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Title: Topologies of power and moments of possibility : a critical analysis of celebrity governance in food and humanitarian campaigns in the UK
Author: Barnes, Christine Sarah
ISNI:       0000 0004 8499 8460
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis explores the ways in which celebrity and the media have the possibility to exercise power in two key sites: celebrity chefs and their impacts on food consumption and the governance of public emotion within celebrity-charity relationships. This recognises that in moving beyond and blurring the boundaries of entertainment and politics, celebrities can work across society in ways that are meaningful and matter in important ways. Drawing on geographical concepts of power and governance and research on cosmopolitan celebrity, agro-food issues, responsibility and care, this study offers a novel perspective on celebrity governance, celebrity authority, expertise and power. Celebrities are conceptualised as creating moments of possibility: a change or shift in public discourse, within which they may exercise a soft form of topological power, deeply embedded in the everyday, seeping into our knowledge, practices around food and care in multiple, complex and contradictory ways. The research examines each stage of the celebrity campaign: campaign production, campaign materials, and their reception and dissemination by audiences. A mixed methodology of interviews, cultural discourse analysis, and survey is employed. A large-scale audience survey (n=600) is the first of its kind and offers new and crucial insights into the ways that audiences- and thus society more broadly engage with celebrity and using (or not) the knowledge, information and guidance they offer through moments of possibility. What emerges is a highly organised media-celebrity production system anchoring the 'work' of celebrity within entertainment, and the various social spaces it cuts across. This simultaneously uses the celebrity as a well-known figure to draw in wider audiences and also works to 'hide' the elite and celebrity status of these individuals within their powerful narratives. The relationship between audiences and celebrities is complex and problematic, endowed with multiple meanings and values, negotiated through ever changing relations of trust, familiarity and authenticity. As a result of this, celebrities within food and charity campaigns open up spaces of simultaneous possibility and resistance for audiences, and for society more broadly. Conceptualised as opposing 'moments of possibility' these allow media focused campaigns and their chosen celebrities to play powerful and important roles in governing public understanding and behaviours in landscapes of food and care, but also to resist these mediated actors and their interference in our lives. Far from being dismissed as trivial entertainment, celebrity and media represent key governance figures, supported by capital-intensive, cultural processes that exercise new forms of topological power within broader neo-liberal landscapes of care and responsibility.
Supervisor: Goodman, Michael Kenneth ; Loftus, Alexander John ; Lorimer, Jamie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available