Book Manuscript: Humanitarian Entertainment: The U.S. Culture Industry and the Global Fight for Women’s Rights
My book manuscript investigates the ways in which popular entertainment (from docudramas and video games to memoirs and audio-visual testimonials) become political and economic resources for women’s rights campaigns in general and anti-trafficking activism in particular. I look specifically at cultural works produced through collaborations between the U.S. Department of State, civil society, and the entertainment industry, and that have a global circulation.
Drawing on studies of transnational feminism, critical humanitarian studies, and studies of affect, I coin the term humanitarian entertainment to theorize the emerging role of culture in humanitarian and women’s rights campaigns. I argue that cultural aesthetics actively shapes public narratives about women’s rights; additionally, the cultural representations I examine in my book are performative, giving rise to a form of gender justice that brings spectatorial emotions into the realm of formal politics and takes women’s bodies as transnational sites of public anxiety, concern, and empathy.
Humanitarian Entertainment intervenes in scholarship on the culture industries by theorizing the transformation of aesthetics into a political and economic resource in advanced capitalism; but it also contributes to studies of transnational feminism and critical humanitarianism by investigating a contemporary form of feminism that takes the sentimental as the foundation for politics and makes spectatorial emotions central to gender justice.