Nationalism and Ideology in an Anticonsumption Movement

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Nationalism and Ideology in an Anticonsumption Movement
ROHIT VARMAN RUSSELL W. BELK*
In this research we examine the role of the nationalist ideology of swadeshi in a contemporary anticonsumption movement and show that its deployment is linked to the experiences of colonialism, modernity, and globalization in India. Specifically, we offer a postcolonial understanding of reflexivity and nationalism in an anticonsumption movement opposing Coca-Cola in India. This helps us offer an interpretation of this consumer movement involving spatial politics, temporal heterogeneity, appropriation of existing ideology, the use of consumption in ideology, and attempts to bring together a disparate set of actors in the movement.

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nticonsumption has been described as “a resistance to, distaste of, or even resentment or rejection of, consumption more generally” (Zavestoski 2002, 121). It may be directed at a brand, a set of brands, or, as Zavestoski notes, consumption more generally. Recent attention to anticonsumption has emerged in the 2006 International Conference on Anti-Consumption Research (see http://www.icar .auckland.ac.nz), as well as in special issues of the Journal of Business Research, Psychology and Marketing, and Consumption Markets and Culture devoted to the topic. But most of this work has been at the individual psychological level of consumer attitudes and actions. The current research focuses on the relatively neglected level of the historic emergence of ideology and its nationalistic emphasis in an anticonsumption movement in India. Researchers have examined various forms of resistance in consumer activism and anticonsumption movements in the past 2 decades (Argenti 2004; Cohen 2003; Dobscha 1998; Elsbach and Bhattacharya 2001; Firat 2004; Frank 1997; Heath and Potter 2004; Klein, Smith, and John 2004; Penaloza and Price 1993; Rao 1998; Rumbo 2002; Yazicioglu and Firat 2007). These studies have broadly focused on identity politics, local dislocations by global corporations,

*Rohit Varman is associate professor of marketing, Indian Institute of Management–Calcutta, Kolkata, India 700 104 (rohit@iimcal.ac.in). Russell W. Belk is Kraft Foods Canada Chair in Marketing, Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada M3J 1P3 (rbelk@ schulich.yorku.ca). The authors thank the editor, associate editor, and reviewers for very useful suggestions that improved the manuscript. In addition, the authors thank Ram Manohar Vikas for his help in the fieldwork. John Deighton served as editor and Eric Arnould served as associate editor for this article. Electronically published June 2, 2009

exploitation of vulnerable stakeholders, and environmental damage by businesses as reasons for consumer activism and resistance. Several consumer researchers have also identified the role of ideology in shaping resistance to consumption and consumer activism (Kozinets and Handelman 2004; Witkowski 1989; see also Arnould and Thompson 2005). Yet the historical emergence of ideology and the deconstruction of its discursive practices to understand the relationship between anticonsumption and the concept of nationhood or ethnic identity have received only limited attention in consumer research (Crockett and Wallendorf [2004] is an exception). In this research we examine a movement against CocaCola from the village of Mehdiganj in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. We deconstruct the specific elements involved in the movement’s attempted deployment of the nationalist ideology of swadeshi. We show that the anticonsumption movement is impelled by the nationalist ideology and is characterized by temporal variability and spatial politics. Furthermore, we show that the contemporary discourse of swadeshi is different from its original ideological articulation, and this explains the recursive impact of the appropriation of existing ideology in a new anticonsumption movement. Highlighting the materiality of ideology, we show that the...
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