Swallow the Leader: Cannibalism, Sorcery, and the Other on Hispaniola

Sunday, January 4, 2009: 12:30 PM
Concourse E (Hilton New York)
Lauren Derby , University of California at Los Angeles
This paper will treat cannibalism tales as they have long circulated
 on the island of Hispaniola from the eighteenth century until the
 U.S. Occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At the height
 of the eighteenth-century sugar boom, reports emerged among slaves
 that Europeans were consuming human flesh; these allegations later
 surfaced once again during the Haitian revolution as Haitians'
 purported consumption of French planter remains was seen as evidence
 of former slaves' savagery. During the U.S. Occupation in 1922, a
 Haitian woman in the Dominican Republic was convicted of kidnapping a
 Dominican child, killing and eating him, a case which served to
 further confirm Marine beliefs regarding the depravity of Haitian
 ritual practices. Ironically, in this particular case, however, the
 story may actually been true since the boy may have been the son of the
 enormously popular Dominican faith healer Olivorio Mateo who was
 drawing clients from across the island at that time until his death
 at the hands of U.S. Marines. Since Haitians are presumed to be
 superior sorcerers, Mateo's child's consumption may have been a means
 of embodying his powers. This chapter will explore the circulation of
 the trope of cannibalism as it moved from slaves to colonial
 planters, U.S. Marines and Dominicans during the occupation, and how
 its meaning shifted in turn.
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