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Understanding “Fairness” in India: Critically Investigating Selected Commercial Videos for Men’s Skin-Lightening Products

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This dissertation investigates a subtle yet complex contemporary issue of colorism in India that traces its ideological roots back in the British colonial period or even prior to that. It focuses on the issue of skin-color discrimination in urban Indian

This dissertation investigates a subtle yet complex contemporary issue of colorism in India that traces its ideological roots back in the British colonial period or even prior to that. It focuses on the issue of skin-color discrimination in urban Indian men, which is significantly under-researched. This project aims at investigating the issue of skin-color discrimination through analyzing a small corpus of thirteen YouTube commercials dating from 2005 to 2017 for men’s skin-lightening products of a popular skin-care brand called “Fair and Handsome” from a multimodal critical discourse analytic perspective. This study further aims to understand how the discourse of colorism is operating in these Indian commercials for men’s skin-lightening products, what kinds of semiotic and socio-cultural (discourse) elements are naturalizing the notion of “fairness,” and finally, how the construction of male gender is facilitated. Although the project’s main theoretical arc is critical discourse analysis (CDA), the methodological needs necessarily require drawing upon theoretical tools from advertisement analysis, multimodal analysis, gender studies, social psychology, history, cultural anthropology, race theory, and other related fields of study. After successfully facilitating an exhaustive analytical undertaking, this dissertation contributes to the understanding of colorism as more than intra-group racism in India and situates this perpetuating issue as a contemporary research target in the socio-cultural contexts of globalization and urbanization.

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2019