‘Better (RED)™ than dead? Celebrities, consumption and international aid’
New article by Lisa Ann Richey and Stefano Ponte, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 4, 2008, pp. 711-729.
Bono’s launch of Product (RED)TM at Davos in 2006 opens a new frontier for development aid. With the engagement of American Express, Apple, Converse, Gap, Emporio Armani and Motorola, consumers can help HIV/AIDS patients in Africa. Aid celebrities – Bono, Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Farmer – guarantee the ‘cool quotient,’ the management and the target of this new modality of aid. RED functions using the guarantee of celebrity together with the negotiated representation of a distant ‘Africa’ to meet competing, and perhaps incommensurable, objectives. A ‘rock man’s burden’ – imagined along familiar constructions of sex, gender, race and place – frames African beneficiaries’ receiving process. At the same time, RED depicts consumer-citizens as fashion-conscious but yet actively engaged and ethically reflexive. RED rescues international aid from its dour predictive graphs and disappointing ‘lessons learnt’ and spins it as young, chic and possible. By masking the social and environmental relations of trade and production that underpin poverty, inequality and disease, RED reconfigures the world of possibility in what might otherwise be rationally impossible ways.
Lisa Ann Richey is Associate Professor at the Institute for Society and Globalisation, Roskilde University and currently Guest Researcher at DIIS ()
Stefano Ponte is Senior Researcher with the Trade and Development Research Group at DIIS () www.diis.dk/spo
This article is part of a larger project for a book provisionally entitled Brand Aid: Celebrities, Consumption and Development.
An earlier, working paper version, of this article is available here (pdf file, 99 KB)