Cannibalism the Idea Essay

Submitted By tinababcock
Words: 1162
Pages: 5

Christina Babcock
Mr. Gubellini
Nov. 25th, 2013
Sociology H

The idea of eating human flesh by other human beings has been around for quite some time, and is now commonly known as cannibalism. The technical term for cannibalism is anthropophagy, which comes from anthropos meaning "human being" and phagein meaning "to eat". When and where cannibalism was started is not known, but there are many stories, writings, and first hand accounts which prove that it is real. The practice known as cannibalism is wide spread from century to century and through many different cultures. "In many cultures, it is considered atrocious and sacrilegious, whereas in another culture it is a sacred and revered custom. " (Bell, Cannibalism: The Ancient) Cannibalism was once described as "Black Humour" which is body fluids that Hippocrates believed caused moods, emotions, and behaviors that filled the ventricle and caused hunger for human body parts. (Soniak, "Mmmm, Brains") However, we now have more knowledge about this topic. After reading Paleoanthropologist's studies I have learned that Neanderthals were devouring others flesh as far back as 100,000 years ago. (Soniak, "Mmmm, Brains") American anthropologist Marvin Harris believes, " Cannibalism was a common practice for humans living in small groups." He also added that once groups grew, population increased, and states began to develop it disappeared. However, cannibalism did become frowned upon in most cultures by the 19th century, with the exception of a few societies in the South Pacific. (Soniak, "Mmmm, Brains") Now a days there is very few circumstances where eating flesh happens, but there has been a few recorded incidents including one person or a small group within the last 20 years. There are two main kinds of anthropophagy, survival cannibalism, and learned cannibalism. Survival cannibalism is generally the most accepted by society, although it is still considered a taboo. In life or death situations eating someone else to survive, or even your own flesh may seem like the right thing to do. "Survival cannibalism is what's about to happen whenever you see two cartoon characters stuck in a life raft and one of them has a thought balloon above their head depicting the other one with a roast chicken for a body." (Soniak, "Mmmm, Brains"). One commonly known example of this, from the movie Alive, is the 1972 plane crash that stranded players and family of a Uruguayan rugby team in the Andes Mountains . Some people died from the initial crash and those that did not ate the deceased. Those that didn't eat the human flesh starved to death, and of the 45 people who boarded that plane only 16 survived. This is a perfect example of a desperate situation in which resorting to cannibalism is rather easy to accept. However, "Survival cannibalism is rare and explicable in many cases, yet is still an act that is often punishable by law" ( Bell, Chapter 3). Even though those people had no choice but to eat those who died to stay alive they can still face consequences. Learned or customary cannibalism is an entirely different story. The title is self explanatory, this kind of anthropophagy is "the consumption of human flesh in a socially prescribed, ritualized manner, often passed down through the generations." (Soniak, "Mmmm Brains") Also, customary cannibalism can be divided into two parts endo- and exocannibalism. Endocannibalism is the eating of body parts of a parson who is a member of the same group, family, tribe, society etc. , often as a part of a funeral ceremony. For example an Amazon tribe named "The Wari" uses cannibalism during funeral rites to transform their ancestors into spirits. A spirit becomes an animal to give food to an ancestor's descendants. Exocannibalism is the opposite of endo-cannibalism. People who participate in exo-cannibalism consume flesh of people outside of their own group. It is often used as a threat or way of domination. For