Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society

Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society

by Beth A. Conklin

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Mourning the death of loved ones and recovering from their loss are universal human experiences, yet the grieving process is as different between cultures as it is among individuals. As late as the 1960s, the Wari' Indians of the western Amazonian rainforest ate the roasted flesh of their dead as an expression of compassion for the deceased and for his or her close relatives. By removing and transforming the corpse, which embodied ties between the living and the dead and was a focus of grief for the family of the deceased, Wari' death rites helped the bereaved kin accept their loss and go on with their lives. Drawing on the recollections of Wari' elders who participated in consuming the dead, this book presents one of the richest, most authoritative ethnographic accounts of funerary cannibalism ever recorded. Beth Conklin explores Wari' conceptions of person, body, and spirit, as well as indigenous understandings of memory and emotion, to explain why the Wari' felt that corpses must be destroyed and why they preferred cannibalism over cremation. Her findings challenge many commonly held beliefs about cannibalism and show why, in Wari' terms, it was considered the most honorable and compassionate way of treating the dead.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780292782549
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Publication date: 09/19/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Beth A. Conklin is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • About the Artist and Illustrations
  • A Note on Orthography
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Contexts
    • Chapter One: Cannibal Epistemologies
    • Chapter Two: Wari' Worlds
    • Chapter Three: Cultural Collisions
  • Part II: Motifs and Motives
    • Chapter Four: Funerals
    • Chapter Five: Explanations of Eating
  • Part III: Bodily Connections
    • Chapter Six: Social Anatomy
    • Chapter Seven: Embodied Identities
    • Chapter Eight: Burning Sorrow
  • Part IV: Eat and Be Eaten
  • Chapter Nine: Predator and Prey
  • Chapter Ten: Hunting the Ancestors
  • Chapter Eleven: Transforming Grief
  • Afterword
  • Appendix A: The Story of Mortuary Cannibalism's Origin
  • Appendix B: The Story of Hujin and Orotapan
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
  • What People are Saying About This

    Donald Pollock

    This is probably the most significant ethnography of cannibalism. Period. . . . I expect this book to become a classic, an ethnography of exceptional depth and clarity by an anthropologist whose sensitivity and insight are apparent on every page.
    Donald Pollock, Associate Professor of Anthropology, SUNY Buffalo

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    Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Yes, Consuming Grief is definitely a fine, well-researched, and written narrative involving a highly misunderstood subject. This book should be required reading for Antropology students, as well as persons interested in exploring different cultures and customs. Dr. Conklin is a true credit to her profession.