South Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Fetishising the Clean Body: The Female Consumer in Indian Advertisement, 1970-1990

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Jacaranda I, First Floor

In this paper, I look at advertisements in the period before the liberalization of the Indian economy as it is crucial to understand the representation of the ‘Indian woman’ in print advertisements in this historical time. In this paper, I shall try to examine two different sets of images which represent the woman consumer. I study two contrasting images of the fetishized female consumer in this paper. The first is the one we notice in the toiletry advertisements, who is marked by a sense of urban carefree attitude which does not hinge on any religious or caste markers, and second, the Hindu housewife of the detergent advertisements. One of my interventions in this paper is the reading of the woman in the detergent advertisements through class and caste identity. Thus, the paper argues that the ‘new woman’ in advertisements was defined and structured by caste as much as class hierarchies. It is through the well-established colonial trope of ‘dirt’ that I locate the woman in detergent advertisements as the upper caste and middle-class Hindu housewife, who by virtue of the burgeoning commodity culture has been able to erase the lower caste woman’s body in these advertisements. I examine the tropes of ‘Devi’ or goddess and ‘Dasi’ or slave as has been employed traditionally in the Indian social and cultural structure to construct the woman’s body via the prism of caste.


Shaheen S. Ahmed

Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

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4 - Fetishising the Clean Body: The Female Consumer in Indian Advertisement, 1970-1990



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