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How to code human bodies for devouring and mutual enlightenment

Mario Guzman

#anthropophagy

#hyperCodedBodies

#latinAmerica


Introduction

According to anthropologist Viveiros de Castro, the Amazonian cosmogonies identity categories (individual, collective, ethnical or cosmological) are expressed mainly through bodily languages, particularly through food and bodily education.

This recipe is about the act of devouring and assimilating Otherness. It is also an attempt to organize a reflection about the perception of our community’s identity development and the creative relationship with our body’s transmutation as part of a critical swallowing perspective.

Can devouring become a gesture of creativity, a way of inhabiting the differences through bodily transformations? As Gloria E. Anzaldúa puts it: “The body is the ground of thought. The body is a text. Writing is not about being in your head; it’s about being in your body.


The Recipe

Tupi or not tupi:1 building a community

On the Amerindian perspectivism, the interior/exterior social dichotomy dissolves. It is not on culture but bodies where a fundamental difference materializes, turning the Other, the stranger or the foreigner into a source of subjectivation. The radical alterity of the Other opens a novel relationship with knowledge/ truth and an agglutinating principle for the community.

In the Latin American realm, identity is constantly in tension. Sometimes imposed by colonizing definitions, and sometimes by a mandate to decolonize ourselves.

How can we simultaneously experiment with our past and critically swallow new codes to shapeshift and extend our community body’s boundaries? Do we need to define ourselves in order to have a community?

The ritual: hyper-coding bodies

The human body can be placed on a confronting structure: human/animal, exterior/interior, civilized/savage, soulful/soulless. Nevertheless, cannibalism occurs within a ritual, within a process of coding beyond binary oppositions and into a process of relational existence. The Other exists because it is projected in relation to a cosmological network.

In Amazonian cannibalism, what is sought is incorporating the subjective aspect of the Other, which is, therefore, hyper-subjectivized, and not de-subjectivized, as is the case with animal bodies. Animals are inhuman; we are all connected.

To eat a body, you need to code it; but to eat a human body, you need to ritualize it, spiritualize it: hyper-code it. Cannibalism is never just about eating.

It focuses much more on the ritual that hyper-subjectivizes alterity. It’s only within this system where the act of eating human flesh acquires meaning; flesh is the meaning.

void( ) {eating( )};

From a cannibal perspective, eating is part of a predatory cosmovision: the night eats the sun, the earth engulfs the corpses of living beings, the gods drink the blood of the sacrifices, the warriors devour the prisoners, and men eat the gods represented in corn figures. The indigenous world is a universe saturated with multiple devouring processes. The cannibal cosmogony implies a dynamic in which bodily and energetic transformations proliferate across men, plants, animals and sacred forces.

Eating a human body is about absorbing relational universes. Expansion from incorporation. Devouring energy, galaxies, black holes. All that can not be satiated. It’s about turning matter into electrified particles. Engulfing as mutation precipitation. There is nothing to satiate. Shapeshifting into a jaguar’s body, into a jaguar’s eyes. The eye of the flesh looks for a dissolution of the human/animal boundary and the radical spiritualization of the world. Eating allows the continuity of the symbolic universe and the divinization of the body.

What does it mean to eat a hyper-coded body? To multiply a trans-dialogical hunger, to demand the cosmic cycle’s continuation.

Transcending through engulfing flesh

Guarani’s anthropophagy fundamental principle states that a body accumulates energy throughout its existence. This energy can be used by another body to expand its consciousness. Guarani’s vital goal is to transcend the limits of daily existence by accessing a state where a person escapes harm and even death. Cannibalism is part of this path to access a consciousness state.

In Amazonian shamanism, this kind of state can also be portrayed as the ability to deliberately cross bodily barriers and adopt the perspective of allospecific subjectivities. Shamans are able to assume the role of active interlocutors in the trans-species dialogue. But above all, they are able to return to tell the community’s story and narrate the engulfing cosmic process as an encounter/ exchange of perspectives.

Cannibalism is not an absorption of the Other, meaning incorporating it as part of a self-identity. On the contrary, it is a way of going out of oneself, of transforming oneself into the Other.

The anthropophagous act does not annul the difference or the radical alterity it confronts; it repositions it in a simultaneously modified interiority. The exterior difference does not disappear when it is devoured; it survives in an interior that becomes something Other.

As this something Other, What elements should we highlight to build a narrative that recognizes community as a trans-species dialogical multiplicity? How can we build multicultural cosmic politics and an insatiable economy of Otherness?


  1. The Tupi, a Brazilian indigenous tribe, cannibalized their enemies to absorb their strength. 


Further Readings

  1. Andrade, Oswald de. “Manifiesto Antropófago.” In Vanguardia latinoamericana, Tomo VI, edited by Klaus Müller-Bergh and Gilberto Mendonça Telles, 133–38. Iberoamericana Vervuert, 2015.
  2. Anzaldua, Gloria. Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality. Edited by AnaLouise Keating. Durham, North Carolina, 2015.
  3. Arens, William. El Mito Del Canibalismo. Antropología y Antropofagia. SIGLO XXI EDITORES, S. A. DE C. V., 1981.
  4. Castro, Eduardo Viveiros de. La Inconstancia Del Alma Salvaje. Los Polvorines: Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento, 2018.
  5. Castro Orellana, Rodrigo. “Pensar el lugar del Otro. Colonialismo y metafísica caníbal.Tabula Rasa, no. 28 (January 1, 2018): 257–74.
  6. Chicangana, Aucardo, and Bayona Yobenj. “El Nacimiento Del Caníbal: Un Debate Conceptual.” Historia Crítica, no. 36 (2008): 150–73.
  7. Fuentes, Fernando de, María Félix, Luis Aldás, and Julio Villarreal. La Devoradora. Drama. Producciónes Grovas, 1946.
  8. Lobo, Gregory. “Szurmuk, Mónica y Robert Mckee Irwin (Coord.). 2009. Diccionario de estudios culturales latinoamericanos. México: Siglo XXI Editores [332 pp.].” Revista de Estudios Sociales, no. 39 (April 1, 2011): 168–70.
  9. Moyer, Carrie, and Sue Schaffner. DAM SCUM. 1996.
  10. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Kiki Smith | Lilith.” Accessed January 25, 2022.

Q&A

What is the context or background that inspired your recipe?

Tupi or not tupi, that is the question.
– Anthropophagic Manifesto (1928)

Anthropofagy’s concept, as part of Brazil’s cultural history, became a form of asserting independence over colonization, a metaphor for cultural resistance and criticism of European representation of Latino American art.

We need a new perspective for Anthropophagic figures: the cannibal, the female maneater, the indigenous, and the LA artists ingesting different cosmological codes into their diet. We need a perspective on devouring spiritual bodies as a form of cooking, consuming, and creating!

Which community are you offering the recipe to?

Latinoamerican Artists and those seeking an expanded notion of identity. To those wandering through different language territories and occupying multiple national spaces. Artists whose praxis has become a mix of identities, materials, technologies and cultural codes; to those whose bodies are placed between shifting spaces.

As all cultural components become open to mixture, a new cosmic cannibalism requires us to think: who swallows whom? How can a new cannibal artistic approach create a dynamic set of strategies for transculturation, appropriation and syncretism that resist origin tokenization? Should the violence associated with this process be defused or embraced?

How does your submission relate to intersectional feminism?

Intersectionality depicts how people’s social identities overlap and display diverse forms of inequality operating together and deepening each other.

Indigenous tribes, cannibals and women (maneaters*) share common struggles: their subjective configuration and modes of appropriating Otherness are often labeled as uncivilized, inhuman, morally reprehensible or pathological. Consequently, their worldview must be repressed, humiliated or colonized. Can this happen to the new cannibal Latinoamerican Artists?

Through intersectional feminism, those experiencing overlapping inequality can question concurrent conditions of oppression to understand the depths of the inequity and the relationships among them.

* Is cannibalism the final feminism frontier?

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