The ethnographer from within: Wild thought in Stefano d'Arrigo's Horcynus orca

Chiara Caradonna*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present article aims to demonstrate how ethnography is present, discussed, and criticized in Stefano D'Arrigo's novel Horcynus Orca (1975). Through a comparison with a passage from Claude Lévi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques (1955), the novel is shown to adopt and challenge central tenets of ethnography. D'Arrigo imagines the possibility of an 'ethnographer from within,' a member of a Sicilian fishermen community who, by virtue of his personal experience, possesses the necessary distance to report about his community of origin, yet cannot help but impact it significantly as he in turn brings along and into the community a different system of thought. The article exposes the multiple inversions and subversions that the novel operates with respect to the dichotomic pairs nature/culture, civilized/primitive, indigenous/foreign, as well as to ethnography itself by focussing on the occurrence of ethnographic documents in key passages of the novel. Lévi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques and possibly to an even greater extent Horcynus Orca are concerned with the contradictions inherent in the study of humankind, its various manifestations, and its position in the world, without aspiring to resolve them in any univocal or definitive way.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 De Gruyter. All rights reserved.


  • Claude Lévi-Strauss
  • Literature and anthropology
  • Sicily
  • Stefano D'Arrigo


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