Richey, L. A., & Ponte, S.
Examining a partnership known as Kahawa Bora—a value chain development intervention (VCDI) combining a coffee corporation (Starbucks), a celebrity (Ben Affleck) and a development agency (USAID), this paper applies a value chain approach to the concept of ‘Brand Aid’ as a modality of development intervention to parse the possibilities and limitations of involving corporations and celebrities in development interventions and to address a considerable research gap on the local effects that Brand Aid partnerships have on their intended beneficiaries in the global South. Through a combination of original data, the paper finds that Kahawa Bora has attracted considerably more attention than other VCDIs, with little to show in terms of coffee supply and tangible benefits to farmers. While Brand Aid forms of VCDIs promise to ‘work aid out of business’, they actually serve the interests of business and celebrities, while their actual impact on the ground is limited and uncertain.
Richey, L. A., & Ponte, S. (2021). Brand Aid and coffee value chain development interventions: Is Starbucks working aid out of business? World Development, Volume 143.
Budabin, A. C.
How do celebrities exert power to influence elite and popular thinking and policy around peace and development? Drawing from research on neoliberalism, celebrities, and ethical consumption, I build an interpretive analysis of two case studies of Brand Aid initiatives to argue first, that celebrities mobilize financial and political capital to create partnerships across businesses, NGOs, and the government in ways that embody neoliberal politics by ushering in new private actors; and second, that celebrities reinforce these neoliberal politics by promoting these partnerships to popular and elite audiences. I discuss how this paper contributes to unmasking neoliberal trends by showing how celebrities are deepening their engagement in ways that hold implications for democratic politics.
Budabin, A. C. (2020) “Caffeinated Solutions as Neoliberal Politics: How Celebrities Create and Promote Partnerships for Peace and Development.” Perspectives on Politics. 18:1: 60-75.
Richey, L.A. and Brockington, D.
In response to the increasing academic interest and work on celebrity humanitarianism across disconnected disciplines, the paper argues that celebrity humanitarianism must be interpreted through the broader systems of which it is a part. The paper offers a heuristic typology of celebrity humanitarianism that continues to bridge between different disciplines and which identifies ways in which political science can complement existing studies. This typology is also used to refocus work on the politics of celebrity humanitarian relations away from merely Northern politics. This approach allows the paper to identify what sorts of politics and political solutions are being advocated by current forms of celebrity humanitarianism.
Richey, L.A. and Brockington, D. (2019) “Celebrity Humanitarianism: Using Tropes of Engagement to Understand North-South Relations”. Perspectives on Politics, 18(1): 43-59.
Richey, L. A.
‘Helping’ distant others through ‘Brand Aid’ humanitarianism may be one of the most successful dissociational branding practices of all. This short commentary draws on the dissociational framework to reconsider the concept of ‘brand aid’ as a link between ethical consumption, international development, and the commodification of humanitarianism, arguing that humanitarian ‘helping’ itself can become a branded commodity. In brand aid, the ‘ethical’ action proposed by a consumption choice triggers the ‘helping’ of distant and disengaged Others. This results in reshaping the real or imagined ethical obligations across networks of solidarity, where dissociational symbolic value moves from consumption back to production and is deflected onto suffering Others. In these chains of value, the conditions of production become eclipsed by the halo of helping through consumption.
Richey, L. A. (2019) “Eclipsed by the Halo: ‘Helping’ Brands through Dissociation”. Dialogues in Human Geography, 9 (1): 78–82.
Budabin, A.C., & Richey, L.A.
Global celebrities are increasingly important in human rights--promoting causes, raising awareness, and interacting with decision-makers—as communicators to mass and elite audiences. Deepening the literature on transnational advocacy and North-South relations, this article argues that celebrities shape human rights narratives by selecting issues and interacting with dominant framings. This hypothesis is tested through a discourse analysis of professional entertainer Ben Affleck’s spoken and written texts along with organizational materials covering the establishment of the Eastern Congo Initiative. The study explains how the ability for celebrities to contend with narratives reflects elite practices in human rights advocacy.
Budabin, A.C., & Richey, L.A. (2018) “Advocacy Narratives and Celebrity Engagement: The Case of Ben Affleck in Congo.” Human Rights Quarterly. Volume 40. Number 2: 260-286.
This Special Issue introduces the concept of “Everyday Humanitarianism” for understanding an expanded series of practices in the lives of citizens that purport to make a difference outside the traditional boundaries of professional humanitarian activity. The term can also refer to the quotidian practices of humanitarian workers as they negotiate within the boundaries of formal structures. Everyday humanitarianism can be found in shopping malls and International Organizations alike, and the struggles over its ethics and politics are consistent. Key questions arise: What does helping look like in the age of market-driven, digital media-based action? What are the implications of such practices for the ethics and politics of contemporary compassion? The contributions to this Special Issue examine everyday humanitarianism and provide unconventional, interdisciplinary approaches to understanding selected aspects of this civic and organizational benevolence.
Richey, L.A. (2018) “Conceptualizing Everyday Humanitarianism: Ethics, Affects and Practices of Contemporary Global Helping,” New Political Science, 40 (4): 625-639.
Budabin, A. C., Rasmussen, L. M., & Richey, L. A.
This article explores how such organisations earn legitimacy with a focus on Madonna’s Raising Malawi and Ben Affleck’s Eastern Congo Initiative. The study draws from organisational materials, interviews, mainstream news coverage, and the texts of the celebrities themselves to investigate the construction of authenticity, credibility, and accountability. We find these organisations earn legitimacy and flourish rapidly amid supportive elite networks for funding, endorsements, and expertise. We argue that the ways in which celebrity-led organisations establish themselves as legitimate development actors illustrate broader dynamics of the machinery of development.
Budabin, A. C., Rasmussen, L. M., & Richey, L. A. (2017). “Celebrity-led development organisations: the legitimating function of elite engagement.” Third World Quarterly. Volume 38, Issue 9: 1952-1972.
Richey, L.A. & Budabin, A. C.
As part of Celebrity Humanitarianism and North-South Relations: Politics, Place and Power the chapter considers Hollywood actor and director Ben Affleck as a celebrity humanitarian by examining the organization he created, the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI). It analyses the celebrity humanitarianism in US elite politics in relevant literature around celebrity advocacy, the post-democratic context, and the US political environment. Further, it explores ECI's dual objectives around US advocacy and grant-making in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in order to understand how celebrity humanitarianism mediates elite politics across the Global North and South. The chapter, finally, addresses how celebrity-led NGOs are emblematic of post-democratic politics and why this matters for humanitarianism.
“Ben Affleck Goes to Washington: Celebrity Advocacy, Access, and Influence.” (2016) Richey, L.A. & Budabin, A. C. In Celebrity Humanitarianism and North-South Relations: Politics, Place and Power. Edited by Lisa Ann Richey (Oxford: Routledge), 131-148.
“Celebritizing Conflict: How Ben Affleck Sells the Congo
in Humanity To Americans" (2016)
Richey, L.A. and A. Budabin
Using emerging literature on celebrities in north-south relations, the article 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.
Richey, L.A. & Budabin, A. C. (2016) “Celebritizing Conflict: How Ben Affleck Sells the Congo to Americans.” Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development. Volume 7, Issue 1: 27-46. Special collection on “Humanitarianism and Human Rights: Conceptualizing Development, Security, and Justice in Africa” edited by Amal Fadlalla.
Richey, L. A., & Ponte, S.
A book that offers a critical account of the rise of celebrity-driven “compassionate consumption”. Co-founded by the rock star Bono in 2006, Product RED exemplifies a new trend in celebrity-driven international aid and development, one explicitly linked to commerce, not philanthropy. Brand Aid offers a deeply informed and stinging critique of “compassionate consumption,” arguing that such campaigns advance the expansion of consumption far more than they meet the needs of the people they ostensibly serve.
Richey, L. A., & Ponte, S. (2011). Brand aid shopping well to save the world. University of Minnesota Press.
Richey, L. A., & Ponte, S.
With a focus on Product (RED), the paper argues 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.
Ponte, S. and L.A. Richey (2011) “Product (RED): How celebrities push the boundaries of ‘causumerism’” special issue on 'The (new) borders of consumption', edited by Dwijen Rangnekar and John Wilkinson. Environment and Planning A. 43(786): 2060-2075.