Journalism & Advocacy
Find below a selection of my work in blogs, newspapers, podcasts and magazines
'Why the Danish Parliament’s Statement on ’Politics Dressed as Science’ Scares Me
In response to the Danish Parliament's adoption of a position that aims to prevent 'politics disguised as science' that it voted on the 1st of June 2021, together with a group of Danish researchers we organized organized a petition to support academic freedom in Denmark. 8th of June Politiken published the open letter in which 3241 researchers across Danish universities signed a statement that calls for Danish government to reconsider the position and for the academic community to collectively defend the the integrity of academic knowledge production and its procedures of ensuring quality and room for critical and diverse thinking. You can further show your support through the petition here.
As part of the debate, I further wrote an op-ed in Danish newspaper Berlingske, titled "Why the Danish Parliament’s Statement on ’Politics Dressed as Science’ Scares Me".
In case of a paywall, the op-ed can be accessed here in Danish or in English.
"When Danish politicians threaten the freedom of academic research, I am concerned because I have seen how the politicization of what ’counts’ as knowledge has affected my friends and colleagues in Anglo-academia breeding an illiberal culture of fear and self-censorship. I am one of the initiators of the petition to support freedom of research in Denmark because, as a political scientist, I believe that science is always political, but need not be politicized." Lisa Ann Richey
Another article in Politiken covering the discussion and responses can be found here.
'Sexism in Danish Universities' initiative - My voice: Statements from the initiators
In September 2020, Mie Plotnikof and Sara Louise Muhr conceived the initiative ’Sexism in Danish Higher Education and Research’. I, together with 13 researchers joined them in issuing an open invitation for researchers to sign, if they had experienced sexist behaviour in Danish academia first hand, witnessed it or known of it happening – as well as sharing anonymous examples of such behaviour. Our petition collected 689 signatures from researchers across Danish academic institutions, as well as witnessed the arrival of over 800 anonymous accounts of sexist and discriminatory behaviour within Danish academia.
Our initiative gained nationwide attention in October last year, landing on the front page of Politiken, one of the largest Danish newspapers. The initiative was further covered by diverse Danish media outlets and university newspapers. Honoring those who shared their personal stories of sexism, the initiative has now expanded to an educational website and an upcoming book on ‘Sexism in Danish Higher Education and Research’ by Anna Franciska Einersen, Jo Krøjer, Sara Louise Muhr, Ana Maria Munar, Eva Sophia Myers & Mie Plotnikof.
In my statement on the website, I highlight why I feel this intervention is critical and how we can begin to change the status quo:
"These are real problems that require intersectional feminism as a broad-coalition of people of all genders, classes and races who join with the immodest ambition of dismantling patriarchy".
I'm proud to be one of the initiators along with Christa Amhøj, Hanne Andersen, Anja C. Andersen, Lene Bull Christiansen, Ning de Coninck-Smith, Mia Husted, Tine Jess, Jo Krøjer, Sorcha MacLeod, Sara Louise Muhr, Ana Maria Munar, Eva Sophia Myers, Mette Lykke Nielsen, Mie Plotnikof and Sofie Sauzet.
POLITIKEN Open Letter: Politicians should treat the climate crisis as seriously as Covid-19
"The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that Danish politicians have the tools to deal effectively with a crisis posing great risks for its citizens. Simultaneously, the same politicians treat the climate crisis as if its risks are far less significant. Denmark’s people are entitled to know why. Therefore, we ask the government to explain why it hesitates to use all of the means available to limit the crisis of climate change"
Our collaborative initiative has succeeded in collecting over 700 signatures from across Danish academia. An open letter by us, a group of Danish researchers, was published on the subject in the leading Danish daily newspaper Politiken.
Find the publication in Danish here or have a look at the online version. For English speakers a translation can be found here.
To support this initiative please consider signing the open letter.
AidEx - Interview with Dr. Lisa Ann Richey: Can Humanitarian causes be both marketable and ethical?
I had the opportunity to speak with AidEx about the ethics of Brand Aid. In this interview I shared my perspectives on the issue of Commodifying Compassion, role of celebrities in advocating for good causes and reflected on the question of how we as consumers and citizens can think critically about the promises of Brand Aid and "win-for-all" products or services. I also touch on what corporations and consumers could do to ensure their good causes are being supported, instead of shopping at global retail chains.
Read the full blog post here.
‘Not every time is the right time for real-time marketing’: Branding in the COVID-19 pandemic
Maha Rafi Atal & Lisa Ann Richey, 2020
"As the global Covid-19 pandemic spread through Europe and North America, companies raced to communicate how they were responding to the crisis. Advertising that focuses on a company’s response to humanitarian crises is hardly new. Every holiday season features a parade of brands touting their seasonal partnerships with charitable causes. Yet these exercises in “Covid-branding” struck a particular nerve with both consumers and media commentators because so many of the brands stuck to the same script. Quickly that script even became the subject of satire."
The article reflects on Covid-branding and the the role that private sector has to play in humanitarian response during the pandemic
The blog post can be found here. Also, the full briefing is available. We also discussed this in an internal podcast episode.
Covid-19 Diaries: Perspectives from Denmark, Italy and Tanzania
Global Public Health - Covid-19 Diaries
Lisa Ann Richey, 2020
In these blog posts in the Global Public Health blog, I reflect on the professional, intellectual, political and somewhat personal of the corona virus when travelling between Dar es Salaam, Venice and Copenhagen in early spring. The posts touch on the Danish corona flag, empty Venice and Ivrea's carnival - looking back at the time when those of us in Copenhagen still blissfully thought we might remain immune to its impacts.
Commentary: Advertising in the pandemic: How companies used COVID as a marketing tool
Maha Rafi Atal & Lisa Ann Richey, 2021
With advertisement narratives to “provide relief to our neighbours” through supporting corporate giants or to treat ourselves on our pandemic “staycation” with a bikini purchase, we have been convinced to believe our consumption can play an important role in combatting the negative effects of COVID. In our article for the Conversation, Maha and I point to some of the main findings of our research about COVID marketing – suggesting that not every time is the right time for advertising. The article brings forth the three main narratives that corporations use to shape how the consumers view the pandemic and the companies’ solutions to the crisis, with little consideration to the wider societal issues caused by the pandemic. We argue that through these narratives, consumption is yet again framed as a way of helping, encouraging the public to consume their way out of the pandemic - and feel great about it!
You can find the Conversation article here. The research article that the commentary is based on Commodifying COVID-19: Humanitarian Communication at the Onset of a Global Pandemic was published in New Political Science.
BRAND AID & CELEBRITY HUMANITARIANISM
Selling fencing as freedom | Africa is a Country
What happens when companies start to sell the idea of a frictionless consumption that helps people at the same time? In this piece of creative academic writing in the blog "Africa is a Country", I describe the intertwining of my Commodifying Compassion Research Project with my Saturday market shopping in Stellenbosch. The short essay tells the story of my encounter with "The Legacy Collection", exploring the politics of this jewellery collection constructed from pieces of fencing from Robben Island.
No, Batman didn’t save the Congo: and other book reviews | The Washington Post
Reviewing three new books that "set the record straight" on the Democratic Republic of Congo for the Washington Post, Laura Seay describes Batman Saves the Congo as "thoroughly researched and often laugh-out-loud funny". She finds the book to be a critically important look into celebrity humanitarianism - the growing and frequently under-examined segment of the aid industry.
Podcast: Batman Saves the Congo | New Books in Political Science
In this interview with the New Book Network and Lamis Abdelaaty I dive into how the idea for our book Batman Saves the Congo, with Alexandra Cosima Budabin came to be, its findings, methodology and the wider implications of our work - and how the study of Batman and ECI tells us more about the humanitarian world today.
Listen to the full podcast interview here.
Is the Activist Economy good for social change? | The Stream, Al Jazeera
Together with Labour Rights Activist and CEO of Remake Ayesha Barenblat and Human Rights Activist Kumi Naidoo, I joined in a conversation on The Stream in Al Jazeera on celebrity activism and humanitarianism.
Pointing out the challenges that social movements face in garnering support and gaining publicity in today's media climate and the industry of celebrity humanitarianism, the speakers ponder on the crucial balance and context in which celebrity humanitarianism can be beneficial, or even necessary. However, recognizing the increasing emergence of celebrity activism as a business strategy, they point out the dangers in the commodification of compassion. Using the specific cases of e.g. pinkwashing and Ben Affleck's involvement, the discussants share their expertise and perspectives on current trends of commercialization of social justice activism and ask the necessary question: Who is it really helping?
Commentary: ‘The Activist’ reality TV show sparked furor, but treating causes as commodities with help from celebrities happens all the time
After having faced strong criticism, Global Citizen’s new reality TV series “The Activist”, has issued public apologies and announced its change in format. In their article for the Conversation, Alex and I touched on this recent backlash, explaining that celebrity activism is nothing new, and has been acting as a significant disruptor in the field of humanitarianism for years. Indeed, we point out that celebrity activism often ends up supporting the celebrities and brands more than the actual cause: “Even as a canceled TV show, “The Activist,” is destined to spotlight the unaccountable power stars possess, far more than the causes than it’s supposed to be about.” Read the full article here.
Interview: Brand Aid and metal bands, Sort Søndag
In this short interview with Sort Søndag, I discuss brand aid and celebrity marketing in a new context, metal bands. I briefly touch on why such bands might be like to connect themselves to certain causes, and what impacts such branding attempts might have.
You can listen to the Sort Søndag, #500 Gojira special episode here, in which my interview begins around 01:44.00
HuffPost Opinion: There Are Better Ways To Fight Poverty Than Giving Money to Corporations
Sullivan & Richey, 2018
This opinion piece by me and Noel Sullivan touches on the problems of consumption-based humanitarianism.
"But the Red Nose Day campaign is emblematic of a prevalent yet incredibly problematic approach to philanthropy and humanitarianism: If we consume junk with no discernable use, we’ll help others we’ll never see while we continue to enjoy, and not question, our own privilege."
In this article we show what the issues of encouraging consumption to support a cause are, how we as consumers can make more informed choices to support the issues that matter to us and argue for the need of more engagement by governments and economies, to ensure that there would be no need for Brand Aid or Celebrity Humanitarianism.
Interview: Comic Relief and the 'power' of Celebrities
Around the yearly Red Nose Day me and Dan Brockington were interviewed on the role that celebrities play in the in humanitarian aid and development, focusing on the aforementioned special annual event organized by Comic Relief. In the interview we focus on the use of celebrities and consumer goods in fundraising events.
"Brand Aid sucks consumers into believing that their choices make them a hero, saves Africans and is a form of ethical consumption, when in reality ‘It is a luxury consumption purchase that is being marketed to you in a way that threatens to distract you from thinking about other important factors... The illusive oversimplification of solutions to poverty and world-hunger through product-consumption alone is harmful as it reduces meaningful engagement in issues"
Read the article written based on the interview here (2019).
Commentary: Citizen Consumer - Labeling systems are critical to the future of ethical consumption
Richey & Ponte, 2011
In our response to Dara O'Rourke's opening in Boston Review on the role of consumers in transforming global production we highlight three main points: First, we emphasize the role that governments play in global consumption through regulation and state interventions. Second, we point out the improvements in consumption trends and increased consumer willingness to consumer more responsibly. Lastly, we point out the shortcomings of "ethical consumption" and "brand aid" approaches to doing good and argue that labeling systems are critical to the future of ethical production and consumption.
Find the full commentary here.
ON WHITENESS IN ACADEMIA AND BEYOND
Commentary: Imagining Africa as the Market for Profiting from Whiteness Richey, 2019
This piece is a commentary for the academic blog The Disorder of Things that I wrote as part of a symposium on Clive Gabay’s Imagining Africa: Whiteness and the Western Gaze (2018) where the researchers Lisa Tilley, Toussaint Nothias and Gabay, the author himself, also contributed. In my commentary I engage with the book's themes of Whiteness, Afropolitanism and the international relations of Africa.
The commentary and the rest of the symposium can be read here.
Can ‘humanitarian humour’ and satire improve the images that volunteer-tourists upload on social media?
In a recent post on The Humanitarian News Research Network website, Carolina Are presents main points from a research article by me and Kaylan C. Schwarz: Humanitarian humor, digilantism, and the dilemmas of representing volunteer tourism on social media (2019). The post features visuals from the online campaigns described in the research article such as "Humanitarians of Tinder" and "Barbie Saviour".
The blog post can be read here.