10 must-reads on the Angelina Jolie-LSE-professor debate

Hi all,

Since I shared my post on the topic, lots of other interesting posts, comments and hints at previous academic contributions have been shared and in the spirit of curatorship as academic practice, I am highlighting a few in this post.

What happened?
Angelina Jolie gets new role as visiting professor at LSE
The Hollywood actor and director has been appointed a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, teaching a course on the impact of war on women.
From 2017, Jolie will join the former foreign secretary William Hague as a “professor in practice”, the university announced on Monday, as part of a new MSc course on women, peace and security, which LSE says is the first of its kind in the world.
Esther Addley from the GUARDIAN kind of broke the news last Monday (23 May).

Outrage at the LSE's appointment of Angelina Jolie is nothing more than academic snobbery
The objection to Jolie Pitt’s arrival at the LSE is nothing more than snootiness from those who cherish the ideal of the ivory tower, and want universities to steer well clear of the grubby business of applying political theory in practice. That way lies obscurity and irrelevance, something that the LSE – like the Hollywood star it has employed – is far too sensible to risk.
Hannah Fearn takes on the critics from the 'ivory tower' for the OBSERVER on Wednesday (25 May).

The responses (well, some of them, carefully selected)
A mild defense of professor Angelina Jolie
Everyone take a deep breath. Jolie hasn’t been given a tenured position, she’s been made a “professor of practice.” Public policy schools, like the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, make these kind of appointments on a fairly regular basis. Professors of practice are based on the premise that individuals with actual policy-making experience might have something to offer to students even if they haven’t published in peer-reviewed journals on the topic.
Dan Drezner for the WASHINGTON POST wants us to calm down and be more practical about professors of practice (Tuesday, 24 May).

Thoughts on Angelina Jolie and WPS
Celebrities reinforce stratification and hierarchy that was present before. When UN Security Council Resolution 2106, which focused on sexual violence, was passed in June 2013, Jolie addressed the Security Council in the debate preceding the resolution. By contrast, the speaker who addressed the Security Council for Resolution 2122—which focuses on including women at all phases of conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding—in October 2013 was Brigitte Balipou, a lawyer and member of the Constitutional Court of Central African Republic. Balipou is prominent in international legal circles but is certainly no celebrity.
Carrie Reiling with one of the first substantial posts taking on the celebritization of humanitarian issues (Wednesday, 25 May).

A measured response to criticisms of the LSE’s new appointments
first, visiting professorial appointments are a thing. Honorary doctorates are a thing. On the occasion of the award of the next honorary title, I expect to see similar frothing outrage about how this banker or that novelist didn’t earn said title. Second, it disappoints me tremendously to see smart people be so very complicit in the reproduction of the idea that expertise and authority accrues only in the body of the (white, male, ‘first world educated’) Professor. Decades of feminist theory shows us the importance of recognising ‘women’s human rights actors as cross-cultural theorists’, but even more than that, are we so astonishingly arrogant that we cannot accept that we – and our students – might learn something from someone whose pathway to insight is not a traditional one? ZOMG she dropped out of acting classes and once studied embalming? That totally means we should ignore the last fifteen years of practical experience she has in the field.
Laura J. Shepherd kind of summarizes important aspects that, despite her claim to the contrary, have been discussed on the Internet (Thursday, 26 May).

Why you should be critical of Professor Angelina Jolie Pitt’s LSE gig
As much as I agree that academia needs to be open and accessible, there are still elements of my actual job that I trained and studied hard for – just as my aid or humanitarian professional colleagues did.
As one friend remarked on social media: ‘Maybe they should invite Joe Stiglitz to “Inside the Actors Studio” to talk about development economics’ – that could be entertaining, but we still need to acknowledge our professional spheres and identities.
That's Tobias Denskus for you ;)...yes, I am a male academic arguing, among other things, that some aspects academia require more insights than the 'University of Life' can teach you (Thursday, 26 May).

Jolie-Pitt, Trump and Bono Walk Into a LSE Classroom: why dedication and commitment isn’t expertise
While attending another top university (some might say, THE top university) I took a class from a very rich female former ambassador and, I can tell you with 100% certainty, it was all kinda colors of white-saviour/let’s hear about my amazing contributions to the world/enlightenment logic on steroids. Having this kind of ‘knowledge’ poured into some of the ‘top’ minds reproduces elitism and, ultimately, provides the following take home message: rich people should try to help poor people (or at least think about them) once in a while (mostly because it feels good)- all the while ignoring structural hierarchies/forms of oppression/global systems of exploitation.
Megan Mackenzie recalls her own experience as a student being taught by a celebrity professor (Friday, 27 May).

WTF Friday, 5/27/2016
While masters programs often, effectively, rely on Professors of Practice, the ‘practical’ element of Angelina Jolie’s engagement in critical issues remains an exceptional experience that students cannot, and should not, expect to mimic. In humanitarian crises, the secure nature of her travel and access to pre-selected sample sizes, rivals that of a Vatican visit. In her advocacy and activism, she is handed a microphone and captive audience of policymakers. Those that have lived to tell the tale of violence, spend lifetimes navigating apathy and checkpoints, hoping to be the background noise that doesn’t get drowned out of critical conversations. Her practice of celebrity activism may be more thoughtful than most, but the next generation of scholars and analysts should formulate new critiques from an understanding of the hard realities of the development sector, not the plushly carpeted pathways to power.
Kate Cronin-Furman interviews Nimmi Gowrinathan, 'an actual expert on women, peace, and security' (on Friday, 27 May as the title suggests...)

What do you need to teach at LSE? A role in Maleficent
As effective as Jolie Pitt’s many visits have been, most recently raising awareness about sexual violence in conflict, , it does not seem impossible that the full-time workers who choreographed her fact-finding missions, and academics researching in this field, might have yet more to share with postgraduates whose interests go beyond motivational speeches. “Strength lies in being unafraid,” Jolie Pitt told the BBC on World on the Move day. Helpfully for the LSE, any suggestion that the film star’s promotion is an insult to the better qualified, but obscure, elicits accusations of snobbishness and sexism – regardless of the fact that Hague’s, too, is a celebrity appointment, and one, moreover, farcically misplaced in a gender institute.
Coming full circle, the week ends with Catherine Bennett from the GUARDIAN who reminds us that William Hague was also appointed (Sunday, 29 May).

More academic food for thought?
The Celebritization of Human Trafficking
Human trafficking, and especially sex trafficking, is not only susceptible to alluring and sensational narratives, it also plays into the celebrity-as-rescuer ideal that receives considerable attention from the media, the public, and policy-makers. While some celebrities develop enough expertise to speak with authority on the topic, many others are neither knowledgeable nor accurate in their efforts to champion antitrafficking causes. Prominent policy-makers allow celebrity activists to influence their opinions and even consult with them for advice regarding public policies.
Emblematic of larger, fundamental problems with the dominant discourse, funding allocations, and legislation in current antitrafficking initiatives in the United States and elsewhere, celebrity activism is not significantly advancing the eradication of human trafficking and may even be doing harm by diverting attention from aspects of the problem and solution that sorely require attention.
Dina Francesca Haynes wrote about some of the issues we are discussing already in 2013.

Book launch to be held at Roskilde University May 31st!
Discussion over celebrity engagement is often limited to theoretical critique or normative name-calling, without much grounded research into what it is that celebrities are doing, the same or differently throughout the world. Crucially, little attention has been paid to the Global South, either as a place where celebrities intervene into existing politics and social processes, or as the generator of Southern celebrities engaged in ‘do-gooding’. This book examines what the diverse roster of celebrity humanitarians are actually doing in and across North and South contexts. Celebrity humanitarianism is an effective lens for viewing the multiple and diverse relationships that constitute the links between North and South. New empirical findings on celebrity humanitarianism on the ground in Thailand, Malawi, Bangladesh, South Africa, China, Haiti, Congo, US, Denmark and Australia illustrate the impact of celebrity humanitarianism in the Global South and celebritization, participation and democratization in the donor North. By investigating one of the most mediatized and distant representations of humanitarianism (the celebrity intervention) from a perspective of contextualization, the book underscores the importance of context in international development.
A team of great colleagues led by Lisa Richey contributed to this interesting edited volume that was published earlier in 2016 and that will be launched with a fab even next week at the Roskilde University, Denmark. 

Please feel free to add more articles or some funky Tweets on the subject in the comments below!

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