Threatening Consumption: Managing US Imperial Anxieties in Representations of Skin-lightening in India

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This paper contextualizes the US mainstream media coverage of the skin-lightening industry in India within a moment of imperial crisis in the United States in the early part of the twenty-first century. Discourse analysis of news media accounts indicates that orientalist colonial tropes of Indian primitiveness, traditionalism, and gendered difference intersect with American post-racial ideology to disassociate American consumers from an Indian consuming public. Thus, representations of skin lightening attempt to ease imperial anxieties around the United States’ faltering economic dominance due to the rise of emerging economies like India by reviving nationalist narratives of American exceptionalism. Not only does this obscure racism and colorism in the United States, it also impedes recognition of the overlapping conditions of transnational commercialized beauty culture and industry within which white/light beauty standards and skin-whitening products flourish.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalSocial Identities
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • India
  • US imperialism
  • consumer culture
  • emerging markets
  • news media
  • post-racialism
  • skin lightening/whitening


  • Critical and Cultural Studies
  • Race and Ethnicity

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