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Accepted Paper:

Brand consumption amongst the elites of India  
Parul Bhandari ( O P Jindal Global University)

Paper short abstract:

In this proposed paper I unravel the consumption of brands amongst the elites of India. I argue that the varied segments of the Indian elite population attach different meanings to brands, thereby drawing finer boundaries of exclusion amongst themselves.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I explore the specific ways in which brands create the life-worlds of three rather different segments of Indian elites: business elites, old elites, and the new upwardly mobile middle class. A post-liberalisation economy has increasingly allowed Indians to embrace global brands. I unravel the different motivations to the use of branded products ranging from conspicuous consumption to obsession over craftsmanship and quality. In explaining these motivations I pose questions on the politics of brand consumption: Whether owning certain brands is sufficient to claim an elite identity? Who attaches meanings to the brands? How are these meanings and identities received amongst the heterogeneous group of elites? Embracing global brands has certainly become a symbol of a transforming India, allowing especially the aspirational elites to partake in a global culture. However, Indian elites have historically been obsessed with consumption of good quality products and experiencing the luxuriant. In order to understand the symbolism of brands then, it is crucial to also focus on the hierarchy of products within a brand and desire to procure bespoke products, say for example, shawls and jewelry prepared by highly skilled craftsmen in India. By highlighting the varied relationships of Indian elites to different brands and different products, I thus locate the consumption of brands in also reproducing the hierarchies within an elite society.

Panel P067
Brands as sites of collaborative over-production
  Session 1