Bulletin of Contemporary Hispanic Studies

Cracking the Civilized Coco: Defamiliarization in Paloma Pedrero’s La isla amarilla (1995)

Bulletin of Contemporary Hispanic Studies (2019), 1, (2), 171–185.


This article examines the defamiliarization effect in Paloma Pedrero’s play La isla amarilla (1995), pointing to a previously unstudied facet of the work, its inspiration in Der Papalagi (1922), a spurious anthropological account that similarly defamiliarizes and critiques western cultural habits. The article focuses on the ways in which La isla amarilla resonates in technique and target with Bertolt Brecht’s performing arts concept of Verfremdung, or defamiliarization. The familiar is made strange for western audience members when fictional Samoan islanders describe, analyse, (mis) interpret, and perform western culture. Through Verfremdung, Pedrero’s metatheatrical work acts upon spectators to create a double perspective that allows them to examine their social constructs and question their participation in previously normalized behaviours and beliefs, particularly those regarding gender, consumerism, the division of labour, and violence. A comparison to works that similarly engage in Verfremdung, as well as Melford Spiro and Sandra Lee Bartky’s theories on the acceptance of social constructs, contextualize this reexamination.

Este artículo explora el efecto de desfamiliarización en La isla amarilla (1995), una obra de teatro de Paloma Pedrero, apuntando a un aspecto de la obra que hasta ahora no se ha estudiado, su inspiración en Der Papalagi (1922), un espurio informe antropológico que también desfamiliariza y critica elementos de la cultura occidental. Este análisis enfoca en la fuerte resonancia que La isla amarilla tiene con las técnicas de extrañamiento tanto como los objetos de crítica elaborados en el concepto teatral Verfremdung de Bertolt Brecht. Lo familiar se hace extraño para un público occidental cuando habitantes ficticios de Samoa describen, analizan, (mal)interpretan, y representan la cultura occidental. A través de Verfremdung, o distanciamiento, la obra autoconsciente de Pedrero crea una doble perspectiva que permite al espectador examinar sus propias construcciones sociales y cuestionar su participación en antes normalizados comportamientos y creencias, en particular conceptos de género, consumismo, la división del trabajo y la violencia. Una comparación con obras que emplean Verfremdung de una manera similar y un análisis de la obra a la luz de las teorías de conformismo a construcciones sociales de Melford Spiro y Sandra Lee Bartky contextualizan esta reexaminación.

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