Celebrity Contestations of Sovereignty, Violence and Security


Annika Bergman Rosamond, PhD. Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Department of Political Science, Lund University, Sweden.

The broad objective of this research project is to critically explore the ethically- inspired acts of individual celebrities in international society. It provides a discursive investigation into celebrity contestations of prevailing discourses and practices of security and sovereignty in global politics.  Thereby it engages with contemporary debates on global ethics, protection, cosmopolitan thought and competing conceptions of moral agency in international relations. Indeed, if we align ourselves with the cosmopolitan assumption that individual rights are to be placed before those of sovereign states then it makes sense to investigate the acts of individuals working towards this goal.

The communicative turn in IR scholarship and the emphasis on celebrity within political science more broadly, as well as the turn towards celebrity activism within development studies are all suggestive of the significance of exploring the morally-inspired acts of individuals. A key question posed in this context is whether celebrities help to shift the boundaries of ethical responsibility to include distant others across borders?


The project builds on my previous research on celebrity contestations of military intervention and war. The first part of the current research project takes stock of George Clooney’s financing of the so-called Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) that has been used to gather intelligence regarding human rights abuses in  South Sudan. This aspect of Clooney’s celebrity activism is illustrative of his efforts to use his star power to challenge deeply embedded sovereign practices in the international order. The discussion also raises interesting questions regarding the practice of intelligence gathering and the use of long distance cameras to document human rights abuses. The aim is to employ Foucault’s concepts of  governmentality and the panopticon in exploring Clooney’s celebrity activism.

Furthermore, the project aims at investigating the extent to which distinct gendered power patterns embedded within the entertainment industry are reproduced and transplanted into our readings of Clooney’s supposedly other-regarding acts? This second part of the project will further explore this research question in the context of female celebrities, in particular in  their roles as peacemakers across borders.


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