Savage as Living Ghost: Rethinking Eurocentrism and Decoloniality in The Revenant

in Subjects Barbarian, Monstrous, and Wild
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This essay explores the workings of the savage through its intertwinement with the figure of the ghost, as it materializes in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s recent film The Revenant (2015). Bringing together poststructuralist and decolonial theoretical perspectives, the essay explores the film’s engagement with Eurocentric representations of Native American ‘savages’ and ‘civilized’ European settlers, but also shows that the film’s critique of colonial reason does not stop at debunking the savage/civilized opposition. The film juxtaposes Eurocentric modes of knowing with alternative frameworks of understanding the world. The essay centers particularly on decolonial moments that exemplify the film’s delinking from Eurocentric perspectives and from the function of the savage therein. The ghosts of savages in the film, the essay argues, are not only conceptual metaphors for the unfinished workings of colonial history in the present. They are also material parts of reality—in accordance with beliefs shared by Native American societies—that embody a multiplicity of histories and worldviews.

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