Extinction in Embrace of the Serpent
Capitalism’s Erasure of People, Culture, and Nature
This paper examines Ciro Guerra’s film, Embrace of the Serpent, in relation to the concept of the Capitalocene, using literary theory alongside sociological, anthropological, and historical writings in order to examine its interactions with the concept. The film tells the story of Karamakate, the last surviving member of the Cohiuano people who were eradicated in the Rubber Holocaust, and criticises capitalism as an extension of colonialism and the cause of multiple extinctions. Indeed, the film rejects the notion of the Anthropocene and its homogenous view of “human” activity, explicitly demonstrating that it is specifically capitalism as an extension of colonialism that is having such detrimental and violent effects on the climate through its presentation of Indigenous ecological practises in contrast to the colonists’ destructive relationship to the world. The paper is split into three sections: the extinction of people via forced labour, decimation of land, murder, and dispossession; the extinction of Indigenous cultures, comparing the personification, conservation, and kinship with nature, to capitalism’s commodification, exploitation, and demonisation of nature; and the extinction of nature itself via its domination and cultivation. This project aims to demonstrate how Embrace of the Serpent presents extinction as a result of capitalism, shows the dangerous reality of the capitalocene, and the ongoing effects of colonial environmental practises. It also demonstrates the ways in which Guerra criticises the omittance of Indigenous knowledges and practises, particularly through the presentation of the narrative from the perspective of one of the Indigenous communities the capitalocene affects the most, telling their side of the story and drawing attention to the brutal history of the rubber trade in Columbia.
Copyright (c) 2021 Holly May Treadwell
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).