Decolonizing the Indigenous

James Clifford’s Returns

  • Marina De Chiara University of Naples "L'Orientale"


In his Introduction to Returns. Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century (2013), James Clifford laments the absence, in Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Studies, of notions such as decolonization and globalization, indispensable epistemological tools for investigating our modern world reality. In linking decolonization and globalization with the question of indigeneity, and the figure of the ‘native’ and the ‘wild man’, Clifford presents his readers with the story of Ishi, the last wild Indian, ‘discovered’ in 1911 in a village in California and then exhibited in a museum until his death. The critical methodology adopted in this paper aims at generating a productive dialogue between Clifford’s unflinching exposure of the colonial nature of modernity and its founding knowledges, anthropology included, and the theoretical insights of decolonial intellectuals of the ‘Global South’ such as Walter Mignolo, Madina Tlostanova, Aníbal Quijano, Fernando Coronil, Catherine Walsh, to name just a few, who interpret the modern world order as sustained by the ‘coloniality of power’.