Celebrity Humanitarianism

Mitchell, K. 2016. Celebrity Humanitarianism, Transnational Emotion, and the Rise of Neoliberal Citizenship. Global Networks 16, 2.

Celebrity humanitarianism is a form of advocacy for the poor and ill, primarily those populations residing in developing regions of the world. Often the celebrities attempt to galvanize support and care for these distant populations through various kinds of emotional practices, which are promoted and sustained across space through the invocation of community and the use of new social media. The articulation of community, empathy, and fan activism creates an experience of citizenship that appears to transcend national borders and enable affective relations between distant individuals and places. This paper analyzes the mechanisms of emotion in the constitution of these deterritorialized networks, including the specific practices and pastoral language through which individuals are drawn into feelings of transnational solidarity through fan groups and fan-celebrity engagement. Further, it addresses the ways in which the emotional enrollment of individuals in this vein can be read as part of a larger process of neoliberal citizenship formation and depoliticization, in which subjects are subtly directed away from state-based responses to problems of poverty and ill health and towards more individualized, enterprising, and market-mediated forms of social aid.

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