Cannibal Context: An Imaginative Cross-Cultural Encounter



Rycerz, Jill, “Cannibal Context: An Imaginative Cross-Cultural Encounter,” Scholar@Simmons, accessed December 4, 2020,


Cannibal Context: An Imaginative Cross-Cultural Encounter


Rycerz, Jill




In the purest form a cannibal can be defined as a person who consumes the body of another. However, this simple definition does not fully illustrate the stigmas associated with this word. Since the creation of this word, European explorers have made gains by referring to people of other cultures as “cannibals.” The contemporary usage has evolved and the potential for a neutral description of man-eating was lost when a European explorer descried it as “cannibalism” for the first time. When accusations of cannibalism are read from historical documents such as travel narratives or ship logs, the limitations of the European author’s world view are shared. Thus, the original man-eating experience was transformed into a new context. European explorers were faced a variety of anxieties including dangers associated with travel, pressures from financial sponsors, and a dependency on natural resources. Projection and displacement of these anxieties onto the indigenous people could have been coping mechanisms that created the cannibal context. By shifting the subject of inquiry from those being accused to those who have made the accusation of cannibalism, it becomes clear that the explorers were in fact projecting and displacement their own fears of man-eating onto others.


Simmons College (Boston, Mass.)


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