Savages, Victims, and Saviors: The Metaphor of Human Rights
Makau W. Mutua
SUNY Buffalo Law School
Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 42, No. 1, pp. 201-245, 2001
This article critically looks at the human rights project as a damning three-dimensional metaphor that exposes multiple complexes. It argues that the grand narrative of human rights contains a subtext which depicts an epochal contest pitting savages, on the one hand, against victims and saviors, on the other. The savages-victims-saviors (SVS) construction lays bare some of the hypocrisies of the human rights project and asks human rights thinkers and advocates to become more self-reflective. The piece questions the universality and cultural neutrality of the human rights project. It calls for the construction of a truly universal human rights corpus, one that is multicultural, inclusive, and deeply political.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 46
Keywords: Savages, victims, saviors, metaphor, culture. Non-Western, ideology, barbarism, liberalism
Date posted: December 19, 2009