Celebrity Humanitarianism: Using Tropes of Engagement to Understand North/South Relations

Celebrity Humanitarianism: Using Tropes of Engagement to Understand North/South Relations

by Lisa Ann Richey Duke University and  Dan BrockingtonUniversity of Sheffield 

Celebrity humanitarianism has been transformed in its scope, scale, and organization in the last thirty years. Its flourishing has generated considerable academic interest from a wide variety of disciplines that share two characteristics. First, these studies are—unusually—well connected, which means that different disciplines have not tended to develop their own separate literatures, but learn from each other’s approaches. This makes it useful and important to identify ways different disciplinary approaches can complement each other. Second, most of this attention has focused on politics of celebrity humanitarianism in the global North. Yet focusing also on the South and on North/South relations will move the field forward. We argue that celebrity humanitarianism must be interpreted through the broader systems of which it is a part. We offer a heuristic typology of celebrity humanitarianism that continues to bridge between different disciplines and which identifies ways in which political science can complement existing studies. We also use this typology to refocus work on the politics of celebrity humanitarian relations away from merely Northern politics. This approach allows us to identify what sorts of politics and political solutions are being advocated by current forms of celebrity humanitarianism.

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