Supplemental composed by Alison Kenner, RPI, October 2007
This essay was published as part of a cluster of essays on the "Coke Complex," put together following an endorsement by the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Cultural Anthropology of boycott actions against The Coca-Cola Company. See Editor's Note supplemental page.
“Pesticides in Coca-Cola and Pepsi: Consumerism, Brand Image, and Public Image in a Globalizing India”
Neeraj Vedwan, Assistant Professor
Anthropology, Montclair State University
In the November 2007 issue of Cultural Anthropology, Neeraj Vedwan describes new forms of environmental activism that have emerged around pesticide contamination of Coca-Cola and Pepsi soft drinks in India.. Vedwan’s essay “Pesticides in Coca-Cola and Pepsi: Consumerism, Brand Image, and Public Image in a Globalizing India” analyzes the recent campaign led by the Center for Science and Environment in India against The Coca-Cola Company and Pepsi Company.
In examining the relationships among state authorities, corporations, consumers, and environmental organizations in the controversy, Vedwan illustrates ways in which middle-class consumer's agency was influenced by those very relationships. The campaign against Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Vedwan explains, sought the support of middle-class consumers, a group often aligned with the interests of multinational corporations and the liberalizing Indian economy. The essay shows that although Coca-Cola and Pepsi attempted to thwart the campaign against them—using movie stars and national athletes to promote their soft drinks, and by calling on international laboratories to discredit the scientific findings of Indian environmental organizations—they were unable to salvage their corporate image in the eyes of the Indian media, state politicians, and even middle-class consumers. The success of the campaign against Coca-Cola and Pepsi was based in great part, Vedwan explains, on “new forms of solidarities” among local actors. Vedwan argues that the “dethroning of socialism as the state ideology in India, economic liberalization, and the concomitant rise in Hindu chauvinism reflect a reordering of power relations between different segments of society.” Vedwan’s essay will be of interest to readers concerned with media, neoliberalism, the global beverage industry, India, consumerism, and environmental justice.
Neeraj Vedwan is an assistant professor of anthropology at Montclair State University.
Other Cultural Anthropology articles have also examined the practices and effects of multinational corporations. See, for example, Suzana Sawyer’s “Bobbittizing Texaco: Dis-Membering Corporate Capital and Re-Membering the Nation in Ecuador” (2002). Articles that examine middle-class formations and practices include Vassos Argyrou’s “‘Keep Cyprus Clean’: Littering, Pollution, and Otherness” (1997) and Susan A. Reed’s “Performing Respectability: The Beravā, Middle-Class Nationalism, and the Classicization of Kandyan Dance in Sri Lanka” (2002).
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AUTHOR'S WEBPAGE: Neeraj Vedwan