Printer-friendly version
Dr. Luis Madureira presents a lecture on the "Cannibal Manifesto"


Luis Madureira, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, breaks down the backgrounds of different opinions of the Manifesto Antropófago

On the evening of November 8, 2012, alumni and students convened in Knight Hall, but not for the average class lecture. Rather, the attendees of the lecture engaged with Prof. Luis Madureira’s discourse on Oswald de Andrade’s 1928 modernist essay, Manifesto Antropófago, and how many Western cultures have interacted with the work. Madureira’s discussion was a part of the guest speaker series sponsored by the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

Andrade’s essay is viewed by scholars of Latin American literary history as the pinnacle of the Brazilian “Modernismo” movement, a period lasting from 1922-1945, drawing much of its influence from its European modernist counterparts. The movement began with the “Modern Art Week” in São Paolo, Bazil. Two groups of modernists in Brazil arose as a result of the Week; one was the Anthropophagics or “Cannibalists,” of which Andrade was a part. His argument, as was that of the Anthropophagics, was that Brazil should adopt or “cannibalize” elements of Western culture. 

The Manifesto is one of the most influential works in Brazilian literary history, as it impacted not only the culture of Brazil, but other countries’ interactions with Latin America as well. The “Cannibal Manifesto,” as it has come to be known, makes the argument that Brazil must cannibalize other cultures in order to create its own culture, drawing comparisons between cross-cultural exchanges and the Tupi: a native tribe in South America that was known to have practiced cannibalism on occasion. This practice, as was claimed by Andrade, was symbolic of traditional Brazilian culture, and was therefore somewhat of a nationalist theme that Brazilians could embrace and utilize to assimilate aspects of other cultures into their own.

Madureira’s lecture focused primarily on Western cultures’ perceptions of Andrade’s essay. He specifically mentioned, and often referred to Hans Gumbrecht, a German-American literary theorist and Professor at Stanford University, and his takes on the Manifesto to illustrate the cross-cultural boundaries that may cause misinterpretations of the essay. As Madureira explained in his discourse, Western societies are more likely to view the Manifesto in a less-than-favorable light because they frown upon cannibalism in its literal definition. He pointed out that the work only drew parallels between human anthropophagy and the necessity for Brazil to “consume” other cultures.

In the discussion following his oration, Madureira hit home his central argument: “I wanted to show the blindness of the view that Gumbrecht took with his writings.”

A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madureira is also the author of Cannibal Modernities: Postcoloniality and the Avant-Garde in Caribbean and Brazilian Literature (2005).