‘Helping’ distant others through ‘Brand Aid’ humanitarianism may be one of the most successful dissociational branding practices of all. In this short commentary, I argue that humanitarian ‘helping’ itself can become a branded commodity, as understood by Ibert et al. (2019). I draw on the dissociational framework to reconsider the concept of ‘brand aid’ as a link between ethical consumption, international development, and the commodification of humanitarianism. In brand aid, the ‘ethical’ action proposed by a consumption choice triggers the ‘helping’ of distant and disengaged Others. This results in reshaping the real or imagined ethical obligations across networks of solidarity, where dissociational symbolic value moves from consumption back to production and is deflected onto suffering Others. In these chains of value, the conditions of production become eclipsed by the halo of helping through consumption. Ethical consumption is becoming less possible, humanitarianism is increasingly commodified, and ‘partnerships’ meant to alleviate global suffering are becoming more complicated than ever before. Cultural economic geography can deepen our knowledge of how maintaining inequalities can produce surplus value through ‘helping’, and how this is embedded in strategic and habitual forms of dissociation from global ills.
- Brand Aid
- Ethical consumption
- Global value chains
- Sustainable development goals (SDGs)