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Resurrecting Cannibals
preview of book Resurrecting Cannibals
text of book Resurrecting Cannibals

Resurrecting Cannibals

Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Publication Date: 2011
Category: General
Grades: Optional
Number of Pages: 226
Appropriate for: Specialists
Choice rating: 
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About this title

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This book explores cannibalism, food, eating and being eaten in its many variations. It deals with people who feel threatened by cannibals, churches who combat cannibals and anthropologists who find themselves suspected of being cannibals. It describes how different African and European images of the cannibal intersected and influenced each other in Tooro, Western Uganda, where the figure of the resurrecting cannibal draws on both pre-Christian ideas and church dogma of the bodily resurrection and the ritual of Holy Communion. In Tooro cannibals are witches: they bewitch people so that they die only to be resurrected and eaten. This is how they were perceived in the 1990s when a lay movement of the Catholic Church, the Uganda Martyrs Guild [UMG] organized witch-hunts to cleanse the country. The UMG was responding to an extended crisis: growing poverty, the retreat and corruption of the local government, a guerrilla war, a high death rate through AIDS, accompanied by an upsurge of occult forces in the form of cannibal witches. By trying to deal, explain and "heal" the situation of "internal terror", the UMG reinforced the perception of the reality of witches and cannibals while at the same time containing violence and regaining power for the Catholic Church in competition for "lost souls" with other Pentecostal churches and movements.

This volume includes the DVD of a video film by Armin Linke and Heike Behrend showing a "crusade" to identify and cleanse witches and cannibals organized by the UMG in the rural area of Kyamiaga in 2002. With a heightened awareness and reflective use of the medium, UMG members created a domesticated version of their crusade for Western (and local) consumption as part of a "shared ethnography".

About author
Heike Behrend
Heike Behrend is Professor of Anthropology and African Studies at the University of Cologne, Germany, the author of "Alice Lakwena and the Holy Spirits" (James Currey, 1999), and co-editor of "Spirit Possession, Modernity and Power in Africa"(James Currey, 1999)


Behrend, Heike. Resurrecting cannibals: the Catholic Church, witch-hunts, and the production of pagans in Western Uganda. James Currey, 2011. 215p bibl index DVD; ISBN 9781847010391. Reviewed in 2012may CHOICE.

This intriguing book demonstrates exactly how hard it is for either the native or the ethnographer to kill off the idea of cannibals. In this instance, these nightmarish creatures roam the cultural landscape among the Tooro people of western Uganda. There and now, these cannibal/witches are imagined to first kill their victims via mystical means and then equally magically resurrect them for a meal. Rather than focusing directly and consistently on this fascinating subject, Behrend (Univ. of Cologne, Germany) treks the entire social and theoretical landscape seeking a context and explanation for this bizarre thought system. This sporadic consideration of divine kingship, incest, AIDS, the Eucharist, local guerilla movements, economic liberalization, the IMF, and the World Bank, just to mention a few concerns, distracts more than instructs as the reader loses sight of the original matter at hand. All is related to all, and as an unfortunate consequence, there is no explicit appreciation of this rich cultural phenomenon. The author cites a whole host of sources but at times fails to give due credit to others who have gone before, particularly in this area of Africa. An accompanying video does little to clarify matters.

Summing Up: Optional. Specialists. -- W. Arens, Stony Brook University

Copyright 2013 American Library Association


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