1st Edition

Globalising Everyday Consumption in India
History and Ethnography

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after June 30, 2021
ISBN 9780367178529
June 30, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
272 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations

USD $160.00

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Book Description

This book brings together historical and ethnographic perspectives on Indian consumer identities.

Through an in-depth analysis of local, regional, and national histories of marketing, regulatory bodies, public and domestic practices, this interdisciplinary volume charts the emergence of Indian consumer society and shows commodity consumption as a main feature of Indian modernity.

Starting with the morality of consumption patterns formed part of nationalist discourses feeding into middle-class identity, the chapters demonstrate how different strata of society were targeted as markets for everyday commodities associated with global lifestyles early on. The book hones in on how a new group of professionals engaged in advertising shaped tastes and discourses and how campaigns provided a range of consumers with guidance on ‘modern lifestyles’. Chapters discussing advertisements, for consumables like coffee and cooking oil, show these to be part of new public cultures. The ethnographic chapters focus on contemporary practices and consumption as a main marker of class, caste and community. Consumption is shown to reshape intimate relationships and determine communal identities. The chapters explore the middle-class family, micro-credit schemes, and metropolitan youth cultures as sites in which consumer citizenship is realised.

The book will be of interest to readers from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, history, geography, sociology, South Asian studies, and visual cultures.

Table of Contents


Bhaswati Bhattacharya and Henrike Donner

 1. Notes on the Advertisement and the Advertising Agency in India’s Twentieth Century

Arvind Rajagopal

 2. A Magic System? Print Advertising in Colonial Tamil Nadu

A.R. Venkatachalapathy

 3. Making the Ideal Home? Advertising of Electrical Appliances and the Education of the Middle Class Consumer in Bombay. 1925-40

Douglas Haynes

 4. Wooing Indians with New Smokes: Cigarette and Bidi Advertising in British India

Kathinka Sinha-Kerkhoff

 5. Creating Desire: In the Name of the Nation

Chilka Ghosh

 6. Consuming Domesticity: Creating Consumers for the Middle Class House in India, 1920-1960

Abigail Mc Gowan

 7. Drink it the Damn Way We Want: Some Reflections on the Promotion and Consumption of Coffee in 20th Century India

Bhaswati Bhattacharya

 8. From Housewife to Chief Consumer: Bengali Middle-class Women Negotiating Neoliberal Commodity Markets in the Home

Henrike Donner

 9. Consumer Citizenship and Indian Muslim Youth

Tabassum Ruhi Khan

 10. Consuming Credit: Microfinance and Making Credit Markets at the Bottom of the Pyramid

Sohini Kar

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Bhaswati Bhattacharya is Fellow in Residence at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies at Georg August University, Germany. She is the author of Much Ado Over Coffee (Social Science Press and Routledge 2017).

Henrike Donner is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK. She is the author of Domestic Goddesses (Routledge 2008) and has edited The Meaning of the Local (with Geert De Neve, Routledge 2006) and Being Middle-class in India (Routledge 2011).


"This fascinating and important collection of essays provides a timely corrective to social sciences approaches to the study of Indian culture and society. Any contemporary understanding of Indian modernity – caste, class, gender, intimacies, religiosity, citizenship, etc. – is incomplete without an understanding of how consumer cultures shape everyday lives. Focussing on both the colonial and post-colonial periods, the book’s contributors lucidly outline the multiple publics imagined by advertising as well as how people construct identities through varied acts of consumption."

Sanjay Srivastava, British Academy Global Professor, University College London

"This collection of articles, with a well written introduction, is an important contribution to the analysis of the process of growth and working of consumer capitalism in contemporary India. The major strength of this collection is its focus on a deep, as well as immediate, historical perspective behind complex intertwining social fields: production practices, market cultures and consumer choices. Well-informed by western sociological theories, the contributors have underlined the making and transformation of consumer culture from the restricted horizon of colonial environment to the glittering world of mass consumption and mass culture with its necessary predicaments."

Gautam Bhadra, Honorary Professor at the Centre For Studies in Social Sciences, India