Pop-culture icons as agents of change? : The roles and fucntions of celebrity activists in peace- and development related global issues

University essay from Växjö universitet/Institutionen för samhällsvetenskap

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to examine the possible theoretic and (f)actual role(s) of pop-culture icons in peace and evelopment-related global issues, using the qualitative research methods of text- and discourse analysis. Do pop-culture icons have a role to play at all in this field? If so, what is that role? What are these celebrity activists currently saying and doing on the international development scene and what are their analyses like? What are their current and historical functions? There is support in the academic literature suggesting that celebrity activists can possess vast power resources (scope of influence), (soft) power and (charismatic) authority, which in turn enables them to influence the attitudes and values of (especially young, receptive) people. The findings also show that the most successful celebrity activists have a global reach, as well as access to the international arenas of political power (e. g. the G8 and the World Economic Forum). Celebrity activists seem to be able to "sell" messages in a way that the politicians and officials of today cannot. When they speak, people listen. They further employ a two-level outreach, as they connect with political and economical elite groups as well as with the masses of world citizens in a way that politicians and officials, whose influence is more often limited by traditional nation state boundaries, cannot. I argue that the celebrity activists should be seen as a complement to the civil society and the work of NGO's and INGO's, since it is by further enhancing their work and strengthening their agendas that most of them act.Celebrity activists offer an alternative to the political establishment, which is viewed by suspicion by large groups of citizens, and can play a role in empowerment, inspiration, education, information, awareness raising, fundraising, opinion building and lobbying and function as diplomats, spokespersons, ambassadors, entrepreneurs, convenors and heroic voices.

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