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The role of celebrities in mediating distant suffering: Research by Dr Martin Scott covered in the Independent

Dr Martin Scott's research into the effect of celebrities in cultivating a cosmopolitan engagement with distant suffering was covered in an article by The Independent.

The article questioned whether the good causes of the famous 'benefit themselves more than the charities', highlighting that recent research by UK academics, including DEV's Dr Martin Scott (right), suggests 'the ability of celebrity and advocacy to reach people is limited'.

In his research, Dr Martin Scott concludes, "Overall, the results of this research suggest that celebrities are generally ineffective in cultivating a cosmopolitan engagement with distant suffering." 

"In conversations about the mediation of distant others, research participants rarely talked about instances of explicit celebrity humanitarianism. When they did, participants generally expressed a sense of ambivalence towards celebrities, which was associated with encounters with distant suffering characterised by distance, indifference and a lack of agency. Even when celebrities were perceived as being authentic, this was linked more to a sense of connectivity with celebrities and a reflection on the self, rather than on the condition of distant others. Finally, despite there being a significant number of occasions in which ‘authentic’ celebrities were linked to relatively proximate and active encounters with distant suffering, these mediated relations were characterised by pity and charity."

Dr Scott conducted his research through analysis of British people's perceptions of developing countries - asking those people to record details of their exposure to information about poor countries. His referenced work was published in May 2014, in the International Journal of Cultural Studies.

The insightful article can be read in full on The Independent's website.