Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
Ayurveda is a South Asian tradition of health and longevity recognized by the Government of India as one of the alternative “medical systems.” However, recently, Ayurveda has become much more than a system of medicine, having transformed into a pluralistic commercialized assemblage whose many forms include everything from branded pharmaceuticals, beauty products, and spas to packaged food, restaurants, home care, and clothing. As a result, the Ayurvedic industry has come to occupy a significant market share in India, while also expanding regionally and globally. By focusing on the case of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd.—one of top 20 most trusted brands in India—I examine the appeal of Ayurvedic commodities through discourses that tap into people’s quest for health, cultural identity, and globalized consumerism. In particular, I show how branded Ayurvedic commodities have come to embody the discourses of “trust” linked to “morality,” “modernity” and national “loyalty.” Through a series of technological transformations and advertising techniques that invoke diverse subjectivities and loyalties, Patanjali has become a trusted brand across class, gender, and communities. I look at “trust” as a technology of validation, i.e., an emerging property of consumer-commodity interactions where, by trusting some products (and distrusting others), people seek to affirm something about themselves. In other words, we are inclined to trust the products that validate who we are. I show that it is this link between trust and validation that explain the success of many national and global brands.