The Newberry Library Colloquium

Cannibalism and the Body Politic
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

4 – 5 pm

Towner Fellows’ Lounge

Hal Langfur, Associate Professor of History, University at Buffalo; 2012-13 NEH Fellow, Newberry Library

Accusations of cannibalism justified assaults on indigenous societies throughout the colonial Americas. But what happened when those condemned for eating their enemies turned out to be reasonable? This was the dilemma confronting explorers, soldiers, and naturalists who made contact with Indians along a remote Brazilian river in the early nineteenth century. As one of them concluded, progress toward colonizing the zone depended not on military might but on convincing the Indians that “we ourselves are cannibals.” Hal Langfur considers this episode in the context of his broader investigation concerning the projection and subversion of state authority in the interior of Portuguese America.

The Newberry Library Colloquium is a weekly gathering of Newberry staff members, fellows, scholars-in-residence, and readers on Wednesday afternoon. Refreshments are available at 3:30 pm and an informal presentation begins at 4 pm, followed by discussion. The talks are varied, but all relate to the Newberry collections in some way. Speakers may describe a current research project, highlight a particular collection, or discuss one of the Library’s many ongoing or special programs. The Colloquium is open to the public and no reservations are required.

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