Star/poverty space: the making of the ‘development celebrity’

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In this paper, we explore this ‘celebrity praxis’ through the lens of the creation of the contemporary ‘development celebrity’ in those stars working for development writ large in the so-called Third World. Drawing on work in science studies, material cultures and the growing geo-socio-anthropologies of things, the key to understanding the material practices embedded in and creating development celebrity networks is the multiple and complex circulations of the everyday and bespectacled artefacts of celebrity. Conceptualised as the ‘celebrity–consumption–compassion complex’, the performances of development celebrities are as much about everyday events, materials, technologies, emotions and consumer acts as they are about the mediated and liquidised constructions of the stars who now ‘market’ development. This complex is constructed by and constructs what we are calling ‘star/poverty space’ that works to facilitate the ‘expertise’ and ‘authenticity’ and, thus, elevated voice and authority, of development celebrities through poverty tours, photoshoots, textual and visual diaries, websites and tweets. This trans- and inter-disciplinary paper—embedded in substantial empirical work and research with international NGOs—is designed to open up considerations of the power and politics of celebrity activists working in the realms of development, humanitarianism and diplomacy by bringing insights from human and cultural geography, the re-materialisations of culture and science studies and Latourian takes on social and material worlds; in particular it critically engages with ongoing debates in media/cultural studies in the context of celebrity politics and cultures in ways that are designed to move these debates forward in substantial and significant ways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-85
Number of pages17
JournalCelebrity Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2011


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