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Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society 49593rd Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0292712362
ISBN-10: 0292712367
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is probably the most significant ethnography of cannibalism. Period... I expect this book to become a classic, an ethnography of exceptional depth and clarity by an anthropologist whose sensitivity and insight are apparent on every page." -Donald Pollock, Associate Professor of Anthropology, SUNY Buffalo

Review

This is probably the most significant ethnography of cannibalism. Period. . . . I expect this book to become a classic, an ethnography of exceptional depth and clarity by an anthropologist whose sensitivity and insight are apparent on every page. (Donald Pollock, Associate Professor of Anthropology, SUNY Buffalo)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press; 49593rd edition (July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0292712367
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292712362
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Johnston on May 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book which thoroughly and sensitively covers a topic that is difficult for someone raised in U.S. culture to talk about. I am an anthropologist so I have the edge in terms of cultural relativism, but I think that anyone interested in the reality of this topic (rather than the sensationalist approach) would find this book compelling. I highly recommend it for personal or course use.
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I'm a 20-year-old anthropology major and in my college Medicine and Culture class I was given an assignment in which I could choose any ethnography and write a critique of the book/author. My teacher provided us with examples of books we could read and this was one of them. I have always thought cannibalism was an interesting subject so I chose this book to critique. I find it to be excellently written and accessible to a lot of readers who are interested in cannibalism, not just anthropologists. The following is the introduction of my paper that I wrote to critique the book:

Cannibalism has often been a taboo subject in Western culture. In Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society, Beth A. Conklin brings cannibalism into a whole new light. Conklin explains the funerary cannibalistic practices of the Wari' and gives underlying causes as to why they participated in this. The Wari' are native South American Indians who live in western Brazil and eastern Bolivia in the Amazon rainforest. She argues that the reason the Wari' practice funerary (also known as mortuary or endo-) cannibalism is that they are trying to eradicate physical reminders of the person who died so the family members of the deceased can move on with their lives and not live in constant grief. Conklin successfully conveys her argument through the use of emic explanations, simple language, images and maps, and a very flowing structure (not only the structure of the book itself, but also the way that she presents arguments). Although the argument is successful, there are a few areas in which Conklin could have improved her ethnography: when using etic perspectives, she often used ideas from other researchers instead of formulating her own and she was repetitive in her use of language.
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Format: Paperback
I looked into this book a source for a term paper I was writing on Ritual Cannibalism, but then chose to buy if as my summer reading material. The book is very well written and easy to understand, which make it ideal for professionals, students, and lay-people alike. Coklin does a great job letting the reader into the mind of Wari' peoples; the testemonials are engaging and thought-provoking. I must warn that if you are looking for material that is critical of cannibalism, or argues that it does not exist, this isn't it. "Consuming Grief" makes cannibalism seem rational, and makes you feel sad that these peoples customs and culture were forced away. Coklin is biased in the sense that she is an anthropologist, in that I mean she does not pass any judgement on the peoples she is studying.
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Had to read this book for a class. I was skeptical at first, but being an anthropology major, I keep an open mind. This book was fascinating, and offered insights into one of the most taboo subjects in American culture. Absolutely worth the read and the purchase. Definitely an eye opener to another world outside of our own.
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I have used this book three years running in my Introduction to Cultural Anthropology course and inevitability students are taken with the book. In order to move away from large and generalizing textbooks, I have struggled to find engaging and more recently written ethnographies that introduce students to an array of concepts and questions normally covered in an introductory course. Consuming Grief fits the bill in several ways.

Conklin inserts herself into the book just enough to avoid seeming like an omniscient author whose argument and data was somehow miraculously discovered. She discusses her reasons for focusing on the subject matter and provides enough discussion of methods and context that students relate to her journey as much as to the lives of the Wari' about whom she so sensitively writes. Conklin is also candid about how her relationship to the subject of cross-cultural notions of grief changed over time and when her brother passed away, leaving her questioning American society's response to illness and death. Such inclusions are nicely integrated into the text so that the focus remains on the Wari', however, they do provide some insight to students as to how long-term research and one's relationship to the people in the field are complex and infrequently find expression in academic discourse. Consequently, this books is a good introduction to fieldwork, ethics in the field, and of course cultural relativism given its subject matter and Conklin's own brief discussion of European medical practices that can be considered cannibalism in their own right.
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