and Cannibalism and the Discourses of Savagism

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:
On Quartering and Cannibalism and the Discourses of Savagism

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This chapter discusses the differences between ordinary storytelling and fiction writing and ethnographic and historical writing. It discusses the earliest European exploration of the Western Pacific, focusing on cannibalism and quartering. The chapter begins with T.H. Huxley's accounts of African cannibalism, which are stereotypical of Europe's representation of savagism. It also considers Alvaro de Mendana and his voyage of discovery to the Solomon Islands, which resulted in the discovery of the islands of the Western and South Pacific and provided the first detailed proof of savage cannibalism. The chapter focuses on an episode that has been dealt with from different viewpoints by several journalists of this voyage. It looks at the narrative of Gomez Catoira, a member of the ship, for the chronology of voyage and the critical events of the expedition. The first section of the chapter discusses the European preoccupation with quartering and cannibalism. It focuses on the animosities in Hautefaye in France through the narrative of Alain Corbin which suggests that while nineteenth-century Europe tried to rid itself of its thoughts of cannibalism, savagism, and quartering, these issues continued to exist in the popular consciousness. The second section discusses floating mythemes and free-floating anxieties, which are intrinsically interconnected and emerge into the fiekd of awareness during specific contexts such as mob action and other ethoses of collective dread.

Keywords: cannibalism; quartering; T.H. Huxley; African cannibalism; representation of savagism; Alvaro de Mendana; Alain Corbin; savagism; floating mythemes

Chapter.  14548 words.  Illustrated.

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