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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 7. Kim Kardashian, “Fame for the Forgotten,” and Transmediated Remembrances of the Armenian Genocide


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In many ways it could be argued that celebrities occasionally have been key players in attempts to raise consciousness about the Armenian genocide. For example, in 1919, Oscar Apfel directed an American film entitled Ravished Armenia for First National Pictures. The movie was based on the autobiographical book by Arshaluys (Aurora) Mardiganian, and Mardiganian played herself in the film. When it was screened in London, the film was called “Auction of Souls,” but for New York performances the silent film was retitled Ravished Armenia.

Grace Carley Harriman and Mrs. George Vanderbilt were some of the society leaders who were there to see Mardiganian’s first performance in New York, and the film and the conversations about the movie were used to help collect money for the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief.1

Those who crafted the narrative arc of Ravished Armenia used a politics of pity that showed the trials and tribulations of sixteen young Armenian women who were “crucified” by the antagonists in the film, their Turkish oppressors. Many years later Mardiganian explained that the actual impalements of these women were worse than the sanitized versions that appeared on the screen,2 but what Hollywood could display was enough to move those who felt they had to do something for the Armenian cause. For decades, many ← 181 | 182 → Anglo-Americans regarded Mardiganian as the...

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