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Endo cannibalism in consuming grief by beth conklin

Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society.

Review of Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society

We might like to think of ourselves as open-minded and adventurous, but we nev- ertheless still recoil at the thought of eating human flesh. Cannibalism, as much as any other practice, still represents a limit to cultural relativism.

  • We might like to think of ourselves as open-minded and adventurous, but we nev- ertheless still recoil at the thought of eating human flesh;
  • Those relations are in part intertwined through the exchange of bodi- ly fluids Chapter Six between parents and children, lovers, and consanguines;
  • Conklin treats the difficult subject of cannibalism with respect and dignity;
  • Nowadays, the only way to study it is through the testimony of witnesses who have eaten either co-socials in funerals endocannibalism , or vic- tims of confrontations with neighboring groups exocannibalism;
  • Conklin ends the book with a section entitled "Eat and Be Eaten," in which she places funerary cannibalism within the larger context of the Wari' notion of life in a world made of animals, humans and spirits;
  • The second part of the book, entitled "Motifs and Motives," aims to answer why and how the Wari' practiced endocannibalism.

However, as a consequence of colonialism and evangelization, cannibalism is almost entirely a thing of the past. Nowadays, the only way to study it is through the testimony of witnesses who have eaten either co-socials in funerals endocannibalismor vic- tims of confrontations with neighboring groups exocannibalism.

Conklin and her informants describe the ways in which funerary cannibalism was practiced until the 1960s by the Indians of the western Amazonian rainforest.

According to the author, Wari' practice of en- docannibalism is embedded in the way social relations are constructed among the Wari'-especially between consaguines and affines-and in how they see themselves as part of a world in which humanlanimal identity is fluid in this life, as well as in the afterlife.

Conklin shows that funerary cannibalism was a main component of a grieving process in which causing the body of the deceased "to disappear" helped the family and friends to come to terms with their loss more easily and more quickly. The first part, "Contexts," opens with a synthetic chapter on "Cannibal Epistemologies" that, as its title sug- gests, takes us through the different types of evidence that cannibalism has ex- isted as a social practice in human history.

The chapter also puts into perspective Amazonian cannibalism by comparing it to medicinal cannibalism carried out for cen- turies in Europe. Chapter Two, "Wari' Worlds," presents an in-depth description of Wari' social organization and environment both as they were before the contact with Europeans who tried to put a stop to the cannibalistic tradition and as they evolved in the post-contact period.

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The conquerors soon pressured the Wari' to abandon these practices and to adopt the custom of burying corpses instead of eating or cremating them. The second part of the book, entitled "Motifs and Motives," aims to answer why and how the Wari' practiced endocannibalism. In Chapter Four, Conklin de- picts Wari' funerals in rich detail, as they were before and after the contact, and offers accounts of Wari' perspectives on illness and death. In "Explanations of Eating," she takes us on an intellectual journey through the various classical ex- planations of cannibalism: In the third part, "Bodily Connections" Conklin examines the ways in which the individual's body and its components are fitted into a network of social re- lations.

Those relations are in part intertwined through the exchange of bodi- ly fluids Chapter Six between parents and children, lovers, and consanguines. Conklin explains why only affines could consume a corpse without any danger and how this act reinforced existing ties among consanguines and affines. Chapter Seven, "Embodied Identities," focuses once again on the body, but this time the author clarifies the ways in which the body serves as a central concept for defining Wari' juxtaposed identities.

Through the exchange of fluids and food, the Wari' find themselves anchored in the community and can adopt various identities as they move from childhood to womanhood or manhood. We are treated to a discussion of Wari' conceptions of mind, body and emotions and the complex relations between these elements. This process was aimed at helping the living deal better with their sorrow and, at the same time, helping the dead to accept the fact that they could not return to their previous form among the living.

Endocannibalism was rooted in a cluster of practices-such as burning the de- ceased's house and personal belongings-which seemingly operated as a means of coming to terms with the finality of death and adjusting to a new life after the departure of endo cannibalism in consuming grief by beth conklin loved one.

Conklin ends the book with a section entitled "Eat and Be Eaten," in which she places funerary cannibalism within the larger context of the Wari' notion of life in a world made of animals, humans and spirits.

In this worldview, as we learn in Chapter Nine, roles and identities, predators and prey are inter- changeable. In their lifetime, Wari' will be the predators of certain animals who, in turn, have the capacity to harm them. In Chapter Ten, Conklin shows that the Wari' become prey Chapter Ten after death when they return as white-lipped peccaries to nourish their families.

This act of self-sacrifice is in- strumental in the process of accepting death. In the last chapter, "Transforming Grief," Conklin ties together her findings about Wari' endocannibalism and their belief system, and makes a powerful case for the position that funerary cannibalism can be construed as an act of compassion.

Conklin makes an important contribution to the anthropological under- standing of endocannibalism. Her main argument that, in the Wari' context, cannibalism is an act of socially expressed compassion aimed at alleviating the grief of the mourners, is solid and convincing. It is grounded in solid data on Wari' funerals, beliefs about the afterlife and, perhaps even more to the point, the Wari' conception of their place in an animal world composed of hunters and hunted.

Not only does this book increase our knowledge of can- nibalism in general, but it also represents a valuable addition to the anthro- pology of emotions and to the study of memory.

Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society

At the same time, Conklin's rich descriptions make this book a noteworthy ethnography of Wari' society and cul- ture, before and after the contact. This book will no doubt become a classic in the study of funerary canni- balism.

Conklin treats the difficult subject of cannibalism with respect and dignity. She admits with candor that her personal experiences "tinted" her own point of view on grief and mourning.

While some may say that she there- fore lacks objectivity, this acknowledgement can also be interpreted as a coura- geous assessment of one's own biases. After all, death and the loss of loved ones are indeed very personal matters; anthropologists cannot approach the subject as if they were totally devoid of emotions and feelings about death.

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