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Cannibalism

(836 words)

Author(s): Hensel, Sabine
Concept 1. After landing in the isles of the West Indies in 1492, Columbus reported ‘man-eating’ inhabitants of the islands, the ‘Caribs’ ( caribes, caniba, ‘strong,’ ‘shrewd’). The word ‘cannibalism’ was derived from their name. With the discovery of the New World, it replaced the concept of ‘anthropophagy’ (Gk., ánthropos, ‘human being’; phageín, ‘to eat’), the term that had been used since antiquity and the Middle Ages. Anthropophagy in the strict sense is the actual consumption of human flesh; the broader sense includes the drinking of blood,…

Human Sacrifice

(1,507 words)

Author(s): Hensel, Sabine
1. Under ‘human sacrifice’ is understood the killing of a human being—or the use of human blood, flesh, bones—as a cultic offering or → sacrifice, that is, a sacrifice for ritual purposes. The concept of human sacrifice merely denotes the material of the sacrifice more exactly: the intent and external form of sacrificial procedures can be very different. Common to them is the meaning of the renunciation or alienation of the sacrificial material. As a ritual act, (human) sacrifice is usually part…

Birth

(1,070 words)

Author(s): Hensel, Sabine
1. ‘Birth,’ also known as confinement (‘lying-in’) or delivery (i.e., liberation) is often understood purely as a biological occurrence: the expulsion of a child from the uterus at the close of pregnancy. Over against this reductionist view, birth can be conceptualized as a ‘biosocial’ event—a biological event imbedded in the social processes of an immediate or extended family, and whose form and process are specific to a particular culture. Birth is everywhere understood as an extraordinary eve…