Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 February 2013
As this book explores cannibals, food, eating and being eaten in its many variations, I attempt a reconstruction of precolonial cosmology in Western Uganda as a vast machinery of consumption and digestion. As I will show later in the following chapters, images of consumption, cannibalizing and digestion continue to be used to describe relations of power and violence in colonial and postcolonial times up to today. I begin with a few general remarks about the relationship between body, food and society. As I strongly rely on the ethnography of the CMS missionary John Roscoe, a critical comment will be made also on its epistemological status.
The reconstruction of precolonial culture is a difficult and artificial task. On the one hand, the effort to establish a baseline implies a static society which of course was never the case. But in order to make sense of the processes of continuity and discontinuity, fracture and reconfiguration, we need to know something of the world in earlier times. The following reconstruction should thus be taken as a frozen moment of a world in motion and a starting point for the discussion of eating, cannibalizing, digestion, power and violence (cf. Livingston 2005:65f).
Eating is a practice of incorporation. The idea of incorporation depends upon and creates a radical division between inside and outside, an inside often associated with good while the outside tends to be related to bad. It is this division that produces the desire to return to oneness and total unity (Kilgour 1990:4/5).