Curving the Cannibal: Fugitives and the Reputational Geographies of Violence

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 8:50 AM
Room 601 (Colorado Convention Center)
Jessica Krug, George Washington University
State logic has long relied on languages of alterity for politically stigmatizing non-state neighbors, describing non-state people as savages, barbarians, cannibals, and preternaturally pre-occupied with extreme forms of violence.  In this paper, I consider the intellectual and political histories of three intersecting groups of non-state people in the early modern world: the Imbangala (Jaga) of West Central Africa, the Jíbaro of the western Amazon, and the conversos of Iberia.  While scholars have considered the ways in which states mobilized accusations of cannibalism, head hunting/shrinking, and human blood ritual against these groups, I am instead interested in the ways in which cultivating particular reputations centered on extreme, ritualized violence and death were critical in maintaining the fugitive political life of these communities.  Moving from the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century histories of these groups to the ways in which the reputational geographies of the Jaga, Jíbaro, and crypto-Jews/Moors permutated and flowed through changing political topographies in the eighteenth century through the present, I argue that fugitive rituals of violence and ritual/discursive strategies for negotiating violence lay at the heart of modernity.