Discussion over celebrity engagement is often limited to theoretical critique or normative name-calling, without much grounded research into what it is that celebrities are doing, the same or differently throughout the world. Crucially, little attention has been paid to the Global South, either as a place where celebrities intervene into existing politics and social processes, or as the generator of Southern celebrities engaged in ‘do-gooding’. Drawing on a newly-released book, this lecture 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. My lecture will situate the overarching questions of celebrity humanitarianism within academic debates from the interdisciplinary literature on aid celebrities, the literature on celebrities and representation of “Others,” and the emerging literature on new actors and alliances in North–South relations. I argue that as celebrities (and corporations) become increasingly involved in shaping the meanings of humanitarianism, the field itself will be increasingly shifted toward the elite, the profitable and the photogenic. Yet, grounded research is needed to illustrate the impact of celebrity humanitarianism in the Global South and celebritization, participation and democratization in the donor North. By investigating one of the most mediatized and distant representations of humanitarianism (the celebrity intervention) from a perspective of contextualization, the lecture underscores the importance of context in understanding humanitarianism.

Lisa Ann Richey is Professor of International Development Studies and Director of the Doctoral School of Society and Globalisation at Roskilde University in Denmark. She served as founding Vice-President of the Global South Caucus, and Advisory Board Member of the Global Health Section, of the International Studies Association (ISA). In 2014, she was appointed by the Danish Minister of Trade and Development to represent the research sector on the Development Policy Advisory Board (Udviklingspolitisk Råd). She is the author of the books Brand Aid: Shopping Well to Save the World with Stefano Ponte (2011), Population Politics and Development: From the Policies to the Clinics (2008), the co-editor with Stefano Ponte of New Actors and Alliances in Development (2014), and editor of Celebrity Humanitarianism and North-South Relations: Politics, Place and Power (2015). She works on new actors in international aid, citizenship and body politics, and gender and the global South. She leads the Research Network on Celebrity and North-South Relations https://celebnorthsouth.wordpress.com/