An actress compelled to act: Angelina Jolie's notes from my travels as celebrity activist/travel narrative

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This article examines the celebrity activist as cultural intermediary and as travel writer. The article is focused upon the American actress Angelina Jolie and her role with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (the UNHCR). It critically examines this aspect of her life in specific relation to diaries she kept in which she recorded her UNHCR experiences. These diaries were formally published in 2003 and were entitled Notes from My Travels: Visits With Refugees in Africa, Cambodia, Pakistan, and Ecuador. In these accounts, Jolie can be seen not merely as a 'celebrity ambassador', but as a 'postcolonial' diarist. Yet, Notes from My Travels also represents, as the title suggests, a travelogue, and one that links her to the genre of travel writing and a tradition of female travel writers. The article argues that Jolie's Notes represent accounts of conditions in certain postcolonial countries and representations of the refugee experience in relation to a determined 'deconstruction' of her globally recognized celebrity/star persona. The article also explores the ways in which the images, stories, accounts and political/historical narratives that emerge from Jolie's Notes resonate with aspects of travel narratives with regard to postcolonialism and with earlier female travel writers, but also, critically, the way in which her Notes still represent a contemporary postcolonial narrative, a power relation between the recorder and the recorded, a status all the more underscored by her culturally powerful Western celebrity status. Moreover, whereas the 'Third World' has habitually been viewed through 'Western eyes', such a process continues in the form of celebrity narratives concerning the 'state of things' in postcolonial countries
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-228
JournalPostcolonial Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009


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