University will host a lecture on ‘white cannibals’ on ‘Indigenous People’s Day’

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Vanderbilt University will hold a lecture on “European people-eating” this Columbus Day in an effort to bring attention to the “hypocrisies that have perpetuated bodily violence against indigenous peoples.”

Anthropology department chair Beth Conklin will teach the history of “white cannibals” and “Europeans who cut up Indians’ bodies to use as medicine,” in an attempt to combat “tales of bloody native rituals” that emerged with “the invasion of the Americas.” The university will not celebrate Columbus Day this year but will recognize Oct. 14 as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” instead, Campus Reform reports.

The event description suggests that conversations about “bloody native rituals titillated public imaginations in Europe and fueled religious and legal debates over the humanity and treatment of the New World’s indigenous peoples”, and explains that the event’s focus on the “almost-forgotten tradition of European people-eating casts a provocative light on hypocrisies that have perpetuated bodily violence against indigenous peoples and violations of indigenous rights for 527 years.”

Conklin’s book, titled “Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society”, analyzes the “funerary cannibalism” practices of indigenous communities within the Amazon rainforest who “ate the roasted flesh of their dead as an expression of compassion for the deceased and for his or her close relatives.”

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