Cannibals and Orchids: Cannibalism and the Sensory Imagination of Papua New Guinea

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Ilaria Vanni


This article examines Leona Miller’s book Cannibal and Orchids (1941) as an example of how place, in this case Papua New Guinea (PNG), is imagined according to a particular sensorium. It follows the ‘sensory turn in anthropology’ and the studies developed in the last two decades that take the senses as their object of enquiry. This body of theory is mobilised to analyse Miller’s biographical narrative recounting how PNG is imagined, represented and produced in terms of a disarray of the (Western) senses, coalescing in the trope of cannibalism. This article argues that the experience of PNG as the place of otherness is narrated both in terms of the author’s sensory displacement and of the indigenous sensorium as abject.


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