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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 6. “Angelina Touched Our Souls”: The Mixed Reception of Angelina Jolie’s In the Land of Blood and Honey and the Quest for Justice for Rape Victims

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“ANGELINA TOUCHED OUR SOULS”: THE MIXED RECEPTION OF ANGELINA JOLIE’S IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY AND THE QUEST FOR JUSTICE FOR RAPE VICTIMS

What are we to make of rhetorical situations where well-intentioned celebrities try to raise consciousness about an important cause but do so in ways that depend on the usage of essentialist, ethnonationalistic, and bifurcated ways of thinking about the predatory “other”? I invite readers to take a nuanced look at the way that Angelina Jolie has tried to use her 2011 movie In the Land of Blood and Honey as a vehicle for acknowledging the traumatizing of tens of thousands of “Bosnian” women and as an “authentic” filmic text that might help with the provision of postconflict social justice. For example, in the postscript, before the ending credits are viewed in Blood and Honey, we are told that during the Bosnian conflicts “as many as fifty thousand Bosnian women were raped.”1 Jolie’s film was clearly meant to be a didactic film about how to remember this conflict.

Blood and Honey was Jolie’s directorial debut, and it is fair to argue that it was a movie produced and circulated by those who try to use a love story to help contextualize the abuses in the former Yugoslavia between 1992 and 1995. Jolie is said to have spent almost two years making the film as writer, producer, and director. She was credited with having shot...

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