Thursday, October 20, 2016
Cannibalism by Bill Schutt
Cannibalism is a history and an explanation of the act. But don't worry, the author doesn't start with the stomach churning human eating human stuff right away. He starts with the 'lighter' stuff - cannibalism by non-humans.
The book starts by defining the various types of cannibalism - of which I remember two: eating your family members and eating people of your species who aren't related to you. Then it gets defined even further, to things like filial cannibalism (parents eating children or vice versa), cannibalism during mating (turns out the Black Widow Spider has been maligned.
After going through all these decidedly non-humans, the author slowly makes his way back to us.
If I were to generalise, I'd say that the book says that cannibalism tends to be a response to specific conditions (overcrowding, lack of nutrition, etc). Although in humans, there are ritual cannibals. Oh, and grey areas like breastfeeding (if skin cells come off) and I can't remember what else. (For the record, I am in no way justifying cannibalism in the whole 'eat literal human flesh' form)
Although I was really surprised about the fact that ritual cannibalism existed in Chinese culture, especially as an act of filial piety. Then I remembered stories about sons cutting their thighs to feed their parents (though I can't remember from where) and I realised that IS cannibalism 😱
And of course in Western history they had the whole mummies and medicine thing too, which if you think about it is also cannibalism.
And in modern times, there is that while placenta eating trend which if you think about it, can be considered cannibalism too.
So yeah, this book shows that cannibalism does have a lot of grey areas. It's a pretty fascinating look into the history and science behind it.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.
P.s. I just remembered one thing that gave me pause while reading. When discussing Holy Communion, the author casually says that "the last supper is one of those seemingly rare instances where even evangelical Christians appear to bend their own rules regarding translation". I found that really ignorant because any thinking person can recognise that the Bible consists of history, poetry (Psalms, Song of Solomon), prophecy, etc and it would be foolish to read everything the same way.