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Serving the master: cannibalism and transoceanic representations of cultural identity

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Abstract:

The use of the term cannibale as a keyword in the titles of Maryse Cond's Histoire de la femme cannibale and Paul Bloc's Les Confidences d'un cannibale attracts attention and solicits immediate images of alterity; the term cannibal, however, is a product of European imperialism and its implications function as a means of justifying colonialism. Within each text, cannibalism is not an action in which the characters actually engage, but rather a trope of identity assigned to them by their oppressors; the cannibalism is not physical, but rather cultural and is perpetuated by the very people who accuse them of cannibalism. For the protagonists of Bloc's and Cond's novels intimate contact with Europeans is part of daily life, yet these intercultural relationships create difficulties for the two main characters, making them victims of cultural cannibalism. An examination of the complex ironies joining the trope of cannibalism and racial, sexual, and cultural identity within these two novels reveals similarities between the Pacific and the Atlantic colonial experiences, and shows that the literary representation of cannibalism in both works serves as a metaphor not only of cultural and sexual domination, but also of subversion and liberation.

Keywords: Maryse Cond; New Caledonia; Paul Bloc; cannibalism; communion; identity; imperialism; subversion

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/ijfs.8.3.321/1

Affiliations: University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Publication date: December 1, 2005

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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