Organization: 53rd Annual Convention of the Northeast Modern Language Association
A significant body of research on literary and cultural cannibalism has shown that the notion of “cannibalism” results from a displacement of meaning that the Arawak word cariba or caniba underwent when Christopher Columbus first encountered them. According to the Arawak, they used either of these words to designate neighbors who ate the flesh of their enemies. The notion of cannibalism is still used today to designate the “man-eating savage”. Indeed, in literary studies, scholars such as Peter Hulme have shown that the notion of cannibal or cannibalism differs from the older synonym “anthropophagus” or “anthropophagy” insofar as it recalls above all “the image of a ferocious consumption of human flesh” by another human being. Resulting from the encounter between Europeans and indigenous tribes, the “cannibal” representation was at the time used to justify colonial expansion and the extermination of numerous “savage” peoples. Scholars such as Maggie Kilgour have demonstrated that the discourse on cannibalism cannot be dissociated from the colonialist and imperialist context of European expansionism.
From Montaigne and Michel Tournier to recent examples in Francophone Maghrebi and Caribbean literature, writers have revisited the usual dichotomy between the “civilized” and the “savage” by redefining it within their own contemporary context. To what extent has this prompted us to revisit epistemologies related to the notion of cannibalism that can also be applied to a contemporary globalized free market world? Are there literary and cultural representations of cannibalism that carry the potential to invert old dichotomies still at work? For example, aren’t we witnessing the “civilized” European capitalist feeding on ‘the savage’ dark skinned migrant flesh from Africa by way of exploitation? What other forms of cannibalism have been revisited and have significantly departed from old representations?
The present session is welcoming papers dealing with representations of cannibalism in Francophone literature from any interdisciplinary and theoretical perspective.