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Encountering Cannibalism: A Cultural History

by Watson, Kelly L.

Abstract (Summary)
"Encountering Cannibalism: A Cultural History" explores the relationship between the trope of cannibalism and the notions of civilization and savagery. This thesis intervenes in scholarship on cannibalism by analyzing the surrounding discourses from a cultural studies position. Despite the advancements in scholarship in the past fifty years that have seen the breakdown of many binary systems, criticism that addresses cannibalism continues to perpetuate the civilization/savagery binary. Working from a meta-discursive position in American Culture Studies, this thesis interrogates the history of cannibalism in order to understand this stubborn persistence of the civilization/savagery binary in studies of cannibalism across other disciplines. Tracing the development of cannibal discourse, we discover the place of the cannibal within a fantasy of wholeness of American identity. The cannibal is both a disruption of civilization and a foundational element as neither civilization nor savagery can exist independently. The trope of cannibalism allows the scholar to make connections and draw conclusions across disciplines, time periods, and theoretical positionings, and provides a unique entry point for discussions of race and gender. The cannibal becomes the ultimate Other for the European Subject and is therefore simultaneously rejected and fetishized. The notion of the cannibal Other persists and plays an important role in modern discourse which still insists on the clear separation of civilization and savagery. This thesis seeks to assert the first cultural history of cannibalism so that other disciplinary work on the subject may be illuminated and altered.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:cannibalism savagery civilization postcolonial

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2006

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