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Dances with Heads

Parasitic Mimesis and the Government of Savagery in Colonial East Timor

Ricardo Roque

This article explores the conjunction between mimesis and parasitism as a colonial mode of relating with forms of ‘savagery’ in state administration in relation to both the colonial Self and indigenous Others. The article examines the participation in 1861 of Portuguese Governor Afonso de Castro in a headhunting ceremony, the ‘feast of the heads’, which was held in colonial East Timor. By following a dispute concerning the problems and merits of the governor’s compliance with this ritual, it conceptualizes the trade with savagery within colonial government praxis as a parasitic form of mimesis. In this context, the dangers of bracketing the self and surrendering to the forces of otherness allowed for headhunting ritual energies to be extracted and exploited to the colonial state’s advantage.

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Among Cannibals and Headhunters

Jack London in Melanesia

Keith Newlin

Why did London place his life and those of his crew at risk of imminent death when he voyaged to the Solomon Islands in 1908, a region he believed to be filled with cannibals and headhunters? Based on archival sources, the books London had read to prepare himself for the voyage, and recent ethno-history of the region, this article argues that London’s voyage did not occasion a more enlightened view of race, as some recent scholars have argued; indeed, his months in the Solomon Islands confirmed the racialist cast of his thinking. London undertook his journey into a region he perceived as dangerous as part of a sense of adventure that depended on demonstrating courage and manliness, and in the process he acted as a metaphoric headhunter himself.