Cover image for Savage anxieties : the invention of Western civilization
Savage anxieties : the invention of Western civilization
Williams, Robert A., 1955-
Personal Author:
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Palgrave Macmillan, [2012]

Physical Description:
265 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Presents an intellectual history of the West's bias against tribalism that explains how acts of war and dispossession have been justified in the name of civilization and have typically victimized tribal groups.
Homer and the idea of the savage : first impressions -- The legend of the Golden Age and the idea of the savage -- The emergence of the Classical idea of the savage -- The Classical idea of the savage and the invention of Western philosophy -- The idea of the savage and the rise of Roman imperial civilization -- Parallel lives : the idea of the savage and the decline of the Roman Empire -- The Medieval Christian Church's war on the Classical idea of the savage -- The Wild Man and the Medieval Christian idea of the savage -- The Renaissance humanist revival of the Classical language of savagery -- The Renaissance discovery era and the idea of the savage -- The Enlightenment idea of the savage and the Founders' first Indian policy -- Savage anxieties : Indigenous Peoples' human rights in the twenty-first century.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library GN380 .W549 2012 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Newstead Library GN380 .W549 2012 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



From one of the world's leading experts on Native American law and indigenous peoples' human rights comes an original and striking intellectual history of the tribe and Western civilization that sheds new light on how we understand ourselves and our contemporary society. Throughout the centuries, conquest, war, and unspeakable acts of violence and dispossession have all been justified by citing civilization's opposition to these differences represented by the tribe. Robert Williams, award winning author, legal scholar, and member of the Lumbee Indian Tribe, proposes a wide-ranging reexamination of the history of the Western world, told from the perspective of civilization's war on tribalism as a way of life. Williams shows us how what we thought we knew about the rise of Western civilization over the tribe is in dire need of reappraisal.

Author Notes

Robert A. Williams, Jr. is a member of the Lumbee Indian Tribe as well as the professor of law and director of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the University of Arizona. He is the author of the classic work on Indian rights under US law, The American Indian in Western Legal Thought, which won the Gustavus Meyer human rights award recently. The recipient of awards from the MacArthur, Ford, and Soros foundations, Williams is also well known for his work defending tribal groups before the United Nations and the Supreme Court.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Whether a group is defined by secret handshakes or restrictions, such behavior taken to the thoughtless extreme leads to misperceptions of individuals outside that group. The narrowed worldviews that result enhance the domineering group's delusions of superiority: negative profiling, exclusionary behavior, and ultimately clashes of civilizations. Attorney and Native American Williams relentlessly searches through three millennia of Western stigmatizing and racism-with a concentration on the uncivilized, uncouth, destabilizing projection of the Wild Man or Noble Savage. Williams's canvas is broad, his examples sweeping: Homeric xenia, or guest-friendship, a bond that separated the civilized from the savage, Hesiod's account of the Golden Age and its Noble Savage; imperial Roman adaptations of the noble savage concept; and medieval Crusaders pitted against savage infidels; the Renaissance, the colonization of the new world, and Rousseau and the Enlightenment; and ending with the colonial-constructionist "Doctrine of Discovery," which asserted into modern times that colonizers had superior rights to land occupied by native peoples. Although often breathless, conveniently selective and reductive, as well as inconsistently paced, this can be a provocative contribution to multicultural studies. 7 photos. Agent: Robert Williams, Trident Media Group. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Choice Review

Williams (law, Univ. of Arizona) offers an extended essay on the idea of the "savage" in Western civilization from Homer to the 21st century. He includes in this category the peoples living on the margins of the world (from the point of view of those writing) as well as from the earliest phases of human history. In relation to the latter, was humankind's original state a golden age of simplicity and happiness, or a miserable condition of material deprivation and unregulated conflict? Williams, a lawyer for Native American rights, hits his stride in the 18th century, and the last few chapters are an interesting evaluation of the discourse on and treatment of aboriginal peoples in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. The earlier chapters, in which he tries to blame this treatment on the Greeks, suffer from insufficient reading and careless generalizations. For example, Williams conflates "barbarian" and "savage," thus misunderstanding Herodotus's view of the Persians. His footnotes reveal his sources to be books of collected readings, such as The Portable Renaissance Reader (1953), and he fails to note that other great civilizations (China, Egypt) had similar views. Academic libraries can skip this one. Summing Up: Optional. General collections. E. Edson emerita, Piedmont Virginia Community College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. v
Introductionp. 1
1 Homer and the Idea of the Savage: First Impressionsp. 11
2 The Legend of the Golden Age and the Idea of the Savagep. 31
3 The Emergence of the Classical Idea of the Savagep. 49
4 The Classical Idea of the Savage and the Invention of Western Philosophyp. 67
5 The Idea of the Savage and the Rise of Roman Imperial Civilizationp. 83
6 Parallel Lives: The Idea of the Savage and the Decline of the Roman Empirep. 103
7 The Medieval Christian Church's War on the Classical Idea of the Savagep. 121
8 The Wild Man and the Medieval Christian Idea of the Savagep. 139
9 The Renaissance Humanist Revival of the Classical Language of Savageryp. 159
10 The Renaissance Discovery Era and the Idea of the Savagep. 179
11 The Enlightenment Idea of the Savage and the Founders' First Indian Policyp. 197
12 Savage Anxieties: Indigenous Peoples' Human Rights in the Twenty-First Centuryp. 219
Notesp. 237
Bibliographyp. 249
Indexp. 259

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