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Parasitism in Colonial Interactions

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Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)

Abstract

In historical as in anthropological approaches a dichotomous idiom prevails in the description of European intrusions into indigenous societies. ‘Barbaric’ practices, such as headhunting, figure prominently in this imagery: they are doomed to elimination by European colonialism that imposed ’civilization’ on ‘savage’ and exotic tribes. Recently, this colonial idiom has been criticized by post-colonial theoreticians who resort to the concept of hybridity. This chapter argues, however, that both colonial and post-colonial vocabularies are inadequate to describe symbiotic associations between indigenous and European realms, in particular between headhunting and pacification in colonial Timor, and provides an alternative analytical framework. Building on the notion of mutual parasitism, a new way of conceptualizing intimate colonial interactions between the European and indigenous collectives is proposed.

Keywords

Human Head Colonial Power Colonial Government Unequal Exchange Mutual Parasitism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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  1. 1.
    Around the fire in the glades, in the glades, by moonlight, All together, all together, all together we go dancing. The heads of enemies, the heads go jumping. Enemies, forgive us, enemies, crack, and roll! Ui! The war in the mountain is the land terrifying. It is sounding the drum, it is the war sounding. The poem is evocative of Timorese headhunting rites and songs. Alberto Osório de Castro—Portuguese poet and amateur ethnographer and botanist—wrote the verses while serving as a judge in Timor in 1908–1911. Alberto Osório de Castro, Flores de Coral. Poemetos e Impressões da Oceânia portuguesa (Dili, 1908, reprint Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional, 2004, vol. I), p. 406.Google Scholar
  2. For a slightly modified version of the poem, see: Alberto Osório de Castro, A Ilha Verde e Vermelha de Timor (Lisbon, 1943, reprint Lisbon: Cotovia, 1996), p. 138.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Ibid. For Sanir’s reputation. See also: J. S. Vaquinhas, ‘Timor. I’, BSGL, 4, 7 (1883), 326.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    The Portuguese expression arraial designated those men whom kings were obliged to supply as tribute to governors, especially in wartime, under vassalage contracts: ‘The word arraial is reserved for the natives who serve as auxiliaries of regular troops, and for those employed as carriers.’ Castro, As Possessões Portuguezas na Oceania, p. 67. Cf. for the etymology of the word: José Pedro Machado, Dicionário Erimológico da Língua Portuguesa com a mais Antiga Documentação Escrita e Conhecida de Muitos dos Vocábulos Estudados (5th edn, Lisbon: Horizonte, 1989), II, pp. 313–4Google Scholar
  5. L. F. R. Thomaz, De Ceuta a Timor (Lisbon: Difel, 1994), p. 628.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    While the aclalak were war cries of apparently intimidatory character, the lorosa’es were described as a ceremonial ‘hymn of war’ that ‘implied chopped heads’. The lorosa’es, as we will see, consisted of a communal war ritual that comprised dancing, singing, and other ceremonial activities. Cf. J. S. Vaquinhas, ‘Timor. Usos—Superstições de Guerra’, BSGL, IV (1884), p. 476Google Scholar
  7. José Simões Martinho, Timor. Quatro Séculos de Colonização Portuguesa (Porto: Livr. Progredior, 1943), pp. 247–57.Google Scholar
  8. 18.
    Celestino da Silva to MSNMU, Oct. 1896, Lisbon, AHU, Macao and Timor, ACL_SEMU_DGU_RM_005_Cx 1, 1890–1899. Cf. J. Celestino da Silva, Relatório das Operações de Guerra no Distrito Autónomo de Timor no Anno de 1896 enviado ao Ministro e Secretário dos Negócios da Marinha e Ultramar (Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional, 1897), p. 45.Google Scholar
  9. 19.
    In the Portuguese original: Morramos, morramos! É serviço do governo! [italics in the original]. This was Duarte’s free translation of the Tetum outcry: ‘mate-mate em bote nia serviço.’ Duarte translates embote as governo (government). Yet the current use of the Tetum word embote signified governador (governor). Francisco Duarte, ‘Relatório das operações contra os rebeldes de Deribate desde 11 de Setembro até 5 de Outubro de 1896’, in Silva, Relatório das Operações de Guerra, p. 139. Cf. A. Pinto Correia, Timor de Lés a Lés, p. 48, n. 1; Luís Costa, Dicionário de Tétum-Português (Lisbon: Colibri, 2001).Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    The ‘pink map’ episode of 1890 was a traumatic event for Portuguese patriotic feelings. After several expeditions and diplomatic efforts to extend the Portuguese territorial area of influence from Angola to Mozambique through a contiguous inland connection, the Portuguese government was forced to capitulate by force of a British ultimatum in 1890. A rose-colored map linking Angola to Mozambique, the Atlantic coast to the Indian coast of Africa, represented Portugal’s territorial ambition in Africa, one which British interests in central Africa strongly opposed. For this episode, see Charles E. Nowell, The Rose-Colored Map: Portugal’s Attempt to Build an African Empire from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean (Lisbon: JICU, 1982).Google Scholar
  11. 24.
    For colonial campaigns, cf. Roque, Antropologia e Império, ch. 1; Valentim Alexandre, ‘Situaçôes Coloniais: II—O Ponto de Viragem: as Campanhas de Ocupação (1890–1930)’, in F. Bettencourt and K. Chauduri (eds), História da Expansão Portuguesa, IV (Lisbon: Círculo de Leitores, 1998), pp. 182–211.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    Cf. J. Celestino da Silva, ‘Final do Relatório das Operaçbes de Guerra no Distrito Autônomo de Timor-1896’, BAGC, 23 (1927), 89–100.Google Scholar
  13. 29.
    I here draw an analogy between heads taken as signs in European reports and the representational use of surrogate heads in the pangngae, ritual headhunting songs and performances of Highland Sulawesi, Indonesia, analysed by George. Kenneth M. George, Showing Signs of Violence. The Cultural Politics of a Twentieth-Century Headhunting Ritual (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996f).Google Scholar
  14. 30.
    Cf. Ibid., ch. 3; Rodney Needham, ‘Skulls and Causality’, Man 11, 1 (1976), 71–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 31.
    AAVV, The Century Dictionary. An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language (New York: The Century Co., 1889), p. 2750 [emphasis in the original]. As a word in its own right, ‘headhunting’ appears in contemporary English dictionaries, but not in Portuguese dictionaries. This might have occurred because the Portuguese expression caça de cabeças consists of a union of two nouns, just like in the French chasse aux têtes. I assume however that the meaning of caça de cabeças crystallized in a similar manner. Therefore, for example, in the referential Grande Enciclopédia Portuguesa e Brasileira (Great Portuguese and Brazilian Encyclopaedia) of the first half of the twentieth century headhunting appears under the heading caça (hunt) as a ‘cruel practice’ characteristic of the indigenous people of Southeast Asia, namely of Timor.Google Scholar
  16. 32.
    See Julia Kristeva, Visions Capitales (Paris: Réunions des Musées Nationaux, 1998).Google Scholar
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  18. 34.
    AAVV, Encyclopaedia Brittanica (11th edn, London, 1910–11), XIII, p. 121.Google Scholar
  19. Cf. Carl Bock, The Head-Hunters of Borneo. A Narrative of Travel up the Mahakkam and down the Barito (2nd edn, London: S. Low, Marton, Searle & Rivington, 1882)Google Scholar
  20. AAVV, The New Century Dictionary of the English Language (New York: The Century Co., 1927), p. 723Google Scholar
  21. Henry Cecil Wild (ed.), The Universal Dictionary of the English Language (7th edn, London, 1952), p. 535.Google Scholar
  22. 35.
    For a famous story of a European turned headhunter in the Solomon Islands in the 1870s, see Nigel Randell, The White Headhunter. The Story of a Nineteenth Century Sailor Who Survived a South Seas Heart of Darkness (London: Carrol and Graf, 2003).Google Scholar
  23. 36.
    This passage refers to Charles Marlow’s first sight of Kurtz’s house at the riverbank surrounded by decapitated human heads on poles. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (London, 1902, reprint London: Hesperus, 2002), pp. 65–7.Google Scholar
  24. 38.
    H. Schulte-Nordholt, The Political System of the Atoni of Timor (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1971), p. 8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  26. 39.
    From 1890s, Trocki states, ‘most forms of slavery, were eliminated, as were piracy, head-hunting, cannibalism, trial by ordeal, the arbitrary rule of native chiefs and the power of secret societies.’ Carl A. Trocki, ‘Political Structures in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries’, in Nicholas Tarling (ed.), The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia. From c. 1800 to the 1930s (2 vols, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), II, pp. 81–2.Google Scholar
  27. 40.
    Cf. Robert McKinley, ‘Human and Proud of It! A Structural Treatment of Headhunting Rites and the Social Definition of Enemies’, in G. N. Appell (ed.), Studies in Borneo Societies: Social Process and Anthropological Explanation (Illinois: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University, 1976), pp. 92–145Google Scholar
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  30. 41.
    But an exception is historical anthropological work on the Shuar of Ecuador. Growing entanglement with the Euro-American colonial economy in the late nineteenth century (namely the ‘heads-for-guns trade’), Steel has argued, can explain the intensification of Shuar headhunting raids in the period 1850–1917. Danielle Steel, ‘Trade Goods and Jivaro Warfare: The Shuar 1850–1957, and the Achuar, 1940–1978’, Ethnohistory, 46, 4 (1999), 754–8.Google Scholar
  31. 42.
    Renato Rosaldo, Ilongot Headhunting 1883–1974. A Study in Society and History (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1980)Google Scholar
  32. Janet Hoskins, ‘The Headhunter as Hero: Local Traditions and Their Reinterpretation in National History’, American Ethnologist, 16, 3 (1987), 605–22 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Janet Hoskins, ‘On Losing and Getting a Head: Warfare, Exchange, and Alliance in a Changing Sumba, 1888–1988’, American Ethnologist, 16, 3 (1989), 419–40; Cf. the essays collected in Hoskins (ed.), Headhunting and the Social Imagination in Southeast Asia. For an interesting attempt to discuss the silence of colonial records regarding headhunting rituals in Sulawesi, see George, Showing Signs of Violence, ch. 3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. On the continuing significance of shrunken heads (even in their absence) among the Shuar, see also Steven Lee Rubenstein, ‘Circulation, Accumulation and the Power of Shuar Shrunken Heads’, Cultural Anthropology, 22, 3 (2007), 357–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 43.
    Rumours of ‘construction sacrifice’ have been observed a bit all across Island Southeast Asia since at least the 19605. These indigenous stories typically describe the military, colonial officials, missionaries, or representatives of the post-colonial nation-state as headhunters procuring skulls for the foundations of public buildings. Cf. P. Middelkoop, Headhunting in Timor and Its Historical Implications (2 vols, Sydney: University of Sydney, 1963), I, pp. 8–9Google Scholar
  36. Richard Allen Drake, ‘Construction Sacrifice and Kidnapping Rumor Panics in Borneo’, Oceania, 59 (1989), 269–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  39. 44.
    See for example, James Urry, ‘Headhunters and Body-Snatchers’, Anthropology Today, 5, 5 (1989), 11–2. But for a rather more sophisticated structuralist parallel between headhunting and museum collecting, cf. Pannell, ‘Travelling to Other Worlds’.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 46.
    ‘Liturgy of decapitations’ is Luna de Oliveira’s term. Cf. J. Simões Martinho, ‘Ocupação militar de Timor. Resumo histórico’, in Anonymous (ed.), Principais factos da ocupação ultramarina (séculos XIX e XX até à Grande Guerra). Exposição Histórica da Ocupação (Lisbon: AGC, 1937), pp. 67–76Google Scholar
  41. Luna de Oliveira, Timor na História de Portugal (2 vols, Lisbon: AGC, 1950), II, pp. 372–496.Google Scholar
  42. 48.
    Headed by Salazar, the Estado Novo (New State) regime was a right-wing dictatorship lasting from 1933 to 1974. Celestino’s charismatic governorship was romanticized in a novel of 1931, titled The King of Timor: Teófilo Duarte, O Rei de Timor (Lisbon: A. M. Pereira, 1931).Google Scholar
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  45. AAVV, Figuras portuguesas de Timor. Homenagem a Celestino da Silva (Dili: Imprensa Nacional, 1961). The reputed Asianist Luís Filipe Thomaz has recently described Celestino da Silva as ‘the most notorious, perhaps, of all [governors] who knew Timor.’ Even Pélissier calls him the ‘supreme pacificator’. Thomaz, De Ceuta a Timor, p. 596; Pélissier, Timor en Guerre, p. 73.Google Scholar
  46. 51.
    Hélio Felgas, Timor Português (Lisbon: Agência Geral do Ultramar, 1956), p. 268.Google Scholar
  47. See also Teófilo Duarte, Timor (Antecâmara do Infeno!?)(Famalicão: Tip. Minerva, 1930), p. 98.Google Scholar
  48. 52.
    On luso-tropicalismo see Cláudia Castelo, ‘O Modo Português de Estar no Mundo’: o Luso-Tropicalismo e a Ideologia Colonial Portuguesa (1933–1961) (Porto: Afrontamento, 1999).Google Scholar
  49. For examples of luso-tropical discourse concerning the Timorese involvement, see Felgas, Timor Português, pp. 304–57; A. Leite de Magalhães, ‘Tropas de côr’, Defesa Nacional, 39 (1937), 16–17.Google Scholar
  50. 56.
    According to Leitão, after the defeat of Wehale, many Timorese kings sought the Dominican friars for conversion to Christianity, just like the Portuguese victorious allies of Mena had done before. Humberto Leitão, Os Portugueses em Solor e Timor de 1515 a 1702 (Lisbon: Tip. Liga dos Combatentes da Grande Guerra, 1948), p. 208, ch. 20; Schulte-Nordholt reiterates this account: Schulte-Nordholt, The Political System of the Atoni, pp. 163–5.Google Scholar
  51. 57.
    Cf. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, ch. 12; D. M. Anderson and D. Killingray (eds), Policing the Empire. Government, Authority and Control, 1830–1940 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991)Google Scholar
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  54. 59.
    Cf. George A. Bray III, ‘Scalping during the French and Indian war’, http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/1998/scalping.html; James Axtell, The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
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    See Homi Bhabha, ‘Signs Taken for Wonders. Questions of Ambivalence and Authority Under a Tree Outside Delhi, May 1817’, in The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 102–22.Google Scholar
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    For an insightful critique of Bhabha, see: Benita Parry, ‘Signs of Our Times. Discussion of Homi Bhabha’s The Location of Culture’, Third Text, 28/29 (1994), 5–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    An English translation of Serres’s book appeared in 1982 yet his work in general has had limited impact on history and social sciences, except for the field of science studies. For an informative summary of Serres, see Steven Brown, ‘Michel Serres: Science, Translation and the Logic of the Parasite’, Theory, Culture and Society, 19, 3 (2002), 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 69.
    A well-established body of evidence in biology also points to blurred boundaries between what biologists traditionally call ‘mutualism’ (symbiosis with reciprocal benefits) and ‘parasitism’ (symbiosis with unilateral benefits). Some parasites can positively stimulate organisms, sometimes and in some contexts for mutual benefit. Cf. Frédéric Thomas, François Renaud and Jean-François Guégan (eds), Parasitism and Ecosystems (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  63. 73.
    This ambivalence rests on the Latin etymology of the words ‘hostility’ and ‘hospitality’. For Derrida, they share a ‘troubling analogy in their common origin between hostis as host and hostis as enemy, between hospitality and hostility.’ Jacques Derrida, ‘Hostipitality’, Angelaki, 5, 3 (2000), 3–18. I thank Giovanni da Col and Patrice Ladwig for this reference.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 76.
    I have also elaborated on this point in Ricardo Roque, ‘The Razor’s Edge: Portuguese Imperial Vulnerability in Colonial Moxico, Angola’, International Journal of African Historical Studies, 36, 1 (2003), 105–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 77.
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  67. 78.
    Annemarie Mol, The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002), p. 143. Mol is not discussing colonialism, but how self and otherness get ‘mutually included’ as a disease (atherosclerosis) is enacted in medical practice. The concept of ‘mutual inclusion’ is however suggested as carrying wider theoretical implications, which I try to develop.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Emilie Gomart and Antoine Hennion, ‘A Sociology of Attachment: Music Amateurs, Drug Users’, in John Law and John Hassard (ed.), Actor-Network Theory and After (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), p. 221.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ricardo Nuno Afonso Roque 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social SciencesUniversity of LisbonPortugal

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