The Circulatory System of Colonial Headhunting

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


The previous chapter examined how distinct strategies of hospitality could articulate the indigenous other and the European stranger in a common world. In the contact zone between Timorese cosmology and Portuguese praxiology, colonial rule was exercised as the ceremonial government of jural life, and colonial power emerged as a form of charisma. The same contact zone enabled the indigenous ritual life to be governed by the Timorese ritual lords. In this process headhunting became included in colonial forms of justice and government. Colonial wars activated ritual violence, and, in the event of victory, intensified the Portuguese power. The last chapter, then, revealed how mutual parasitism in colonial interactions was possible through certain theories and strategies of mutual inclusion. The current purpose is to approach mutual parasitism from the perspective of the circulation of human remains. By following the ways in which the heads of enemies circulated in Timor, this chapter aims to describe headhunting as a ‘circulatory system’.


Indigenous Community Colonial Power Symbolic Boundary Mutual Parasitism Spiritual Entity 
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Copyright information

© Ricardo Nuno Afonso Roque 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social SciencesUniversity of LisbonPortugal

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