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This paper defines the white savior complex as an institutional social relation comprised of psychological mentalities of individuals that encourage self-serving, condescending actions. Using examples of six American documentaries about Uganda, including “Kony 2012,” “Call Me Kuchu,” “God Loves Uganda,” “Uganda’s Moonshine Epidemic,” and “Inside Uganda’s Unregulated And Overcrowded Child Orphanage Industry,” the paper applies Cudd’s definition of oppression to argue that the white savior complex is an oppressive force because the oppression that comes from the mentality is institutionally structured; causes material and psychological harm to individuals based on their membership in social groups; benefits the oppressors materially and psychologically within an institutional pattern, and exerts direct and indirect forces that violate justice. At the same time, the paper examines the role of documentary journalism in both exposing and reinforcing oppression of the white savior complex. Subsequently, the paper analyzes the cyclical effects and durability of the oppressive white savior complex in the interaction between Western nations and Uganda. Finally, the paper offers ways to address the problems of the oppressive white savior complex in Uganda counter to what makes oppression possible.


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19 Jul 2022
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  • Alternative title
    • Rising Scholar: White Savior Complex in Uganda Through Western Documentaries

  • Journal title
    • International Social Science Review

  • Volume
    • 97

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Chunhua (Sunny) Yu is a senior at the Webb Schools.