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Humanitarian Aid and the Impoverished Rhetoric of Celebrity Advocacy

Marouf A. Hasian, Jr.

Providing a comparative study on celebrity advocacy – from the work of Bono, George Clooney, Madonna, Greg Mortenson, and Kim Kardashian West – this book provides scholars and readers with a better understanding of some of the short-term and long-term impacts of various forms of celebrity activism.
Each chapter illustrates how the impoverished rhetoric of celebrities often privileges the voices of those in the Global North over the efforts of local NGOs who have been working for years at addressing the same humanitarian crises. Whether we are talking about the building of schools for young women in Afghanistan or the satellite surveillance of potential genocidal acts carried out in the Sudan, various forms of celebrity advocacy resonate with scholars and members of the public who want to be seen «doing something.»
The author argues that more often than not, celebrity advocacy enhances a celebrity's reputation – but hinders the efforts of those who ask us to pay attention to the historical, structural, and material causes of these humanitarian crises.
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Chapter 1. The Growing Influence of Celebrity Advocacy and the Questions Raised by 21st-Century Celebrity Humanitarianism


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There is little question that the 21st century has ushered in the age of what many have called, at different times, “celebrity advocacy,” “philanthrocapitalism,”1 “celebrity diplomacy,”2 “celebrity politics,”3 “celebrity humanitarianism,”4 “cause-related marketing,”5 or “development advocacy.”6 No wonder that Colleen O’Manique and Ronald Labonte decided to warn us that we need to be “wary of the 21st century’s new noblesse oblige that replaces the efficiency of tax-funded programs and transfers…with a consumption-driven ‘charitainment’ model.”7

However, what if changing governmental priorities in the global North and South have contributed to the promotion of this celebrity advocacy? Is it possible that a loss of public faith in governmental dispensation, and the growing regulation of developmental aid, has accompanied an incremental rise in expectations that private corporate ventures with popular celebrities can, and should, fill mythic gaps? Will celebrities, with their wealth and their connections, provide those panaceas that can help those living in the regions often characterized as the “underdeveloped” or “Third World”? Moreover, at a time when many Anglo-Americans are anxiously witnessing the rising influence of other “emerging” regional powers—including Brazil, China, and India—isn’t it time that we respect those celebrities who use their philanthrocapitalism ← 1 | 2 → for worthy U.S. or European “democratic” causes? The public hailing of the combined efforts of Hollywood celebrities, democratic leaders, UN...

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