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Extra info for Headhunting and Colonialism: Anthropology and the Circulation of Human Skulls in the Portuguese Empire, 1870–1930

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For ‘headhunting’ and ‘colonialism’ should not coexist in the same space. Timorese ritual violence came to life inside the logic of colonialism; even the Portuguese incorporation of heads into narratives displayed logics of vitality analogous to structural ethnographic features of indigenous headhunting. We are, therefore, faced with complexities that break down the conventional opposition between headhunting and colonialism. Instead of setting these notions apart, the war reports of DatoTolo invite us to think of them together, as a composite entity in which the two terms interpenetrate, forming a new whole.

A. 77 Parasitism in colonial interactions explores this trope. It invites us to understand power as an instance of weakness, immobility, and the relative deprivation of resources. This enables us to conceptualize colonial government in situations of feeble European presence, such as the one of the Portuguese in Timor, as seen in the Introduction to this book. In addition, power in parasitism, as suggested above, should be seen as grounded on ‘unequal exchanges’. In colonialism, to address the strength of weak forms of rule calls for an understanding of the symbiotic connections and circuits of unequal exchange interconnecting the indigenous and colonial communities.

According to the ‘luso-tropical’ perspective, the military participation of the Timorese has been seen as a proof of the benevolence of Portuguese colonialism, an expression of indigenous spiritual communion with Portugal caused by an age-old colonial policy of tolerance devoid of racial prejudice. Conversely, an inflamed anti-colonial historian has read the same fact as an instance Parasitism in Colonial Interactions 31 of the weakness, mediocrity, and backwardness of the Portuguese colonial state.

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