top of page

Celebrity humanitarianism and North-South Relations:politics, place and power

Book cover of Celebrity Humanitarianism and North-South relations edited by Lisa Ann Richey

I would like to suggest that the visual motifs of fundraising by international humanitarian organizations and their celebrity humanitarians appear across contemporary media.  We see duplicates-- pose by pose– of many of the images we have of humanitarian helping from the diverse studies of Northern and Southern celebrities documented in this book with chapters by my colleagues on celebrity humanitarianism.  These celebrities actually embody the commodification of our compassion– they transmit through their carefully crafted performances, the feelings we are seeking.


Because we do not have sufficient competing discourses,  the scripts for how to engage as a ’helper’ have been staged and enacted by global and local celebrities whose popular appeal does not lead to more democratic practices of humanitarianism or development.  In fact, the meaning of celebrity humanitariianism  is entwined in elite, not popular politics. Celebrity humanitarianism is becoming ever important in the contemporary context of post-democratic politics, as my colleague Dan Brockington argued.


In this book I worked with colleagues, 8 of whom are Africanists, to provide a critical investigation into what celebrity humanitarianism in North–South relations suggests for contemporary configurations of politics, place and power. We examine politics to understand how values are linked with authority in global constellations of humanitarian helping, and in local recipient environments. We investigate the importance of place and context, and each chapter presents new empirical findings on celebrity humanitarianism on the ground. Celebrity interventions provide an empirical focus point for studying the relations of power that may be reproduced or disputed from one context to another. Disputing and disrupting power is central to a process of decolonisation.

Selected publications

Richey, L.A. and Christiansen, L.B. (2018) “Afropolitanism, Celebrity Politics and Iconic Imaginations of North-South Relations” African Affairs.


Budabin, A.C. and L.A. Richey (forthcoming 2018). “Conflict Discourses and Celebrity Engagement: the Case of Ben Affleck in Congo” Human Rights Quarterly.


Budabin, A.C., Rasmussen, L.M., and L.A. Richey (2017). “Celebrity-led development organisations the legitimating function of elite engagement” Third World Quarterly. 38(9): 1952-1972.


Richey, L.A. (2016) “Tinder Humanitarians’: the moral panic around representations of old relationships in new media” Javnost-the Public. 23 (4): 398-414.


Richey, L.A. and A. Budabin (2016) “Celebritizing Conflict: How Ben Affleck Sells the Congo to Americans” Humanity. 7(1): 27-46.


Christiansen, L.B. and Richey, L.A. (2015) “Celebrity-black: The meanings of race and performances of aid celebrity outside the mainstream Hollywood-UK circuit” Celebrity Studies 6(4): 1-14.

Angelina Jolie photographed UN Photo/Mark Garten

Bono with former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Photograph produced by Agência Brasil

bottom of page