Dr. Samantha Majic is a professor of political science at and a member of the doctoral faculty in the Political Science and Criminal Justice Programs at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research lies in gender and American politics, with specific interests in sex work, celebrity and politics, and civic engagement. She is the author of Sex Work Politics: From Protest to Service Provision (University of Pennsylvania Press), co-author (with Carisa Showden) of Youth Who Trade Sex in the US: Agency, Intersectionality, and Vulnerability (Temple University Press) and the co-editor (with Carisa Showden) of Negotiating Sex Work: Unintended Consequences of Policy and Activism (University of Minnesota Press). Her most recent book, Lights, Camera, Feminism? Celebrities and Anti-Trafficking Politics, was published with the University of California Press in May 2023.
Celebrities in the United States have drawn significant attention and resources to the complex issue of human trafficking—a subject of feminist concern—and they are often criticized for promoting sensationalized and simplistic understandings of the issue. In this comprehensive analysis of celebrities’ anti-trafficking activism, Samantha Majic finds out that this phenomenon is more nuanced: Even as some celebrities promote regressive issue narratives and carceral solutions, others use their platforms to elevate more diverse representations of human trafficking and feminist analyses of gender inequality. Lights, Camera, Feminism? thus argues that we should understand celebrities as multilevel political actors whose activism is shaped and mediated by a range of personal and contextual factors, with implications for feminist and democratic politics.
Discussant: Elena Shih is Manning Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University, where she directs a human trafficking research cluster through the Simmons Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.