Writing About Cannibal Diets And Consuming Black Africans In France During The First Half Of The Twentieth Century


Lauren Janes

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This article examines the meaning of references to cannibalism in French descriptions of black African cuisine in the first half of the twentieth century. Because of the intimacy of eating and the perceived importance of diet in defining racial boundaries, exotic dining and gastronomic writing about the colonised Other were fraught with tension about the possible crossing of boundaries. When African cuisine was discussed in cooking magazines, by gastronomes, and in the context of the 1931 Colonial Exposition, references to cannibalism guarded these borders. The discourse surrounding African food and African chefs at the exposition also used eating as a metaphor for the cannibalistic nature of French imperialism in Africa. The physical and metaphoric consumption of the colonised African Other was featured dramatically in the French dessert tete de negre, which presented a representation of an African head for French consumption, ritualising and taming the violent incorporation of African bodies into the French empire.