Better (Red)™ Than Dead? Celebrities, Consumption and International Aid

Lisa Ann Richey*, Stefano Ponte

*Corresponding author for this work

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Bono's launch of Product (red)™at Davos in 2006 opens a new frontier for development aid. With the engagement of companies such as American Express, Converse, Gap and Emporio Armani, and now Hallmark, Dell and Microsoft, 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 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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)711-729
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes

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