Sunday, July 18, 2010

Let us begin with the Tupinamba of South America, a primitive, warlike group among whom slavery existed in its most elementary for. Economic motives were wholly absent in the enslavement of captives. Slaves were kept for two purposes only: as a living exhibition of the master's honor and valor in war, and ultimately as meat for the cannibalistic orgy that might take place as long as fifteen years after capture. Between being taken prisoner and being eaten, the captive "recognize[d] himself as a slave and a defeated man, he follow[ed] the victorious man, serve[d] him faithfully without having to be watched."

The slave among the Tupinamba was constantly aware of the fact that he was a doomed person. Even if he escaped, his own tribe would not take him back. His sense of degradation was as intense as his master's sense of glory. A Tupinamban slave told Father Evreux that what really bothered him was the prospect of being eaten,
but not to be able to take revenge before dying on those who ware to eat me. I remember that I am the son of an important man in my country... Now I see myself as a slave without being painted and no featheres attached to my head, my arms, around my waist, as the important people of my country are decorated, then I want to be dead.
Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study

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