Ben Affleck Goes to Washington: Celebrity Advocacy, Access and Influence

Among the larger field of celebrity humanitarians, a small but growing number have started development organizations, thereby crafting exclusive platforms that focus attention on underreported areas and promote unique visions for interventions in the Global South. This chapter offers a treatment of Hollywood actor/director Ben Affleck’s celebrity humanitarianism by examining his activities on behalf of the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), an NGO he co-founded in 2010 to spur social and economic development in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the North, Affleck raises funds from elite circles, educates political elites, and lobbies the US Congress in order to shape foreign policy towards DRC. In the South, Affleck pays visit to local partners who have been given grants; ECI also conducts research to identify potential grantees for Northern donors. Following Brockington’s (2014) use of Crouch (2004), I adopt a post-democratic lens to situate and understand Affleck’s ability to found his organization, gain access, and build influence. I contend that celebrity-led organizations reflect a post-democratic context, where political and financial elites are able to propel select individuals like celebrity humanitarians. The presence of this privileged dynamic deserves enquiry for positioning celebrities to mediate between the Global North and South.


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