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The Circulatory System of Colonial Headhunting

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

Abstract

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’.

Keywords

Indigenous Community Colonial Power Symbolic Boundary Mutual Parasitism Spiritual Entity 
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Notes

  1. 6.
    Eduardo da Câmara to Celestino da Silva, 25 May 1895, Lisbon, AHU, Macao and Timor, ACL_SEMU_DGU_RM_005_Cx 1, 1890–1899. The report was published posthumously in Lisbon—but the above section on the lorosa’e headhunting ceremonies was not included in the published version by the journal editors. This editorial action might be seen as what I call below a‘gesture of purification’ aimed at protecting the memory of the captain from the dirtiness of being portrayed as an eyewitness of head-feasts. Câmara’s account, moreover, was tragically prophetic. The editors could have not ignored that this ethnographic description of May 1895 detailed the ritual circuits presumably undergone by the captain’s own head, only a few months later, during the Cová massacre (see Chapter 7). Eduardo Ignacio da Câmara, ‘Relatório do comandante das operações contra os reinos rebeldes de Obulo, Marobo, Baboi, Balibó e outros’, Anais do Clube Militar Naval, 25, 11–12 (1895), 695–707, 795–803.Google Scholar
  2. 14.
    An interesting comparison might be drawn with the British tradition of military colonial anthropologies of headhunting concerning the Nagas of India, which emerged in the same historical period. See Julian Jacobs, ‘The Observers and the Observed’, in J. Jacobs et al. (ed.), The Nagas—Hill Peoples of Northeast India. Society, Culture and the Colonial Encounter (London: Thames and Hudson, 1990), pp. 17–26Google Scholar
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  7. 16.
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    See for example: Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other. How Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983)Google Scholar
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    Cf. Nicholas Thomas, Out of Time. History and Evolution in Anthropological Discourse (2nd edn, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), ch. 6 and afterwordGoogle Scholar
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  13. 21.
    Afonso de Castro, ‘Résumé Historique de l’Etablissement Portugais à Timor, des Us et Coutumes de ses Habitants’, Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, XI (1862), 505. Claudine Friedberg, ‘Boiled Woman and Broiled Man. Myths and Agricultural Rituals Among the Bunaq of Central Timor’, in Fox (ed.), The Flow of Life, pp. 266–89.Google Scholar
  14. 40.
    Timorese régulos could decree the decapitation of criminals as punishment for crimes of robbery, and commonly violent deaths ended up with decapitation. However, the analysis here concerns only the trajectories of the heads taken in combat. See Castro, As Possessões, p. 50; França, Macau e os seus Habitantes, p. 226; Castro, A Ilha Verde e Vermelha de Timor, p. 172; Armando Pinto Correia, Gentio de Timor (Lisbon: Lucas & Ca., 1934), p. 319.Google Scholar
  15. 42.
    Even Frazer’s The Golden Bough included a few remarks on rites of reception of severed heads in Timor. James Frazer, The Golden Bough. A Study in Magic and Religion (London, 1922, reprint London: Wordsworth, 1993), p. 312. See also Schulte-Nordholt, The Political System of the Atoni, pp. 348–51. The general meaning of similar rites of incorporation remains an object of debate in anthropology. For overviews of this debate, see George, Showing Signs of Violence; Hoskins, ‘Introduction: Headhunting as Practice and as Trope’.Google Scholar
  16. 45.
    See David Hicks, Tetum Ghosts and Kin: Fertility and Gender in East Timor (2nd edn, Illinois: Waveland Press, 2004). This point has also been made with regard to Timorese mortuary rituals. See Shepard Forman, ‘Descent, Alliance, and Exchange Ideology among the Makassae of East Timor’, pp. 152–77; Renard-Clamagirand, Marobo, p. 145.Google Scholar
  17. 53.
    Acácio Flores cit. in Correia, Gentio de Timor, p. 40. See also Correia, Timor de Lés a Lés, p. 40; Castro, A Ilha Verde e Vermelha in Timor, p. 140. Cf. Schulte-Nordholt, The Political System of the Atoni, p. 50; Henry O. Forbes, A Naturalist’s Wanderings in the Eastern Archipelago. A Narrative of Travel and Exploration from 1878 to 1883 (New York: Harper, 1885), p. 450.Google Scholar
  18. 53.
    Acácio Flores cit. in Correia, Gentio de Timor, p. 40. See also Correia, Timor de Lés a Lés, p. 40; Castro, A Ilha Verde e Vermelha in Timor, p. 140. Cf. Schulte-Nordholt, The Political System of the Atoni, p. 50; Henry O. Forbes, A Naturalist’s Wanderings in the Eastern Archipelago. A Narrative of Travel and Exploration from 1878 to 1883 (New York: Harper, 1885), p. 450.Google Scholar
  19. 59.
    The skulls of robbers punished with decapitation were exhibited on walking trails, also on a bamboo stick. See José Gomes da Silva, ‘O Combate de Ayassa’, BPMT, XXXVIII, supl. n. 2 (1892), 14.Google Scholar
  20. 61.
    Ibid.; see also Castro, A Ilha Verde e Vermelha de Timor, p. 141; Paulo Braga, A Terra, a Gente e os Costumes de Timor (Lisbon: Cosmos, 1935), p. 26.Google Scholar
  21. 78.
    Júlio Celestino Montalvão e Silva, A Mâo d’Obra em Timor. Breve Memória sobre o seu Territôrio, Clima, Producçdo, Usos e Costumes Ind Igenas, Industria, Agricultura e Comércio (Lisbon: Typ. A Editora, 1910), p. 28.Google Scholar
  22. 92.
    Correia, Timor de Lés a Lés, p. 41. Cf. Castro, Timor (Subsídios para a sua História), p. 14; Ezequiel Enes Pascoal, ‘A Morte do Buan. Conto’, Seara, II (1950), 130.Google Scholar
  23. 96.
    Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger. An Analysis of Concept of Pollution and Taboo (London, 1966, reprint London: Routledge, 2002), p. 140.Google Scholar
  24. 97.
    For this imagery, in which medieval popular and learned traditions have eventually been articulating with the meaning of skulls as memento mori, see Nancy Caciola, ‘Wraiths, Revenants and Ritual in Medieval Culture’, Past and Present, 152 (1996), 3–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Folke Henschen, The Human Skull. A Cultural History (London: Praeger, 1966).Google Scholar
  26. For funerary rites and the cultural representations of the corpse in nineteenth century Northern Europe see Ruth Richardson, Death, Dissection, and the Destitute (2nd edn, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), ch. 1.Google Scholar
  27. 98.
    See Jennifer Michael Hecht, The End of the Soul. Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in France (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), pp. 14–5.Google Scholar
  28. 116.
    The assassination of D. Carlos in 1908 has thus been mentioned as a main reason for his exoneration from office. One of his enemies accused the Minister of Overseas (1897–98) and Director General of the Overseas Office in Lisbon (18991910), Felisberto Dias da Costa, of ‘criminal connivance’ with Celestino da Silva. Costa was accused of receiving coffee and money as payment for supporting the governor. Miguel Sousel de Guimarães to Afonso Costa, 25 Sept. 1906, ed. A. H. de Oliveira Marques, Correspondência Polftica de Afonso Costa 1896–1910 (Lisbon: Estampa, 1982), pp. 230–4.Google Scholar
  29. 119.
    Zola, Timor. O Governo do General de Brigada do Quadro da Reserva José Celestino da Silva durante 14 annos. Latroctnios, Assassinatos e Perseguições (2° série) (Lisbon: s.n., 1911), p. 57; Zola, Quattorze Annos de Timor, pp. 28–30.Google Scholar
  30. 137.
    Cf. for a treatment of boundary making in science studies: Thomas Gieryn, ‘Boundaries of Science’, in Sheila Jasanoff et al. (ed.), Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (London: Sage, 1995), pp. 393–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 139.
    Because immobility signified ultimate creational power in mythic entities, the exhibition of silence and immobility in social life was expected as manifestation of higher and stronger power. This conception of supreme cosmological ruling power associated with immobility has been stressed as characteristic of ritual power in the Tetum of Central Timor. It was the basis of the ritual central authority held by the kingdom of Wehale throughout the colonial period. Cf. Tom Therik, Wehali: the Female Land. Traditions of a Timorese Ritual Centre (Canberra: Pandanus Books, 2004).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ricardo Nuno Afonso Roque 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social SciencesUniversity of LisbonPortugal

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