In Arizona, a white family buys a Navajo-style blanket to be used on the guest-room bed. Across the country in New York, opera patrons weep to the death scene of Madam Butterfly. These seemingly unrelated events intertwine in Cannibal Culture as Deborah Root examines the ways Western art and Western commerce co-opt, pigeonhole, and commodify so-called native experiences. From nineteenth-century paintings of Arab marauders to our current fascination with New Age shamanism, Root explores and explodes the consumption of the Other as a source of violence, passion, and spirituality.Through advertising images and books and films like The Sheltering Sky, Cannibal Culture deconstructs our passion for tourism and the concept of going native, while providing a withering indictment of a culture in which every cultural artifact and ideology is up for grabs,a cannibal culture. This fascinating book raises important and uncomfortable questions about how we travel, what we buy, and how we determine cultural merit. Travel,be it to ather country, to a museum, or to a supermarket,will never be the same again.
Deborah Root teaches art history at the Ontario College of Art and postcolonial theory in the Faculty of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Toronto.