Theses Doctoral

Parables of the Market: Advertising, Middle Class and Consumption in Post-Reform India

Mishra, Vishnupad

This dissertation presents an ethnography of market dynamics in India, following state-directed economic liberalization during early 1990's. The decade of the 90's convulsed Indian society deeply through an aggressive and top-down economic reform program, while at the same time, militant Hinduism and lower caste movements sought violently to capture and dominate social space. Engaging this social context my dissertation looks at the market forces, which hitherto were a subordinate partner to the paternalist Indian state in the cultural production of meaning and identities, take the center-stage and move out of the shadows of a tactically receding Indian state, and strive to re-establish hegemony in a highly contested, fraught and charged politico-cultural field.
The dissertation then analyzes the corporatist understanding and viewpoints of contemporary India's economic standing and prospects, highlighting their own projects and ambitions that appear uniquely tied to their self-imagination of the role they are poised to play in the emerging shape of economy and society in India. In the process, I show that the concepts, frameworks and classificatory schemas used by corporate houses to understand, capture and represent the Indian social, which first and foremost involved constitution of an immense ethnographically based epistemological cartography of Indian society, are neither neutral, nor transparent, but rather, inflected and laden with a desire to conquer a social field that is already ideologically rife with neo-liberalism and Hindu fundamentalist motifs. I suggest that the aforementioned strategies of publicity and advertising - and the advertising industry is the focus of this dissertation- are not averse to symbolically borrowing and encoding neo-liberal and religious faith as everyday commonsense. By extension I show how the production of their vision of the `new India' quite undermines the Nehruvian vision of secularism and its juridical schemas of inter-religious tolerance and co-existence, of socialism and its ethic of labor and production, displacing it with a late-capitalist, neo-liberal, middle class conceptions of consumption and enjoyment.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Dirks, Nicholas Bernard
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 8, 2017