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Title: Celebrities as political representatives : explaining the exchangeability of celebrity capital in the political field
Author: Watts, Ellen
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 6849
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2019
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The ability of celebrities to become influential political actors is evident (Marsh et al., 2010; Street 2004; 2012, West and Orman, 2003; Wheeler, 2013); the process enabling this is not. While Driessens' (2013) concept of celebrity capital provides a starting point, it remains unclear how celebrity capital is exchanged for political capital. Returning to Street's (2004) argument that celebrities claim to speak for others provides an opportunity to address this. In this thesis I argue successful exchange is contingent on acceptance of such claims, and contribute an original model for understanding this process. I explore the implicit interconnections between Saward's (2010) theory of representative claims, and Bourdieu's (1991) work on political capital and the political field. On this basis, I argue celebrity capital has greater explanatory power in political contexts when fused with Saward's theory of representative claims. Three qualitative case studies provide demonstrations of this process at work. Contributing to work on how celebrities are evaluated within political and cultural hierarchies (Inthorn and Street, 2011; Marshall, 2014; Mendick et al., 2018; Ribke, 2015; Skeggs and Wood, 2011), I ask which key factors influence this process. I conclude celebrity capital and social media, class, institutional connections, and consistency aid acceptance of celebrity representative claims. I consider the role of multiple media, situating claims within the political information cycles they provoke (Chadwick, 2017). I find social media are valuable tools for performing claims and provide a rhetorical shortcut for constructing constituencies, but do not enable celebrities to bypass 'reading back' (Saward 2010). This thesis also contributes to debate over the democratic implications of celebrity politics, by asking what political benefits result from this process. I argue celebrity representative claims offer additional opportunities for citizen engagement and valued sources of representation, but often capitalise on distrust in elected representatives to provide the same.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available