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Regimes of cannibality: a peripheral perspective on war, colonization and culture.

There are many evidences of anthropophagy in the history of mankind, from the ritual preparation and consumption of the brain mass of dead men in the Paleolithic age (2), to the recent erotic rituals of a discreet German citizen. However, the cannibalistic act in itself is considered unacceptable due to reasons that can be successively referred to the intolerable and the unthinkable in most civilizations. However, the harshest rejection seems to come from Western culture. In fact, the silence about and condemnation of the cannibalistic act sets the ego of the modern individual against the cannibalistic imprint of the irrational, where one finds the morbid failure to distinguish between anthropophagy, insensitiveness and cruelty, in short, what any missionary might regard as a basic form of demonism.

The effects of such a judgment are seen in the indifference and fear of researchers who approach this subject, sometimes with the best intentions. (3) Taking a different path, this essay argues that cannibalism is not just a verifiable social fact but may also clarify a considerable part of the dynamics of the death impulse in different social formations. But, instead of regarding the problem as a dilemma--about the differences between the logical formulation of arguments that guarantee a scientific 'foundation' for the thanatic impulse that characterizes cannibalism and the reconstruction of mythical traditions, ritual procedures and symbolic systems--I think it would be more productive to choose a strategy which runs in both directions: an ethnographic interpretation as well as a deconstruction of the limits that every age places on the topic of cannibalism, from a conceptual perspective that acts as a framework for the general dynamics of Latin American culture.

In this sense, the denial of cannibalism by Hispanic culture is part of a general project aimed at the abolition of Amerindian thought as a prior condition for the construction of a new type of individual and the implementation of new ways of individuation. The result has been an interposed identity, that is, a simulacrum of a subject that appears before the conquered man as ideal by means of the linguistic, policing, and institutional power of the conqueror.

Such a construction of the subject ends up producing a collective unconscious that, paradoxically, puts the stigma of cannibalism (4) on the initial identity of the indigenous people of America, but at the same time, refuses to recognize the trace of cannibal thought and ritual in the constitution of psychic life, as a vector that guides the destiny of the flows of desire and leaves an imprint on the processes of social inscription. (5)

In the methodic search for such a relationship between the traces and the act of cannibalism, it is interesting to consider certain research guidelines set forth by Foucault and Derrida. On the one hand, according to Foucault, it would be necessary to describe the field of enunciates on cannibalism that begins with the chroniclers of the Indies and which, along with other hypotheses and results, became an important nucleus of Americanist ethnography in the second half of the 20th century. On the other, Derrida, through his proposal for interpreting the traces, footsteps and gestures that characterize language, opens up the possibility of addressing the mythical and ritual language about cannibalism and its 'cultural metonymies', as a part of a written archive preceding the spoken word and the alphabetical practice of writing. (6) The result is a paradoxical conjunction between the archaeological method that provides certain archiving techniques and dynamics, and the deconstructive obsession with pointing at everything that proves to be unarchivable in the very emergence of the archive. (7) From this point on, I assume that these two moments can be incorporated as alternating, successive motions of an archival dynamics that records the appearance--while recreating the metonymical absence--of the cannibal act. (8)

Now, my intention is not to describe the cannibal act but to trace the features of a general typology of cannibalism in different ages since the Conquest of America. The strategy adopted for this is to replace the detailed analysis of cannibal practices with a broader conception of cannibalism which allows me to establish a sort of genealogy of colonization derived from the knowledge/power relationships which characterize the process of the domination of ancient American cultures by Western civilization. As an effect of such a replacement, the categories of annexation, incorporation and absorption, shall basically, from this point on, be considered as descriptors which define the specificity of the processes of colonization as processes of cannibalism in every historical age. The assimilation of these two processes makes it possible to speak--tentatively--about regimes of cannibalism as an epochal concept.

The concept of 'cannibalism', set forth in this way, allows for the description of the ritual experience of anthropophagy from the inside, while the cannibal impulse is revealed through the variants of that double desire of the other's desire which makes all colonizing processes possible, in the well-known forms of (i) territorial annexation, (ii) incorporation (productive, spiritual, institutional), and (iii) absorption by the world chain of capital circulation and the global mediatization system.

In my opinion, it is possible, on the bases of such a framework, to link the purely historical and ethnographic archive to the structure in which the cannibal act appears as a desiring vector of the social machine, or rather, as a determinant cultural feature in the constitution of Latin American societies.

The hypothesis is that this constitutive process has developed in three stages, which allow for the delimitation of the differences of what I shall, for now, refer to as regimes of cannibalism understood as processes of subjectivation:

(i) the first moment, of confrontation, refers to the abolition of the anthropophagic regime and the annihilation, by the Spanish state, of the indigenous war machines which implement it;

(ii) the second moment, of incorporation, shows the way in which the indigenous population subdued by the Spanish Crown is the object of a biopolicy of mimetic character, which redirects its relationship with the territory, religious world and itself, resulting in the establishment of a mestizo regime of the production of subjects;

(iii) finally, I would like to show how, once the carnal object of cannibalism has disappeared and the mimetic effect of colonization has become widespread around the world, it is then possible to talk about an iconic regime in which the processes of the subjectivation of ethnic minorities--in some cases actual peasant majorities with decision-making power--change from a paradigmatic majority/minority opposition to a definition of their future that lies halfway between the juridical multiculturalism of nations and the hegemony of an economic nature at a world level. Thus, they gain access to a kind of political recognition in exchange for their enrollment in the informatic and communicational devices. Diversity then becomes an input for the image absorption and circulation machine of the 'other' that feeds global culture.

1. The anthropophagic or ritual war regime

In ethnographic terms, anthropophagy can be defined as the ingestion of part or the whole of a body captured in a fight between communities that consider each other as historical enemies. Bearing in mind that the consumed body typically belongs to an enemy chosen because of his courage, beauty, strength and eloquence, cannibal warfare could be reduced to a Hegelian fight for recognition. But, given that usually the whole community attends the party in which the body is prepared and consumed, it is therefore necessary to acknowledge it as a collective act, involving the libidinal economy of all individuals, in which the death desire goes through the most diverse interdictions and protocols of deferment expressed by chants, verbal challenges, danced fights, festive ceremonies and rituals. During such a trance, prolonged to the point of ecstasy, murder is just a stage in the experience of the inner limit in which death finds its continuity with life through the elaboration of a single body without organs, conceived of as a ghostly double as well as a sacred instance of the social machine of desire and destiny.

The pantheism and sacrificial semiotics that underlie the whole ritual process are present both in the great pre-Columbian religions and the small jungle communities. Within such a spectrum, the experience of ancient Mexico may be considered as an archetype of imperial cannibalism, given its ceremonial, social and cosmological characteristics. (9) From an endogenous interpretation, it can be stated that in the ritual of heart sacrifice, the devouring force of the sun--to which the Aztecs offered the flower of life, the heart blood itself, in order to perpetuate its motion--plays a primary role. This devouring force of the sun acquires such an energetic and explanatory consistency that it winds up linking the mythical tales and astronomical calculations which account for the history of the Aztec universe. Thus, the ritual war aimed at capturing sacrificial victims is only a requirement for the continuity of the cosmic order, in which the State is in charge of implementing and giving collective sense to that maximum transgression which is the conscious murder of the other and the consumption of human flesh.

On another scale, and with other ritual particularities, something similar takes place among the Pijaos of the Nueva Granada, the Tupinamba of the northeastern region of Brazil, the Kuna of Panama, the Shuar of the Peruvian Viceroyalty, or the Yanomami, lost in the jungles that nowadays mark the border between Venezuela and Brazil. (10) Ritual thus turns itself into an intensity vector that runs along the body, the socius and the territory, while acting as a semiotic and vital axis for all kinds of inorganic, imperceptible assemblages, that is to say, everything that is experienced with the death impulse can be individually, socially and molecularly experienced as a body with no organs, or better yet, as a sacred instance of the organism, the socius and nature.

Focusing on the genealogy of ritual practice in the mythical tradition of Mother Earth that characterizes Amerindian communities brings out a primary narcissism, prior to any sort of identification with the other, which refers to a uterine, pre-natal medium where nothing is lacking, and may initially be designated as khora (Plato), chaosmos (Guattari) or the foundation of the primal forces. When it enters into the mythical discourse, such an instance is referred to as Earth, Primal Uterus or Primal Mother, but also, as the great devouring Mother of all that is rotten, cadaverous, sinful, and diseased. Even more, Mother Earth is a pre-subjective instance which can work as an a priori of Amerindian thought. It is there where every process of individuation finds its chaotic germ. It is there where impulses are fed, not in an inner libido characteristic of the self as a prefiguration of the persona. Not because of the precariousness of the processes of individuation, but just the opposite. In fact, whether in the paganism of Aztec thought or the animism of jungle communities, it is possible to recognize a radically anthropic episteme, which grants all beings--animals, humans, spirits--an awareness in the sense of a point of view on others. On the basis of such a multiplicity of forms of reflexive awareness, there arises an understandable need to replace the paradigm of animism which characterizes the 'primitive' with a discriminated perspectivism that relocates the notions of ego or spirit as positions of the subject. (11)

Within this logic, and despite the populational scale and the power devices which comprise every social machine, cannibalism can be interpreted as a continuous metonymic remission of predatory processes that intersect each other, as complex points of view among men, sacred forces, souls and animals. Here, all things, names and feelings acquire a symbolic shape before entering the ritual circuit, as surpluses which can be immolated in the ceremonial trance that links the warrior's destiny to the community's desire. This cosmic, ecological and conceptual complexity may be interpreted as the festive consummation of surpluses implied by the sacrificial consumption of the victim in a continuous task of nomination and renomination of the socius and nature; or better yet, the formation of a knowledge that differentiates the various kinds of "existence," in order to learn about the modes and potens of multiplication of all live beings in that cannibalizing dynamics which enables them to understand the jungle--in a strictly ethnological sense: the world--as a great predatory process where men, plants, sacred forces and animals share in its corporeal and energetic transformation.

When seen this way, cannibalism is not only an anthropophagic curiosity but a form of the ritualization of war which gives meaning to the social grouping as an integral part of natural and cosmic life, considered as an interrelated and complex whole. Thus, it is not strange that, from the beginning of the Conquest, anthropophagy was persecuted and punished with the death penalty in all of the Americas for theological reasons--not just moral, economic, or military ones. (12) Let us analyze the procedure from a micro perspective, taking as an example the case of the Tupinamba, of the northeast region of Brazil. As in other jungle communities, the war machine of the Tupi tends to absorb all the desiring flows of society, and revenge operates as a vector that channels every moment of the ritual cycle towards the realization of the death impulse. On this path, the collective enunciates of a festive character are expressed in agonistic rituals as well as death ceremonies and the anthropophagical consumption of the prisoner. Considering the way in which the prisoner is integrated into the community--sometimes even for years before the sacrificial death takes place--it may be stated that the point of subjectivation that structures the relationship between the Tupinamba and their neighbors is the desire to appropriate the other's desire, and particularly, the violent and passionate absorption of that which distinguishes him as a warrior and which shows the singularity of his destiny.

There is such a degree of codification in the cannibal act that the absence of limits becomes inconceivable. This probably explains why there are no wars of extermination nor forms of institutional subjection which legitimize ritual warfare. According to Baudrillard, despite the unchecked violence, "there always persists a hesitation that affirms a recognition among equals." Although the rule that organizes the fury "is intangible," in the long run it prevents a pitiless destruction of the forces of the adversary aimed at imposing a given domination on him or expropriating his goods and/or territories. In that sense, cannibalism may only be considered as an inhuman passion "from a modern perspective that justifies a warfare based on purely economic and political reasons." (13)

With the arrival of the Jesuits and the Portuguese colonizers, a radical alteration of the political and social equilibrium that propitiated ritual war is produced. The ancient desire of incorporation of the other's destiny thus becomes an invaluable source of slaves for trading. It is on this basis that the rigorous dispositions of the administration aimed at banning ceremonial death and cannibalism are established, which contrasts with the subterranean license given to the hunting of prisoners and war itself. According to governor Duarte Da Costa, enemies were to be killed "on the battlefield" and, once captured, they should not be killed and eaten, but enslaved and sold. (14) The indigenous people considered that it was not dignified for true warriors to free captives for economic reasons, in exchange for a ransom. Thus, when it was partially taken over by the colonial administration, the war machine had to change its mechanisms. Under such conditions, for the Tupinamba the initiation of the slave trade did not only imply their incorporation into the Portuguese domain but it also forced them to carry out their final revenge, which meant abandoning alliance relationships with their potential enemies. It implied, in short, the dissolution of the spiritual and warrior networks that had been established since remote times.

It is therefore possible to identify two ways of waging war, two main types of societies that implement it and two specific ways of subjectivation: (i) those which involve individuals in the cannibal act as a war ritual under strict cosmic and spiritual principles, and (ii) the ones which link subjects to the Spanish Empire in America, insofar as it was a political and religious entity, as an effect of war. The result of the war of conquest which, in a strict sense, lasted until the end of the 18th century, was the abolishment of the ritual war or its relocation to the administrative exterior of the Empires. The task for the Americanists would involve researching into the circumstances which provoke the confrontation, superposition and mutual appropriation of the objectives and procedures of the cannibal warrior ritual, along

2. The mimetic or incorporation (15) regime

The practice of imitating the other throughout these five centuries of colonization has made us, the colonized people, quite skilful at the exercise of becoming others through the incorporation of the forms of subjectivation, modes of production and desiring archetypes of the colonizer. However, when we look into ourselves, we discover that identity is not limited to pure reflection, and that this imposture of reflection is already an effect of cultural cannibalism, which, since it is comfortable to do so, we continue to call mestizaje (racial mixture). When the notion of racial mixture is traced back to the point of view of the cannibal impulse--instead of being assumed as a finished, idealized mixture-, it then becomes possible to pause at each of the stages, scenarios, poles of attraction, modes and degrees of incorporation and vectors of force that provoke such an asymmetrical assimilation among diverse cultures.

In this sense, the abolition of the anthropophagic regime has several effects. In the first place, with regard to the flows established by ritual war, the war of conquest condemns the consumption of human flesh, but, in exchange, establishes and legitimizes the appropriation of territory, natural resources and manpower. As for the rest, the main figure of the warrior as an archetype for the form of government as well as a dynamizing axis of exchange relationships tends to disappear, except in jungle communities with scarce economic resources.

In the second place, through the acceptance of their defeat, pre-Colombian societies accept the seizure of their labor and religion as well. On this point, Bartolovitch, following Marx, has defined the difference between carnal cannibalism and cannibalism as work force incorporation, as follows: "the European protoproletariat and cannibals in the New World are brought into relation by the mediation of the 'voracious appetites' of the proto-capitalists. This appetite, along with the relations and means of capitalist production, needed to be accumulated." (16) In the third place, to achieve the appropriation of the work force, the population begins to be produced and enrolled in a new family device which structures matrimonial exchanges: from there on, the white man will have the privilege of procreating with several indigenous women, whereas the indigenous and black man will not have access to white women, with a few exceptions based on their social or economic status. That is the filium from which derives the detailed racial hierarchy which is imposed on all social orders well into the 20th century and whose discriminatory effects still persist in our societies.

Finally, on a spiritual level, individuals remain linked to the new god by virtue of their belonging to the Crown, but also through the creation--more or less gradual and successful--of a new soul produced by the persistent rhythm of morning prayers, liturgy, periodical confessions, and physical and moral coercion. Thanks to the broad economic, disciplinary and evangelization processes implemented since the 16th century in the ancient empires and caciquisms of the New Kingdom, a new process of collective subjectivation is established and the secondary narcissism acquires a phylogenetic strength through the processes of identification of the indigenous and mestizo population. Let me explain myself. Instead of the problem of the world, of the universe, origin and sacred calendar--the subjects which nourish the pre-Colombian mythical mentality--a personal universe begins to impose itself, distant from the observation of nature, centered in one's own identity, distressed by the correspondence between one's image and the image of the other. Instead of the multiplicity of forces--which translates into a multiplicity of gods and beliefs--what is imposed through monotheism, monolinguism and monogamy is a binary logic of exclusion: I am an Indian / I am not an Indian; I am white/I am not white, on the basis of which the mestizo vector of mimetism becomes majoritarian in all aspects of intimate and collective life: I am like the other/I am not like the other. (17)

The matter, however, is more complex than that. If Gruzinski's conclusions about idolatries in the 17th century Mexico were provisionally extended to all Spanish colonies in America, it could be stated that the process of evangelization is neither irreversible nor definitive, especially in communities isolated from urban centers. (18) On the surface of Christianization, a distinction between the degrees of evangelization and the degrees of survival of ancient beliefs and practices should be made. In fact, an ambiguity persists where doctrinal-type moral judgments blend, in no apparent contradiction, with the affirmation of indigenous ritual, divinatory and healing practices. Thus, if triumphant Catholicism seems to have dislodged ancient gods from the indigenous soul in order to construct a new spiritual interiority, in actual fact, many of them would survive among the mestizo and aboriginal communities, in the guise of the saints of the Christian calendar. Even to this day these communities do not quite accept the personalized conception of the sacred and are reluctant to interiorize the modern notion of the individual in the construction of collective bonds and relations.

Now, it is undeniable that the enslavement, for almost three-hundred years, of settlements with large populations subjected to certain disciplines--of a working, religious or sexual nature--winds up establishing the 'law' of massive mimetism. Hence, the tendency towards mania, caricature, the picaresque and the masquerades developed by the indigenous and mestizo populations in order to incorporate themselves as subjects into the new social machine. In this sense, it could be stated that Latin American culture is typically formed by its mimetic character. For Lezama, what is American would have an incorporative pathos which allows it to enrich the European, African and Eastern traditions; and entails inverting the desiring vector of colonization, thus showing the unifying power of such an incorporation through the path of desire and image, masterfully expressed in Hispano American baroque. (19)

Oswald de Andrade was the first to make an explicit statement about cannibal desire as an incorporation of the cultural other. Playing on the ambiguity of the term anthropophagy, which at times entails the power of subjectivation of the anthropophagic being and at times denounces the omnivorous character of the capital machine, Andrade ironically refers to "the base anthropophagy crowded into the sins of catechism"--envy, usury, calumny, murder-tied to "the modus vivendi of capitalism", and he exalts the "pure elites" of indigenous origin which practice cannibalism as a sophisticated religious form in which they are able to absorb the "sacred enemy" and turn him into a totem. (20) In line with the avant-garde movement of the time, the Manifiesto Antropofago, written and published in Sao Paulo in 1928, turns into a cannibal statement about racial mixture and the variations that Western culture went through as a result of its contact with black and native indigenous people. (21) Recently, Suely Rolnik has revived Andrade's gesture as an ethical and philosophical source which can renew cultural studies, in line with the conviction that "the anthropo consumed and transmuted by such an operation does not correspond to the concrete man, but strictly speaking, to the human, that is to say, the figures in the flow of subjectivity, with their shapes, structures and particular psychology." (22) In pragmatic terms, there would be an attempt to oppose an "anthropophagic mode of subjectivation," ruled by the law that is immanent in it, to the modes of subjectivation of an "identity, figurative type," ruled by the law of transcendence--whether Catholic and/or modernizing. Given that it lacks a content of specific identity, this mode of subjectivation is conceived of as multiplicity, and its referent would be the "sort of mutant subjectivity-production cyclotron" that Guattari detected on his journey through Brazil. (23)

The proposal suggested by Guattari's constructivist diagnosis is to differentiate the mimetic exercise as a simple identity with Indian or Western, from thought about the becoming--other. The anthropophagic mode of subjectivation entails, in its singularity, a processuality--of the desiring flows, modes of production, configuration of the collective imaginarium, artistic creation or the formations of knowledge--which would not have a civilizing prototype as a teleological horizon, but a constant transgression of the limits established by inherited identities. In the hinge between the possible worlds created by this anthropophagic perspective of racial mixture, there is the vertiginous sensation that in such a position a mimetic spectrum opens up, from the level of senses to the most complex elaborations of thought, from one side or the other, as if it were possible to grasp it all, copy it all, recreate it all, transform it all, in the delirium of a continuous mutation which compromises republican and/or imperial ideas of the national and sets forth a citizenship open to the heterogeneity of social-cultural dynamics.

Despite social scientists' reserves about the anthropophagic 'metaphor', such an approach has wound up questioning the legitimacy of the notion of racial mixture as a transcendent representation of 'the national' and as a final explanatory instance of cognitive, political and cultural processes which arise under the civilizing shelter of the new republics. In line with the utopian disquisitions of the Mexican Jose Vasconcelos, racial mixture was held to be an affirmative and experimental power of the telos of humankind and was established as a dominant archetype of national identity in Latin America. (24) However, aside from the massive impetus of mestizo culture, during the 20th century the indigenous and black minorities consolidated themselves on the whole continent. In this intersection of processes and theories, the doubt is whether the anthropophagic perspective can be considered as an alternative to the hegemony of national identities, which in the end continues to be confirmed on a daily basis by inequality, disregard, and exclusion.

More than a theory, racial mixture actually functions as a layer of articulation of the desires and expectations of ascent which the new Latin-American democracies grant to individuals. Therefore, it does not seem appropriate to replace the formation of mestizo knowledge with a theoretical argument about anthropophagical (post)modernism. From an archaeological perspective of knowledge, each expresses different instants in the comprehension and/or formation of colonial and post-colonial reality. Furthermore, looking back at the main lines of the state-of-the-art theories about Latin American culture, racial mixture and anthropophagy, with all their metaphorical and metonymical variants, they may be considered as the recurring theoretical paradigms of the discourse on identity.

Multiculturalism might be inscribed, in the former, as the updated version of the mestizo ideal of nation. In other words, the certainty that, on the margin of the massive impulse towards mestizo culture, the indigenous and black minorities consolidated themselves on the whole continent during the 20th century made it necessary to have a legal and formal criterion which would establish an abstract principle for the production of subjects, of any origin or race, as citizens of the nation. The problem is no longer racial mixture as the mixture of bloods and imaginaries, but the incorporation of all individuals under a principle of equality before the law and the constitution. Although it is true that such a formal principle may continue to function as an alibi for daily and substantive forms of racism and exclusion, it is also true that with the juridical discourse as a political tool, differentiated ethnic minorities have managed to commit Latin American States to multicultural and/or plurinational projects. As for the rest and depending on the contexts, multiculturalism may turn itself into a powerful juridical-political tool that enables communities and civil society to fight against inequality, indifference and exclusion.

Furthermore, the variants that range from hybridism and syncretism to interculturality and the epistemic decoloniality of discourse fit within the paradigm of anthropophagic subjectivity. Reduction is possible because, in the last resort, all these options arise from the anthropophagical principle which (i) acknowledges the different postures of the subject, (ii) assesses the social, economic, and cultural forces that the incorporation of the other sets into play, and (iii) deals with the description of the new forms of subjectivation that emerge from these processes. The result is a spectrum of new identities which affirms the singularity of the processes of subjectivation, relativizing the assumption that peripheral subjects are passive, while white men are active. (25) Presumably, the most interesting processes of such an inversion take place on the plane of artistic and literary creation, ecology and popular culture, in the same way that the impact of multiculturalism occurs on the more visible plane of the law, economics, and macropolitics.

3. The iconic or mediatic absorption regime

After considering cannibalism, first within the framework of ritual war and later as a mode of subjectivation which accompanies mestizo societies in the process of construction of the nation-states, it may be difficult to avoid portraying contemporary cannibalism as a form of generalized consumerism no longer associated with the ritual community nor linked to the subjects who provide the labor force, but directly to the ever faster circulation of objects, capitals and services. The sequence has been set forth by Bartolovitch in the following way:
   In the early modern period, the contradiction in capitalist-to-be
   appetite figured in the cannibal/capital binary is the simultaneous
   drive to endless consumption of labor power by the capitalist, and
   the necessity of observing limits to preserve production (that is,
   fuel reproduction). Contemporary capital figures different problems
   in the cannibal, placing an emphasis on mass commodity consumption.
   In each of these moments, however, a crisis in appetite conjures up
   cannibals. (26)

To verify such an analysis in the context of Latin American societies, it would be necessary to carry out a diagnosis of peripheral capitalism in the so-called democracies in transition. But instead of undertaking research of such dimensions, which is impossible to summarize in this essay, I prefer to specify the scope of the analogy between cannibalism and capitalism, which would seem obvious due to the simple consonance of or preconceptions about the 'evil' that precedes them in the collective imaginarium. In any case, there are three phenomena in this panorama that seem to be clearly linked to the cannibal impulse: the most obvious one is the fusion of big companies and financial corporations; another, more abstract, has to do with the manner in which production is maximized, in post-Fordist times, production is maximized by the linguistic and mental efficiency of workers, through the maximum exploitation of their intellectual skills; (27) finally, there is a phenomenon that illuminates the problem under consideration, and is evident in the proliferation of technological media which allow for real-time broadcasting of images of world events and those of the known perceptible universe. (28)

Because of such a capacity for presentification, the images broadcast by the communication media acquire the presence of the real, normally granted to the icon, that is to say, images may no longer be representations but quasi-substantial presentations of reality. In such an ambit, it may be said that the iconic regime acts as a mode of subjectivation of the capital machine in post-industrial times. The hypothesis is that such a communicational feature is precisely what 'feeds' the cannibal impulse in contemporary societies.

In looking for the genealogy of that impulse in Western culture, I would like to revive the mythical archetypes which expose two variables intrinsic to the mode of capital production: time and alterity production. In fact, when characterizing the iconic regime in terms of the relationship between these two variables and the cannibal impulse, it is plausible to recur to two founding myths of the Greco-Christian culture, which seem to rule as dominant figures in the desiring machines of current capitalism: the myth of Cronos the devourer, and the myth of Satan, seen by Dante as the great Cannibal through whose belly all unredeemed sinners are to pass, those who today may be described as the excluded, the radically others, the inhabitants of the hell produced by the everyday life ruled by capital.

Cronos is the founder of time, the irreversible linearity which absorbs all times in the solicitous present, turning the past into the present that has already been, and the future into the present that is yet to be, indefinitely so in such a presentification. This anxiety, embedded in the social machine, turns time into a perennial idola of capitalism. In the face of it, the mythical memory or historical tradition, and what each of these instances promises about the future, are absorbed by the incessant motility of the hyperbolic present which only aims at increasing its own velocity, taking the production / circulation / consumption chain to the limit of what is possible.

In a hidden and secret manner, and though it is imbued by the continuous trance of specular seduction and its spectacular appearance, the idola of Satanism is the foundation of the eschatologies of anality, luxury and waste. It is as though the puritanical, obsessive and ascetic soberness of the former, the systole, had a mundane expansion in the latter, the diastole.

The immediate effect of such an omnipresence of Cronos the devourer, understood as a mode of subjectivation, is that all ethnic or cultural alterity becomes part of a stock that blocks its differential energy, in order to be part of a single digestive process where difference is no longer pertinent but instead, the constant tendency to presentificate all facts in that neutral floodplain of the invisible, ruled by the real/virtual binarity. All cultures pass today through such an image-devourer duct that is the screen, where they find recognition, for a moment, before disappearing into the information cluster that constantly feeds the system.

From a paroxyst vision (29) it might be said that today the proliferating mediatic flows of information exchange have certainly acquired such a speed that the particular names and tales of communities may nowadays be reduced to time-images, transferable to the various languages of the screen as denaturalized symbolic value units, and naturalized again in the second nature of the means of communication, which turns into an end in itself, just as circulation is with respect to the economic production linked to capital. In the unlimited performance of such a mediatic democracy, capital may maintain the privileges of a majority culture, while offering ever more sophisticated and irresistible means to put that techno-virtual crucible of de-realized utopia into action, where all others become a part of the same integrating process. Image as a symbol of the difference feeds a fundamental undifferentiation, attends this globalization party as a captive public of the "parody of its totality," of a continuous realization that is only possible, according to Baudrillard, as a viral effect of that mediatic secretion where all images and all messages are nothing but "an excrescence of the banal." (30) Put into context, if image is the key currency for entering into this circuit of symbolic goods, Latin American culture, given its mestizo capital and its mimetic fluidity, seemed predisposed to the processes of globalization. Thus, among us, the topics of the post-modern are an excuse to update the whole stock of pre-modernity which seemed ignored and forgotten.

Now, although when reducing culture to symbolic production and symbol to image one enters into circulation, that entry involves the libidinal economy of communities in a cannibal vector of world order, where the symbolic surpluses of "backward" cultures, what is boasted of as their true wealth, may be immolated as the damned part of an irreversible expenditure of all kinds of images, signs and differences, which can no longer resist the curse of circulation and become part of the world's automatic writing. (31)

When looking at the whole operation, the cannibal impulse, integrated into the operational complex of the system and tending to be elevated to its highest degree of actualization, is removed from the affective and collective power of the cannibal event in its ritual realization. In fact, the operational complex is set up as a sort of impulse extractor, in such a way that the world produced under these conditions may be expurgated of the death, evil, negativity, of the other.

Parallel to that massive cleansing of the planes of content through the mediatic unifier on the formal plane, which today includes all kinds of supports, the system generates a sort of total reversion of things, a fatality which is born from the fact that all excess--of velocity, operations, circulation--seems to have a purely phatic purpose, a need for constant communication with oneself in order to report "the fact that the system devours itself." (32) In other words, the radical abolition of memory may still be reinvested in a different logic, with the inexhaustible resource of an archive that capitalizes it all, "even what radically destroys or challenges its power." (33)


To finish, I would like to show how, while there are historical conditions which determine the historical validity of every regime, in the context of Latin American societies, semiotic, passional, and systemic features flourish, which coimply each other--with the other two--in a sort of indiscernible heterogeneous composition. As a conclusion, I would like to show certain nodes of that imbrication between the ritual, mimetic and iconic, bearing in mind the processes of global integration:

(i) That which takes place "between" the different regimes of cannibalism is the experience of death and, in a strict sense, the death impulse made evident in different types of wars, whether they be ritual wars, wars of conquest and colonization, civil wars, internal conflicts, or the war against terrorism.

When showing the duplicity of ritual cannibal war and the wars of conquest as the condition of existence of colonial societies in a good part of the American continent, my intention was to point to the double self-referentiality characteristic of the mestizo being, that is to say, an ambiguous mode of subjectivation which defines the unsayable being from the colonized/colonizer--or rather, the cannibalized/cannibalizer--which characterizes Latin American culture.

(ii) Even though anthropophagy only persists in fragmentary or symbolic forms in certain Amerindian communities, cannibal knowledge has been incorporated into the 'scientific' explanation of jungle ecosystems. Whether it be in the form of gods or natural forces, the Amerindian ecosophy is linked to a body of categories universal enough to explain the circulation of the different beings through the different levels that comprise the world, as well as in guidelines to social reproduction and the laws that rule alliance relationships between communities, and between these and the greater society. In this sense, it is ever more evident that the series of animals, men, minerals and plants of scientists, on the one hand, just like the "owners of animals," "forces," "allies" of Amerindian thought, on the other, intersect each other as well the series of the "other," each in its own way. On the basis of such a relationship, a white man's anthropology has emerged, in which ethnically-differentiated communities understand the other from their own perspective, incorporating certain beliefs, images, techniques and forms of production and consumption into their own dynamics as they follow the lead of what Viveiros de Castro called the opposition between multinaturalism and multiculturalism. (34)

(iii) Multiculturalism and anthropophagy, with all their variants, they may be considered as complementary. It is true that the multiplicity in becoming which derives from the anthropophagic point of view contrasts with the teleological and normative universality of the ought-to-be of multiculturalism, but the aim is to make the micro approach which sees power, relationships of force and the desiring autonomy of the subjects outside the State compatible with the macro approach which only considers effective the analysis that has a direct impact on public policies and the attainment of rights by the communities and the individuals with regard to private interests and/or the State. On an academic level, it might be said that cultural studies, which are closer to the anthropophagical point of view, have had to give up the sometimes untranslatable singularity of their approach and non-statal dogmatism, while multiculturalists begin to accept that the object of their demands is not citizenship per se, but the diversity of cultures and modes of subjectivation that their intervention shall make possible in the future.

(iv) When analyzing the relationships between cannibal knowledge, the processes of colonialization and the post-colonial condition, the aim has been to show, although in a partial way, the continuities and ruptures between that first trace of anthropophagic memory linked to Mother Earth, the identity memory of the national linked to racial mixture, and the omnivorous, machine-like, omnipresent memory which is rightfully said to be the purpose of history, understood as projection, horizon, and collective fatum. The world economy and the modes of subjectivation which make capitalism possible have never been as closely linked to consumption as they now are. In that sense, the ritual consumption of the surpluses of jungle communities--whose highest expression is the sacrificed and consumed body--serves as a metaphor for that uninterrupted potlatch which post-industrial society tends to become for the integrated members.

However, aside from the metaphor, the differend is radical. In an attempt to give an account of such a dispute, I have recurred to the ethnography of cannibalism as a way to perceive the multiplicity of modes of life which are not designed beforehand as the possibilities of such a machine-like / informatic / consensual complex. For this very reason, despite the attempts at integration and/or recognition, the richness of cannibal knowledge turns out to be irreducible to the ways of making war, producing subjects or consuming images which characterize Western societies.

It is foreseeable that in most of the communities where cannibalism is the axis of their mode of life, it is about to disappear. But its symbolic power continues to be present in multiple ways. The Yanomami, for instance, offer an interpretation of their present history in which the white man is conceived of as the major "Cannibal" "jungle eater." Through this image, the Yanomami do not only echo our apocalyptic fears about the 'real' destruction of their natural environment, but also try to conjure the threat of their own disappearance, casting into an abyss the epistemic and economic order that the West insists on opposing to a biotic, ethnic and cultural diversity. (35)

If we turn from the sight of that fatidic future, it is possible to describe other processes of the mimetic or creative appropriation of the other, or even project the mode of anthropophagic subjectivation onto the economic and political plane which has been defining Latin American countries.

More than aiming at a telos or a proper description of history, my intention was to show how the dynamics of societies follow lines of continuous variation which, although finite in their components and forms of historical realization, may be infinite in their projection on the plane of the composibility of thought as well as on the plane of subjetivation of modes of existence.

(Translated by Consuelo Calle and Jimmy Weiskopf from Spanish)

Adolfo C. Amaya, University of the Rosary in Bogota, Colombia

(1) The present article is the conclusion of a book under preparation. For this reason, many of the ethnographic descriptions and 'evidences' of cannibalism are assumed, synthesized or fragmentarily quoted.

(2) For a further discussion of ritual anthropophagy in the middle Paleolithic age, see: Tim White and Nicholas Toth. "The Question of Ritual Cannibalism at Grotta Guattari" (en: Current Anthropology, Vol. 32, Issue 2 (University Chicago Press, 1991),

(3) Up to now, the debate between the followers of a materialistic explanation and those who consider cannibalism as a strategy of stigmatization of the conquered people may be summarized in ethnological terms. Among the former, Harris is the most lucid exponent of such an 'open' determinism; he aims at reconstructing the most diverse causal links in order to explain cannibalism. Marvin Harris, Canibales y reyes. Los origenes de las culturas (Madrid: Alianza, 1987). (Harris, 1987). Among the latter, the work of William Arens proves to be paradigmatic when it comes to dismounting underlying prejudices in the literature about American cannibalism: "I have (says) doubts about the effective existence of such an act (cannibalism) as an accepted practice in any time or place whatsoever." William Arens, El Mito del Canibalismo (Mexico: Siglo XXI, 1981), p. 21.

(4) On the bases of such a stigma, characteristic of the theological and humanistic discourse, the <cannibal> enunciate gains a new dimension by placing this first exclusion in the 'Europeans/cannibals, Christians / idolaters, rational / irrational beings' sequence. In passing, I note that Todorov has established a whole binary semiotics which covers the whole set of colonizing texts and practices, and aims at infantilizing and animalizing the set of predicates that are granted to this new subject/object that the subjects of Hispanic enunciation are about to invent. Tzvetan Todorov, La conquista de America. La cuestion del otro (Mexico: Siglo XXI, 1987), p. 164.

(5) Deleuze and Guattari, 1985, p. 210.

(6) Jacques Derrida, de lagramatologia (Mexico: Siglo XXI, 1978), p. 97.

(7) Jacques Derrida, Mal de archivo Una impresion freudiana (Madrid: Trotta, 1997), p. 18 and 98.

(8) For a detailed explanation of this methodological approach, see the introduction to: Adolfo Chaparro, Archeologie du savoir cannibale. Les Archives de l'Ambiguite. Tomo II (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2000).

(9) From the ample bibliography available on the subject, I especially refer to: Christian Duverger. La flor letal: Economia del sacrificio azteca (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Economica FCE, 1983); George Bataille. La part maudite (Paris: Minuit, 1967); Fray Bernardino de Sahagun. Historia General de Las Cosas de la Nueva Espana (Madrid: Alianza, 1988); Laurette Sejourne. El Pensamiento nahuatl cifrado por los calendarios (Mexico: Siglo XXI, 1981).

(10) Although it is not the object of the present essay, a sufficient number of studies on cannibalism in the above-mentioned communities have been done. Briefly, for the Tupinamba, I refer to: Hans Staden. Duas Viagens ao Brasil. Arrojadas aventuras no seculo XVI entre os antropofagos do novo mundo (Translated into modern German by Carlos Fouquet, and into Portugues by Guiomar de Carvalho Franco. Sao Paulo. Staden, 1942); Florestan Fernandes. A funcao social da Guerra na sociedade Tupinamba. 2a Edicion. Revista de Museo Paulista. Vol. VI. (Sao Paulo: Libreria Pioneira, 1970); Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. Arawete: os deuses canibais (Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar/Anpocs, 1986); Carlos Fausto. "Banquete de gente: comensalidade e canibalismo na amazonia", (in: Revista Mana, Estudos de Antropologia social, 8/2, Rio de Janeiro, 2002). For the case of the Shuar (Jivaros), the following works are outstanding: Rafael Karsten. La vida y la cultura de los Shuar. Cazadores de cabezas del Amazonas occidental. (Quito: Abya Yala, 2000) and Philippe Descola. "Les affinites selectives. Alliance, guerre et predation dans l'emsemble jivaro," Revista LHomme, Vol. 126-128, 1993). On the Yanomami, the classic study by Jacques Lizot. Le cercle des feux. Faits et dits des Indiens Yanomami (Paris: Seuil, 1976), stands out. In the case of the Kunas, the compilation of chants by Mac Chapin. Pab Igala. Historias de la Tradicion Kuna. (Quito: Ediciones Abya-Yala, 1989).

(11) At bottom, it has to do with a view of nature as a whole in motion, in which man tends to an animal--becoming, while animals serve as an archetype for men, even spirits, and these interfere in the force field of the other two. Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. "Perspectivismo y multinaturalismo en la America indigena", (in: Adolfo Chaparro, y Christian Schumacher (ed.) Racionalidad y discurso mitico. Bogota: Universidad del Rosario, 2003).

(12) In Mexico, with the famous destruction of the altars of the Tenochtitlan temple in 1519, the banning of the heart sacrifice in the whole empire was enforced. In 1556, the banning of cannibalism was imposed on the indigenous people of Bahia, Brazil, by governor Mo de Sa, who reserved to himself the power of authorizing wars among indigenous tribes. In the New Granada, the war against the Pijaos, accused of cannibalism, would wind up in their annihilation in 1607, after a war that lasted over 50 years. With regard to the Pijaos, see: Adolfo Chaparro. "Cannibalism and State Formation in the Nueva Granada", (in: International Studies in Philosophy, XXXVIII/4. Universidad de Binghamton, USA, 2006).

(13) Jean Baudrillard. El Intercambio Simbolico y la Muerte. (Caracas: Monte Avila, 1992), pp. 159.

(14) Thus, "if cannibalism was abandoned with relative easiness", ceremonial death in the terreiro continues to be the ineludible way to carry out revenge. Carneiro, Da Cunha, Manuela y Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo. "Venganza y Temporalidad, los Tupinamba" (in: Roberto Pineda Camacho, y Beatriz Alzate Angel (comp.) Los Meandros de la Historia en Amazonia. Cayambe, Ecuador: Abya-Yala, 1990), p. 180. with the military strategies that preceded the political configuration and social design of the Spanish colonies in America.

(15) In the language of psycho-analysis, the incorporation is the "processus par lequel le sujet, sur un mode plus o moins fantasmatique, fait penetrer et garde un objet a l'interieur de son corps [...] Elle constitue le prototype corporel de l'introjection et de l'identification," Jean Laplanche and J.-B Pontalis. Vocabulaire de la psychanalyse (Paris: Quadrigue-PUF, 1967).

(16) Crystal Bartolovitch, "Consumerism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Cannibalism," (in: Barker, Francis; Hulme, Peter; Iversen, Margaret (editores), Cannibalism and the Colonial World (Cambridge: University Press, 1998), p. 227.

(17) This is where myth, fact and historical metaphor coincide: the indigenous people were seduced with mirrors. From then on, the narcissist logic is resolved in the image of the other, in respect of which the reflected image shows more of what I am not, or not yet am, than what I am.

(18) Serge Gruzinski, La colonizacion de lo imaginario. Sociedades Indigenas y Occidentalizacion en el Mexico espanol. Siglos XVI-XVII (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1991).

(19) Although the idea of an incorporative pathos is found throughout the work of Jose Lezama Lima, the main argument is most clearly set forth in "La expresion americana", Obras completas II. (Mexico: Aguilar, 1977), pp. 277-390.

(20) Oswald de Andrade, Obra Escogida (Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1981), p. 72.

(21) According to him, such variations would follow a certain hidden law of the gift: "I am only interested in what is not mine. Law of man, Law of anthropophagy. [...] Only anthropophagy links us. Socially. Economically, Philosophically. The sole law in the world. Masked expression of all individualisms, of all collectivisms. Of all religions. Of all peace treaties. Tupi or not tupi, that is the question." Andrade, p. 67.

(22) Suely Rolnik, "Schizoanalyse et antropophagie," Gilles Deleuze. Une vie philosophique, dir. Eric Alliez (Paris: Institut Synthelabo, 1998), p. 467.

(23) Rolnik quotes a debate held in 1982 and published in Felix Guattari and Suely Rolnik, Micropolitica. Cartografias do desejo. (Petropolis: Vozes, 4a Edicion, 1986), pp. 310-311.

(24) Jose Vasconcelos, La raza cosmica (Madrid: Austral, 1952).

(25) Anthropology of the white man has arisen from such a relationship, by which ethnically differentiated communities understand each other from their own perspective, reversing academic practice to follow their own formations of knowledge.

(26) Bartolovitch, p. 211.

(27) For Virno, "when 'subjective' cooperation turns into the main productive force, working activity shows a notable linguistic-communicational nature [...] a substantial part of individual work consists of developing, calibrating and intensifying cooperation itself," Paolo Virno, Gramatica de la multitud. Para un analisis de las formas de vida contemporaneas (Buenos Aires: Colihue, 2003), pp. 60-61.

(28) Paul Virilio, La velocidad de liberacion (Buenos Aires: Manantial, 1997).

(29) Jean Baudrillard, Le paroxyste indifferent. Entrevista con Philip Petit (Paris: Grasset, 1997), p. 120.

(30) Ibid., p. 120.

(31) Ibid., p. 52.

(32) Ibid., p. 74. Every given system tends to circumscribe itself, excluding alterity. This applies both to organisms and institutions, both to the mass and the "logo-mass", that is to say, to language.

(33) Derrida, 1997, p. 21.

(34) Perspectivism, according to Viveiros de Castro, "is not relativism but multinaturalism." Cultural relativism, a multiculturalism, entails a diversity of subjective and partial representations, which influence a single and total external nature, indifferent to representation; Amerindians propose the opposite: a purely pronominal representative or phenomenological unit, indifferently applied to a real diversity. One single 'culture', multiple 'natures'; constant epistemology, variable ontology-perspectivism is a multinaturalism, given that a perspective is not a representation." Viveiros de Castro, 2003, p. 218.

(35) The invasion of companies that exploit natural resources in their territory is seen in the Yanomami myths as "the aspect of an eschatological inversion in which genesis is reproduced as an Apocalyptic threat," Bruce Albert. "L'or cannibal et la chute du ciel. Une critique de l'economie politique de la natura (Yanomami-Bresil)," Revue L'HOMME, Nos. 126-128, Paris: EHESS, 1993), p. 363, pp. 349-378.
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Author:Amaya, Adolfo C.
Publication:Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Mar 22, 2011
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