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Barbie : A Study Of Spaces Of Consumption In The Global Village

1565 words - 7 pages

In the context of transnationalism, the boundaries are perceived to be blurred but when it comes to consumerism (Consumerism, in this sense, is an acceptance of consumption as a way to self-development, self-realization and self-fulfilment which is economically manifested in chronic purchasing of goods and services with little attention to the true need (Verdant, 1997, cited in McGregor, 2002)), the nation becomes an essential entity, where boundaries demarcate the spaces of consumption. Life in a global village operates beyond the spatial and temporal dimensions. “The nexus of culture, ethnicity, nationalism, gender, and class (as well as a number of other social formations), ...view middle of the document...

When Mattel came to India, it did not produce an Indian or South Asian Barbie, instead it offered a ‘traditional’ Barbie with Euro-American body, wearing shiny sari and a red bindi, captioned as “Dressing in all season’s classic sari with exotic borders, Barbie is totally at home in India; where the words ‘all seasons’ differentiated sari from the fashion industry in the West, which is organized around seasonal clothes. Also, the term ‘exotic’ reminded about the history of romanticizing and commodifying difference (Grewal, 2005). Barbie’s presence in India came at a time, when the national imaginary was becoming transnational imaginary, in which diasporic cultural formations created new forms of patriarchy under the conditions of globalization. Indian market was getting accustomed with the liberalization policies adopted by the then BJP government and also the export and import policies were made more flexible to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Diaspora and ‘home’ were connected in new ways, like never before, in this new economic environment, such that “NRIs were integrated into the political, cultural and economic practices of the Indian nation-state and Indians became aware of their participation in the global consumer culture” (Grewal, 2005). Thus, Diaspora culture in the Indian context was incorporated as a marketing tool to nurture the fantasy of a transnational nation. For instance, promotional campaigns by the Government like “India Shining” (India Shining stands for commercial development, modernization, and westernization of select pockets of population within India) and “Incredible India” (refers to aspects of India which demonstrate [to foreign tourists] its moral values, rich cultural heritage, places of historical interest, and traditional way of life) were designed to attract investments from the NRIs and PIOs and also project a global image of India with a difference to the world community. The nation proposed an identity that connected people through ties of consumption to ‘home’ as nation-state while not seeing it as a necessary place of return. Hence, we see, new subjects of highly segmented nature and segmented identities were produced. Barbie participated in the gendered segmentation of these new consumer subjects. Suddenly, NRIs in US became valuable as multicultural experts to American multinationals, which is because ‘multiculturalism’ did not just remain a claim on civil rights but it became a neoliberal corporate project of selling goods to a transnational consumer culture connecting many national identities.
Global circulation of products like ethnic Barbie creates a transnational space of contestation over questions of consumption, identity and cultural authenticity (Hegde, 2001). Barbie play is pre-scripted in a way that very narrowly circumscribes girls’ play. There is a discourse running underneath the manufacture, travel and the use of Barbie which also governs the play of girls. Girls write fiction...

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