Can a celebrity be a “disrupter,” promoting strategic partnerships to bring new ideas and funding to revitalize the development field—or are celebrities just charismatic ambassadors for big business? Examining the role of the rich and famous in development and humanitarianism, Batman Saves the Congo argues that celebrities do both, and that understanding why and how yields insight into the realities of neoliberal development.
In 2010, entertainer Ben Affleck, known for his superhero performance as Batman, launched the Eastern Congo Initiative to bring a new approach to the region’s development. Affleck’s organization operates with special access, diversified funding, and significant support of elites within political, philanthropy, development, and humanitarianism circuits. With his convening power, Affleck has built partnerships with those inside and outside development, staking bipartisan political ground that is neither charity nor aid, but “good business.” Celebrity humanitarians are an unruly bunch of new players in development that amplify business solutions.
Alexandra Cosima Budabin, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Free University
Lisa Ann Richey, Professor of Globalization in the Department
of Management, Society and Communication at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark