Embracing an Other’s History of Capital in the Colombian Amazon – The embrace of the serpent between Challenge and Subsumption

This paper reads The embrace of the serpent by Ciro Guerra as a text seeking to rewrite how images were historically linked to capital’s accumulation, appropriation and exploitation in the Amazon in the first half of the 20th century. The text is a creative pledge to indigenous peoples’ vision of the history of capital in the region. The paper focusses on Guerra’s juxtaposition of the native – holder of knowledge, the cure to disease and dreams – with the sick white man – the white man as sickness, capital’s war-machine (rubber) as sickness. In the film, the white man’s knowledge consists of violence and death (39’34) and is immune to the cure of indigenous knowledge (47’27). Through the concepts of autoimmune knowledge in Spivak, Derrida and Esposito, the text is examined as a vernacular of a different knowledge.

But the paper also contextualises the text within its production (e.g. the Ley 814) and global reception and suggests that its 35mm, black and white filmography of nature, the undubbed indigenous tongues, the hallucinogenic and near-death experiences of “tropicality” (Martins and Driver), and finally its actualization of the tropes of the noble savage and an ailing Western epistemology at its limits,  taps into a history of ongoing racial domination, transculturation, and subsumption of the Other through the lens of images, conditioning the film’s reception as the commodified image of an “Other” to capital in the international division of cultural labour (Yúdice).

Name of pre-organized panel: Nuevas perspectivas sobre la violencia en la cultura colombiana


  • Spanish American Studies