Disrupting Savagism

Intersecting Chicana/o, Mexican Immigrant, and Native American Struggles for Self-Representation

Disrupting Savagism

Latin America Otherwise

More about this series

Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: Published: November 2001

Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Latin American Studies > Mexico, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Colonial discourse in the United States has tended to criminalize, pathologize, and depict as savage not only Native Americans but Mexican immigrants, indigenous peoples in Mexico, and Chicanas/os as well. While postcolonial studies of the past few decades have focused on how these ethnicities have been constructed by others, Disrupting Savagism reveals how each group, in turn, has actively attempted to create for itself a social and textual space in which certain negative prevailing discourses are neutralized and rendered ineffective.
Arturo J. Aldama begins by presenting a genealogy of the term “savage,” looking in particular at the work of American ethnologist Lewis Henry Morgan and a sixteenth-century debate between Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda and Bartolomé de las Casas. Aldama then turns to more contemporary narratives, examining ethnography, fiction, autobiography, and film to illuminate the historical ideologies and ethnic perspectives that contributed to identity formation over the centuries. These works include anthropologist Manuel Gamio’s The Mexican Immigrant: His Life Story, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, and Miguel Arteta’s film Star Maps. By using these varied genres to investigate the complex politics of racialized, subaltern, feminist, and diasporic identities, Aldama reveals the unique epistemic logic of hybrid and mestiza/o cultural productions.
The transcultural perspective of Disrupting Savagism will interest scholars of feminist postcolonial processes in the United States, as well as students of Latin American, Native American, and literary studies.


“A rigorous and rewarding reading experience . . . .” — L. Antonette , Choice

“Colonial discourse in the United States has tended to criminalize and depict as savage not only Native Americans but Mexican immigrants, indigenous peoples in Mexico, and Chicanas/os as well. Disrupting Savagism reveals how each group has actively attempted to create a social and textual space in which negative discourses are neutralized and rendered ineffective.” — , Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

"Disrupting Savagism provides a fresh analysis of the ways in which the subaltern speaks and in so doing attempts to unravel the binding structures of nation and empire." — Ernesto Chávez , American Studies

"[Aldama] manages to directly engage the reader, and refocus the discussion on the intersection between the articulation of body and strategies of resistance." — Claudia Aburto Guzman , MELUS

"[F]ascinating. . . . This book is recommended for classroom use and for those interested in deconstructing colonialism." — , Colonial Latin American Historical Review

"Thorough and nuanced. . . . Ambitious in its theoretical rigor and historical scope, Disrupting Savagism will make a lasting contribution to Chicana/o studies, American Indian studies, and the postcolonial studies of the Americas." — Monica Brown, Aztlán

Disrupting Savagism offers a theoretically nuanced reading of the struggles over representation that have been waged by marginalized inhabitants of the United States-Mexican border zone. With its remarkable breadth of examples, the book carefully unfolds the thoroughgoing legacy of racial violence in the colonized Southwest.” — Carl Gutiérrez-Jones, author of Rethinking the Borderlands: Between Chicano Culture and Legal Discourse

“The ‘savage’ speaks, gains voice, and articulates resistance to the forces of oppression in Aldama’s Disrupting Savagism. It is relentless in its rigor and perspicacious in its investigation as it dismantles the social discourses that ascribe Native Americans and mixed bloods ‘savage.’ Aldama’s efforts allow the Mestizo and Native American to take hold of the apparatus of representation and affirm self-identity. Disrupting Savagism is an important work, long needed to fill the gap in our collective understanding, a work that will have broad and long-lasting impact. I can think of no other work that addresses this material so capably and so thoroughly. An intelligent and powerful work.” — Alfred Arteaga, author of Chicano Poetics: Heterotexts


Availability: In stock
Price: $24.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Arturo J. Aldama is Assistant Professor of Chicana/o Studies at Arizona State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top


Part I: Mapping Subalternity in the U.S./Mexico Borderlands

1. The Chiana/o and the Native American “Other” Talk Back: Theories of the Speaking Subject in a (Post?) Colonial Context

2. When the Mexicans Talk, Who Listens? The Crisis of Ethnography in Situating Early Voices from the U.S./Mexico Borderlands

Part II: Narrative Disruptions: Decolonization, Dangerous Bodies, and the Politics of Space

3. Counting Coup: Narrative Acts of (Re)Claiming Identity in Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

4. Toward a Hermeneutics of Decolonization: Reading Radical Subjectivities in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua

5. A Border Coda: Dangerous Bodies, Liminality, and the Reclamation of Space in Star Maps by Miguel Arteta


Selected Bibliography

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2748-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2751-6
Publicity material