Samantha Majic, "Lights, Camera, Feminism?: Celebrities and Anti-Trafficking Politics" (U California Press, 2023)


Recent years have brought an upsurge in celebrity activism. Not a day goes by without an actor or musician taking to a stage, a podium or the internet to speak on a social issue, address an environmental problem, or adopt a political position. It’s easy to be cynical about the motivations of these privileged and sometimes uninformed people. Many of them come across as self-serving. But others appear genuine. Either way, celebrity activists are here to stay and it is incumbent on us to think about what it means for politics that we now live in an age in which celebrities are preferred over elected political leaders as spokespeople for humanitarian causes, and human rights. Who are they addressing? Who benefits when they speak? And what are the costs that they do?

The answers to these questions, Samantha Majic explains on this episode of New Books in Interpretive Political and Social Science, are neither singular nor straightforward. How and why celebrities take up causes, she writes in Lights, Camera, Feminism? Celebrities and Anti-trafficking Politics (University of California Press, 2023) is shaped and mediated by a range of personal and contextual factors. Nor do celebrity activists always go along with dominant narratives or align themselves with prevailing ideologies. They depend on certain infrastructures to be heard, but they make their own decisions about how and why they are. And while many of these decisions are ethically defensible, the problem with the celebrity activist is that they are unaccountable because they are self-appointed to represent the interests of others.

If you like this episode then you might also be interested in Sverre Molland talking about The Perfect Business?

And, in a new feature of the series, our author’s reading recommendations are:

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Nick Cheesman

Host, Interpretive Political and Social Science; sometimes contributor, Southeast Asian Studies
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