One of the reasons McClintock is interested in the fetishistic dimensions of imperial advertising is that it calls into question Imperialism's constructed "rational-irrational" binary. Colonial discourses often mobilized this binary (Imperialists-as-rational versus colonized peoples-as-irrational) to justify European imperialism's "rational civilizing mission," which exploited so much of the world. The use of fetishism (i.e., the investing of objects with magical properties) in advertising demonstrates that the logic of colonialism was never "rational." Investigating the fetishism of advertising can reveal some of the fantasies that were operating within cultural imperialism. At the same time, it can also shed light on the ways in which colonial commodities themselves worked to advance the imperial project (whether in the minds of Europeans or in the cultural and economic processes of exchange). Use the following questions to guide your reading:
1. On the surface, soap advertising marketed bars of soap. What else, according to McClintock, was being marketed (i.e., what values, norms, meanings, etc.)?
2. How did soap advertising sell the project of imperialism itself? What kinds of narratives and myths did it use?
3. What does McClintock mean by "commodity racism" (209)?
4. How did soap function as a "fetish object" in the colonial imaginary (211)?
5. What are the 4 fetishes that "recur ritualistically" in imperial soap advertisements? What kinds of meanings did these fetishes produce?
6. What were the things that were hidden from view by these fetishes? Why do you think this was so?
7. How did imperial commodities participate in the "domestication of empire"? What kinds of gendered and racialized meanings did this process produce? (219)
8. McClintock writes, "more than merely a symbol of imperial progress, the domestic commodity becomes the agent of history itself" (221). What does she mean? How does the commodity not only *represent* imperialism, but actually participate in it?