Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes




Anthropology provides two categories of Cannibalism:

  • ritual cannibalism--sharing or transfer of power by drinking blood of enemy, chief, etc.

  • survival cannibalism--the raft of the Medusa, Seige of Leningrad, various famines, Uruguayan rugby team airplane crash in Andes 1972--Alive!

There is little to no evidence that humans ever regularly practice cannibalism for nutrition or sustenance.


Cannibalism is one of few absolute taboos (e.g., incest, child molestation) surviving in popular culture.

Cannibalism may be seen as dehumanizing to perpetrator and victim.

Victims dread disintegration of body, total domination by enemy

Cannibals are dehumanized in turn--sign of barbarity


Grossly put, ingestion by self of other (or vice versa) violates self-other boundaries


Online Etymology Dictionary

1553, from Sp. canibal "a savage, cannibal," from Caniba, Christopher Columbus' rendition of the Caribs' name for themselves, Galibi "brave men." The natives were believed to be anthropophagites. Columbus, seeking evidence that he was in Asia, thought the name meant the natives were subjects of the Great Khan. Shakespeare's Caliban (in "The Tempest") is a version of this word, with -n- and -l- interchanged, found in Hakluyt's "Voyages" (1599). . . .

Zombie fiction & film as recent manifestation of cannibalism-fear.