Commodity Racism and Dominant Ideology in Advertising

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Jack Clayman
Introduction to Media and Society
Professor Robertson
October 14th, 2009

Commodity Racism and The Dominant Ideology
Commodity racism targets an audience by using the human body to sell a product. The ideology of race was a way to legitimize slavery and imperialism. Advertisements were able to exploit ‘the others’ or the primitive peoples as a vehicle to sell products. The primitive were illiterate, dependent upon the natural world rather than the masters of it, and lacking in complex social institution and mechanical technology. Where as the civilized were highly literate, Christian, developed technology, controlled nature, and brought the blessing of civilization to the heathen and to the primitive. It has become clear that the commodity racism has the intended audience buying the dominant ideology along with the commodity.

In the article “Soft-soaping Empire: Commodity Racism and Imperial Advertising” by Anne McClintock, McClintock discusses the growth of the commodity from a mundane object in the eighteenth century to its privileged place in the nineteenth centuries new industrial economy. She examines commodity racism and its relationship with imperial progress. “Commodity racism -- in the specifically Victorian forms of advertising and commodity spectacle, the imperial Expositions and the museum movement -- converted the imperial progress narrative into mass-produced consumer spectacles.”[1] McClintock looks at the intention of commodity racism in the later decades of the nineteenth century. She explores the production, the marketing, and the distribution of evolutionary racism combined with imperial power on a large scale.

McClintock uses the example of soap as a commodity. Soap had not been used largely before the nineteenth century but had become abundant by the 1890’s(Victorians said to have consumed 260,000 tons of soap a year). Advertising was now the ‘cultural form of commodity capitalism.’ Soap advertising began...
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