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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 4. Three Cups of Tea, Militarized Celebrity Advocacy, and the Ideological Resonance of National Mythologies During Times of War


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In Chapter 1, I indicated that I would be raising a series of questions about the symbolic and material impacts that various types of celebrity advocacy have in concrete global contexts. Here in this chapter I study some of the key rhetorics that swirled around Greg Mortenson’s and David Oliver Relin’s book Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time (2007) (hereafter TCT). The title of the book, as Cheryl Shallenberger explains, comes from a Balti proverb: “the first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you are an honored guest. The third time you become family.”1 H.D. S. Greenway, of the Boston Globe, tried to account for the resonance of this book when he averred in 2011 that TCT “filled a deep need in the American psyche—to be, and be seen, as doing good, even in the midst of war.”2 Greenway elaborated by noting:

It was published in dozens of countries, translated into many languages, and was required reading at more than 80 universities. It was also embraced by the US military, by ambitious young officers as well as senior commanders. Building schools is an acceptable form of soft power, the hearts-and-minds-winning side of COIN, the counter-insurgency doctrine.3 ← 91 | 92 →

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