selected publications

"This is a landmark collection. Genuinely interdisciplinary, blending empirical study with theoretical analysis, and featuring global case studies from a wide range of perspectives, it pushes debates on the impact of celebrity ‘humanitarian helping’ forward significantly, considerably advancing our understanding of the role of celebrity intervention in contemporary global inequalities." 

–Jo Littler, City University London, UK


Celebrity Humanitarianism and North-South Relations: Politics, Place
and Power
New York and Milton Park, UK: Routledge. (2015)

This book examines what the diverse roster of celebrity humanitarians are actually doing in and across North and South contexts. Celebrity humanitarianism is an effective lens for viewing the multiple and diverse relationships that constitute the links between North and South. New empirical findings on celebrity humanitarianism on the ground in Thailand, Malawi, Bangladesh, South Africa, China, Haiti, Congo, US, Denmark and Australia illustrate the impact of celebrity humanitarianism in the Global South and celebritization, participation and democratization in the donor North.


humanitarianismcelebrityinternational affairsNorth-South relationsdevelopmentNGOsmediaThird Worldaid practiceselite politics

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

This article, using emerging literature on celebrities in north-south relations, analyzes the celebrity discourses and practices of professional entertainer Ben Affleck and his engagement in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in order to understand how celebrities intersect with and popularize representations of poverty, conflict, and development in Africa.


humanitarianism, celebrity, north-south relations, narratives, conflict, development, poverty, NGOs

'Lisa Ann Richey has written a highly engaging and thoroughly researched account of population politics in Tanzania. Based on extensive fieldwork in three regions of the country, Richey provides an insightful feminist critique of global population discourse and local family planning practice. Population Politics and Development should be read by anyone interested in the history of global population policy and in the ways it shapes African women's lives'.

 - Frances Vavrus, Associate Professor of International and Transcultural Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University, USA

Population Politics and Development: From the Policies to the Clinics. New
York and London: Palgrave MacMillan; paperback stakeholder version (2010) Uganda: Fountain
Publishers. (2008)

This book uses political and socio-anthropological theory to examine the relationship between power, interest, and agency within population and family planning discourse across Africa, with particular emphasis on case studies from Tanzania.

”Brand Aid and the International Political Economy and
Sociology of North-South Relations”
International Political Sociology 7(1): 92-113.Richey, L.A. and S. Ponte (2013)

In Brand Aid, branded products are sold to “ethical” consumer/citizens through celebrities who link them to worthy causes in developing countries. Brand Aid is “aid to brands” because it helps sell products and improve a brand's ethical profile and value. It is also “brands that provide aid” because a proportion of the profit or sales is devoted to helping “distant others.” Brand Aid reconfigures images and representations of the legitimate role of business, civil society, and the state (and their overlaps) in North–South relations in ways that are not easily situated between “exploitation” and “development.”

“Counseling Citizens and Producing Patronage: AIDS Treatment in South
African and Ugandan Clinics”
Development and Change 43(4): 823-845 (lead article).Richey, L.A. (2012)

During the treatment decade of rolling out antiretroviral drugs in African clinics, new social meanings have been created, and they link local people living with HIV/AIDS to Western communities in new ways. The health of African “others” has taken a central, new, and perhaps quasi-religious role in Western societies. Working on behalf of humanitarian organizations to combat modern emergencies is the contemporary embodiment of an ideal, pure notion of “the good” that is not linked to “old religion” but mimics many of its dispositions and practices.


This analysis is based on empirical data gathered during fieldwork as participants and observers in a Catholic AIDS treatment clinic and through interviews with service providers in Uganda. We use these data to think both creatively and systematically about the meanings and limitations of pastoral power and therapeutic citizenship.


HIV/AIDSAfricaARV treatmentreligionhumanitarianismUganda

“Product (RED): How celebrities push the boundaries of
special issue on The (new) borders of consumption;, edited by Dwijen Rangnekar & John Wilkinson. Environment and Planning A. 43(786): 2060-2075.Ponte, S. and L.A. Richey (2011)

We argue that celebrity validation, backed up by iconic brands, facilitates at least three shifts in the realm of causumerism: from ‘conscious consumption’ (mainly based on product-related information) to ‘compassionate consumption’ (mainly based on the management of consumer affect); from attention to the product and its production process toward the medical treatment of the ‘people with the problem’ (AIDS patients in Africa); and from addressing the causes of problems to solving their manifestations.

“Science, Denial and Politics: Boundary Work; in the Provision of AIDS
Treatment in South Africa.”
New Political Science 30(1):
1-21 (lead article).Richey, L.A. (2008)

Political debates over HIV/AIDS in South Africa have boundaries demarcated by science. South Africa probably has more than five million people living with HIV/AIDS—the highest number of any country in the world. It also hosts the world's largest program for providing antiretrovirals (ARVs). Yet the national government is notorious for its lack of leadership on AIDS issues and for its president's questioning of the link between HIV and AIDS, accusing scientists of racism and describing ARVs as poison. South Africa constitutes the most well-known successes and failures in AIDS treatment, but the relationship between them is in need of scrutiny.


In this article, I will use primary data collected during a vertical study in the Western Cape Province to analyze the political boundaries that transverse the AIDS treatment discourse from national to provincial and clinic levels. This article argues that boundary work in the AIDS treatment discourse is still concerned with defining what counts as science. The national vs. regional political context helps in constructing the Western Cape as the one that embraces “science” while the rest of the country lags behind in the ARV roll-out. This boundary struggle between science and politics shapes debate and implementation of the country's treatment program for people living with AIDS.

"Darwin's Nightmare": A Critical Assessment;
Review of African Political Economy 113: 591-608.Molony T, Richey, L.A. and S. Ponte (2007)

‘Darwin’s Nightmare’ is a documentary film about the Nile perch fishing industry around Lake Victoria in Tanzania. Since its release in 2004, it continues to generate accolades and criticisms that fall outside of conventional ideological boundaries favoured by globalisation’s fans and its



We argue here that such a totalising vision of Tanzania, Africa and international development reduces gender relations, sexuality, socio-economic change, homelessness, poverty and complicated vectors of disease transmission into stale tropes associated with Afro-pessimism. We contend that ‘Darwin’s Nightmare’ is an ethically dubious piece of journalism that exploits the power imbalances it claims to critique.

“From the Policies to the Clinics: The Reproductive Health Paradox in Post-
Adjustment Health Care.”
World Development 32 (6): 923-940.Richey, L.A. (2004)

The agenda of "women's reproductive health" expands the scope of population interventions to embrace a wide array of concerns centered on reducing morbidity and mortality. This eclectic agenda has been heralded as a step forward, but now, economic crises and their solutions have led to debilitation in the post-adjustment health sector, presenting formidable obstacles to successful implementation of the reproductive health agenda.


This article examines the links between the global population discourse, national health policy and the realities that confront women who seek services in local clinics. The case study of Tanzania exemplifies a reproductive health paradox: fertility is declining, yet so is access to basic reproductive health care. This paradox calls for a reassessment of the relationship between vertical donor-reliant development programs and health systems in developing countries. 


Research Report, Case Studies,

Women, Reproductive HealthMaternal Health Services, Population Programs, Program Accessibility, Developing Countries, Studies, Research MethodologyDemographic Factors, Population, Health, Maternal-Child Health Services, Primary Health Care, Health Services, Delivery of Health Care, Population Control

“Celebrities in International Affairs”. Oxford Handbooks in
Politics, Oxford, UK
Richey, L.A. and A. Budabin (2016)

Celebrity engagement in global “helping” is not a simple matter of highly photogenic caring for needy others across borders; it is a complex relationship of power that often produces contradictory functions in relation to the goals of humanitarianism, development, and advocacy. This article argues that celebrities are acting as other elite actors in international affairs: investing considerable capital into processes that are highly political.


It traces the emergence and practices of the elite politics of celebrities in North-South relations, an evolution made possible by recent changes in aid practices, media, and NGOs, then considers exemplary cases of Angelina Jolie in Burma, Ben Affleck in the Democractic Republic of Congo, and Madonna in Malawi. These celebrity practices as diplomats, experts, and humanitarians in international affairs illustrate the diverse and contradictory forms of engagement by celebrity “helpers” in North-South relations.


humanitarianismcelebrityinternational affairsNorth-South relationsdevelopmentNGOsmediaThird Worldaid practiceselite politics

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