Shoveling Smoke

Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India

Shoveling Smoke

Book Pages: 384 Illustrations: 16 illus. Published: August 2003

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > South Asia, Globalization and Neoliberalism

A leading Bombay advertising agency justifies as traditionally Indian the highly eroticized images it produces to promote the KamaSutra condom brand. Another agency struggles to reconcile the global ambitions of a cellular-phone service provider with the ambivalently local connotations of the client’s corporate brand. When the dream of the 250 million-strong “Indian middle class” goes sour, Indian advertising and marketing professionals search for new ways to market “the Indian consumer”—now with added cultural difference—to multinational clients.

An examination of the complex cultural politics of mass consumerism in a globalized marketplace, Shoveling Smoke is a pathbreaking and detailed ethnography of the contemporary Indian advertising industry. It is also a critical and innovative intervention into current theoretical debates on the intersection of consumerist globalization, aesthetic politics, and visual culture. William Mazzarella traces the rise in India during the 1980s of mass consumption as a self-consciously sensuous challenge to the austerities of state-led developmentalism. He shows how the decisive opening of Indian markets to foreign brands in the 1990s refigured established models of the relationship between the local and the global and, ironically, turned advertising professionals into custodians of cultural integrity.


Shoveling Smoke makes a fine accompaniment to a growing literature on consumption and the Indian middle classes, and an innovative addition to the anthropological study of cultural production and the workings of mass advertising and mass imagery.” — Nicholas Nisbett, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Shoveling Smoke is a detailed case study serving a larger analysis of globalising consumerism and advertising. India provides the ethnographic material, and richly so, but the book clearly transcends Indian ethnography, and should also be read by students and scholars of advertising, culture, and globalisation.” — Emma Mawdsley, Contemporary South Asia

Shoveling Smoke is a theoretically sophisticated, richly detailed ethnography. . . . [A] valuable contribution to the discussion and theorizing of globalization and contemporary consumer capitalism.” — Tejaswini Ganti, Visual Anthropology Review

“The book is an important contribution to the ethnographic study of advertising and globalizing consumerism as well as provides insights into the cultural politics of consumerism.” — Taberez Ahmed Neyazi, Asian Journal of Social Science

"Shoveling Smoke is a valuable contribution to the anthropological analysis of commodity relations and aesthetic practices, demonstrating how advertising practice is good to think the multiple contradictions at play within globalising consumer economies." — Phillip Mar,, The Australian Journal of Anthropology

"Shoveling Smoke represents an interesting and insightful ethnographic study of the delicate mediation between global and local consumer culture. It will appeal to scholars of both the advertising and anthropological industries, but is also more universal in its scope. Mazzarella’s conclusions are relevant to all scholars of contemporary culture and globalization, and shed new light on the fragile relationship between culture and consumerism." — Zoe Yule, M/C Reviews

"[A] pioneering ethnographic study of advertising in India. . . . worth reading." — Vinay Kumar Srivastava, The Hindu

"[A] theoretically sophisticated and ethnographically dense examination of the advertising industry in the post-liberalization period in India. . . . Shoveling Smoke is a very solid work of scholarship and is recommended reading for those interested in the transformation of India in the late twentieth century." — Richard Delacy, Chicago South Asia Newsletter

"This is an interesting cross-cultural study that raises nearly as many questions as it seeks to answer-as pioneering works often do." — Chris Sterling, Communication Booknotes Quarterly

"This wry and beautifully crafted account of advertising in Mumbai packs a subtle and heavy theoretical punch. Striving to 'inhabit' rather than present an overview of this life world, William Mazzarella draws the reader down a complex set of pathways in which several campaigns are described in great detail. . . . [E]xcellent." — Christopher Pinney, Journal of Asian Studies

"William Mazzarella's book is an incisive study of advertising and consumer practices in India in the immediate post-liberalization phase. . . . A pioneering work, Mazzarella's book is a valuable contribution." — India West

"Shoveling Smoke is an extremely rich ethnography. One of the first anthropological studies of advertising in India, it is a truly pioneering piece of work." — Purnima Mankekar, author of Screening Culture, Viewing Politics

"Theoretically ambitious and yet firmly grounded in the concrete, William Mazzarella's brilliantly imaginative ethnography of advertising and consumer practices in India ranks among the very best of globalization studies. Students of global forms of modernity will have much to learn from this book." — Dipesh Chakrabarty, author of Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

William Mazzarella is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations vii

Acknowledgments ix


1. Locations: Advertising and the New Swadeshi 3

2. Elaborations: The Commodity Image 37

Part One

3. Citizens Have Sex, Consumers Make Love: KamaSutra I 59

4. The Aesthetic Politics of Aspiration: KamaSutra II 99

Part Two

5. Bombay Global: Mobility and Locality I 149

6. Bombay Local: Mobility and Locality II 185

Part Three

7. Indian Fun: Constructing "the Indian Consumer" I 215

8. Close Distance: Constructing "the Indian Consumer" II 250

Notes 289

Works Cited 331

Index 351
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Honorable Mention, 2004 Victor Turner Prize

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3145-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3109-4
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