Identity and Wilderness.


A theoretical and methodological research aimed to generate a deconstruction or anatomy of one of the most ancient primitive groups in the West: the Wild Man. The homo sylvaticus, that fascinating hairy creature, is present mainly in European Medieval imagery, but has its roots in classical Antiquity and extends its influence until Modern times. This study, linked to the discussions arisen by the near celebration of the fifth centenary of the "discovery" of America, wants to be an ethnographic exploration, conducted by a Third World anthropologist, of an European imaginary primitive group, trying to discover in the western savages part of the roots of modern barbarity. Almost everybody today accepts that the modern world can obtain some wisdom from the study of the so called primitive peoples. Every anthropologist knows, at the same time, that the "savage" or "primitive" man is a construction of the western culture, and that scientific research is needed to discover the real peoples labeled as primitives. In this sense, the ideal dream of ethnographic work has been the reconstruction of primitive culture as it was before Western civilization started deep changes of non-European societies. This study is aimed to put this statements up side down: I want to study the European image of wild people before it became contaminated by the contact with the real savages or primitives

How to Cite

Bartra, R., (1990) “Identity and Wilderness.”, Ethnologia Europaea 21(1), 103-123. doi:



Roger Bartra (Ciudad Universitaria, México)


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