Celebrity philanthropy in China: Rethinking cultural studies’ ‘Big Citizen’ critique

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Routledge Handbook of Celebrity Studies, 2018, pp. 227 - 242
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© 2018 selection and editorial matter, Anthony Elliott; individual chapters, the contributors. Chris Rojek (2014: 127) argues that cultural studies has overlooked ‘one of the keynote developments in modern culture over the last 30 years’: namely, the rise of ‘charity projects fronted and, in the public mind, defined by celebrities’. Undermining this claim to perspicacity, Rojek (2014: 130) draws on a raft of scholarship to criticize what he calls ‘celanthropy’ for enabling privileged, unelected, non-expert ‘Big Citizens’ (celebrities) to articulate ‘stateless solutions’ to domestic and international problems such as poverty, inequality and pollution. In doing so, he claims to ‘pour a dose of cold water’ on the complacent, congratulatory tone that is arguably associated with celebrity philanthropy in the media, by showing that it crudifies public understanding of socio-economic problems, turns citizens into spectators and is ‘a modern reprise of “the white man’s burden”', whereby celebrities court acclaim for seeming to ‘care’ about humanitarian causes, while colluding with the predatory interests of global capitalism (Rojek 2014: 131, 135).
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