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Humanitarian Dispossession: Celebrity Activism and the Fragment-Nation of the Sudan

Humanitarian Dispossession: Celebrity Activism and the Fragment-Nation of the Sudan Abstract: This paper examines U.S. actor George Clooney’s activism on the Sudan to show how the intersection of human rights and humanitarian politics constructs a grand narrative of rescue and salvation that is both potentially positive and problematic. In the case of Africa in general, and the Sudan in particular, celebrity activism produces subaltern actors whose voices are submerged in the fragmented stories of suffering and salvation presented by humanitarian outsiders. I show how this master narrative overshadows the post-Cold War politics and confrontation among different national and transnational actors. To highlight this point, I demonstrate how Clooney’s activism counters the rescue vision of the Sudanese Islamist regime, with both narratives celebrating transnationality on different moral grounds. While Clooney’s activism employs a salvation narrative rooted in human rights and humanitarian practices, the Islamist state’s narrative envisions regional alliances based on pan-Islamism. The two narratives however work through the assimilation and/or exclusion of other political visions and strategies of struggle. I take Clooney’s celebrity activism as an entry point to examine these complex dynamics: to explore the historical and neoliberal contexts that produce the clashing narratives of Islamism and humanitarianism, the limited effects of humanitarian visibilities, and the counter-narratives of Sudanese activists. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development University of Pennsylvania Press

Humanitarian Dispossession: Celebrity Activism and the Fragment-Nation of the Sudan

Humanitarian Dispossession: Celebrity Activism and the Fragment-Nation of the Sudan


Amal Hassan Fadlalla On March 8, 2012, Oxfam America invited seventy ``women leaders'' to spend International Women's Day on Capitol Hill to celebrate the organization's activism initiative ``Sisterhood on the Planet.'' A diverse group of influential women, including politicians, faith-based activists, and celebrities, answered the invitation to promote President Barack Obama's global ``Feed the Future'' initiative, which assists women farmers in establishing land ownership and control over food resources. The summit also highlighted the achievements of two women in particular: Kristin Davis, one of Oxfam's global ambassadors and an actress known for her role as Charlotte York Goldenblatt in the television series Sex and the City; and Anna Oloshuro Okaro, a Maasai woman from Tanzania who battled social restrictions and fought for women's rights to own land and livestock (fig. 1). During the summit, cameras turned to Davis as she explained her work with women farmers in Tanzania and her efforts to support their cause. She burst into tears as she talked about how her experience gave her life a different meaning and made her a better person. To be sure, by employing her celebrity image, Davis has helped to increase the likelihood that the world and policymakers will pay attention to an important case. On the other hand, Anna Oloshuro Okaro was given far less media attention, even though Oxfam sought to honor the achievements of both women. Anna's presentation emphasized the significant lobbying efforts of Oxfam and its global ambassadors to eradicate poverty and empower women farmers. Oxfam's summit was not the only event that publicized advocacy efforts in March 2012. A few days later, as part of the commemoration of International Women's Day, Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton celebrated the activism and human rights advocacy of ten women who have had significant impact...
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University of Pennsylvania Press
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Copyright © University of Pennsylvania Press
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2151-4372
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Abstract

Abstract: This paper examines U.S. actor George Clooney’s activism on the Sudan to show how the intersection of human rights and humanitarian politics constructs a grand narrative of rescue and salvation that is both potentially positive and problematic. In the case of Africa in general, and the Sudan in particular, celebrity activism produces subaltern actors whose voices are submerged in the fragmented stories of suffering and salvation presented by humanitarian outsiders. I show how this master narrative overshadows the post-Cold War politics and confrontation among different national and transnational actors. To highlight this point, I demonstrate how Clooney’s activism counters the rescue vision of the Sudanese Islamist regime, with both narratives celebrating transnationality on different moral grounds. While Clooney’s activism employs a salvation narrative rooted in human rights and humanitarian practices, the Islamist state’s narrative envisions regional alliances based on pan-Islamism. The two narratives however work through the assimilation and/or exclusion of other political visions and strategies of struggle. I take Clooney’s celebrity activism as an entry point to examine these complex dynamics: to explore the historical and neoliberal contexts that produce the clashing narratives of Islamism and humanitarianism, the limited effects of humanitarian visibilities, and the counter-narratives of Sudanese activists.

Journal

Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and DevelopmentUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

Published: Mar 21, 2016

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