Of Wildmen and White Men: Cryptozoology and Inappropriate/d Monsters at the Cusp of the Anthropocene

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People on the Indonesian island of Halmahera claim that the hairy and barely human giants that are said to roam the jungle are seventeenth-century Portuguese colonizers. Employing the feminist concept of ‘inappropriate/d’, I show how the appropriation of the Portuguese wildman into village narratives, regional political history, and national development plans as well as into global discourses of science and media in each case inappropriately collapses the boundaries that the white wildman is implicated in maintaining: those between human and animal, the colonial sovereign and ‘the primitive native’, cryptozoology and the politics of the real. The wild-yet-Western figure, I argue, is inappropriate/d – is ‘on the loose’ – across local, regional, and global registers of reality in ways that trouble linear histories of the wildman as fading from reality into allegory. Like so many other monsters of the Anthropocene, the truthlikeness, or verisimilitude, of the white wildman is enhanced rather than attenuated by recent turns in politics and media.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Pages (from-to)223-240
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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