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.
AcknowledgmentsAbout the Artist and IllustrationsA Note on OrthographyIntroductionPart I: Contexts Chapter One: Cannibal EpistemologiesChapter Two: Wari' WorldsChapter Three: Cultural CollisionsPart II: Motifs and Motives Chapter Four: FuneralsChapter Five: Explanations of EatingPart III: Bodily Connections Chapter Six: Social AnatomyChapter Seven: Embodied IdentitiesChapter Eight: Burning SorrowPart IV: Eat and Be Eaten Chapter Nine: Predator and PreyChapter Ten: Hunting the AncestorsChapter Eleven: Transforming GriefAfterwordAppendix A: The Story of Mortuary Cannibalism's OriginAppendix B: The Story of Hujin and OrotapanNotesReferencesIndex
"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
Beth A. Conklin is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University.
"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