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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 3. Madonna, Malawi, and the Role Celebrity Advocacy Plays in 21st-Century Adoption and Children’s Rights Controversies


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Many social scientists and humanists have noted over the years that representations of children have played major roles in the ways that we evaluate the activities of both celebrities and humanitarian rights movements. This is especially the case when fans of celebrities or members of international publics begin to associate the tensions and the politics involved in transnational or transracial adoptions with certain celebrities who enter mass-mediated spotlights. As Raka Shome recently observed in her book Diana and Beyond:

It has become today part of a larger media archive that utilizes the figure of the white mother and ethnic international child to stage visions of a racialized cosmopolitanism. Today, we are bombarded with images of white women adopting international babies, or becoming “good will” charity ambassadors. Whether Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Mia Farrow, Audrey Hepburn, Demi Moore, Susan Sarandon, or others, it has become quite commonplace to see celebrity white women becoming positioned as transnational caretakers.1

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