Grewal, "Traveling Barbie: Indian Transnationality and New Consumer Subjects"

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Please post your DQs on Grewal's essay "Traveling Barbie: Indian Transnationality and New Consumer Subjects" below, using the following to guide your reading:
1. How has economic liberalization produced new consumer subjects in India?
2. What does Grewal mean by "transnational localism" and what is its role in the production of subjects? (802)
3. What do you think about the discussion of the "subject of transnational consumption" (803-804)? What is the relationship of this construction of the consumer to the marketing of things like Barbie?
4. What do you think of Grewal's discussion of Mattel's simultaneous production of difference and universality in its marketing? Why is it important to consider the persistence of global inequalities in this context (808)? In other words, how is diversity incorporated into Mattel's toys? Why does this fall short, for Grewal? (809)
5. Grewal states: "Mattel continues to seek lower costs and to increase its visibility globally. While it espouses a discourse of universality of children's play along side American values of heteronormative, gendered racism as marketing strategy, its practices in India suggest that it relies on localized gendered formations to succeed. In their transnational localism, American values remain but become modified" (806). What does she mean in this passage?
6. How does Mattel view the world? How does it view the appeal of its products? And how does it view the desires of its target consumers? Why is the relevant to understanding the subjects of transnational consumer culture? (809)
7. How and for what reasons was Mattel's marketing a struggle in India? How has it been a struggle to turn "many classes of children into active consumers of global brands" for transnationals? What, in your opinion, is at stake in this process?
8. How is transnational consumer culture participating in shifts in gendered and classed subjectivities?
9. Why is it crucial to think about transnational capital when making sense of these cultural shifts?
10. What does Grewal mean by the "Indian cosmopolitan subject"?

11 Comments

In this article, Barbie doll is introduced as a transnational localism product in India, which has white female appearance, but wear India’s traditional cloth. According to Grewal, the new subjects of consumption created as a result of economic liberalization policies in India and their transnational contexts may not be wholly resistant to the Barbie. If so, what kind of products make them resist?

Though Babie in India still follow the traditional Barbie body shape, skin color, hair color, etc., it still embraces some Indian elements such as sari and red bindi. It's quite noticable that the success of Barbie in a foreign market needs some local elements. But my experience with Barbie in China is that the flag store of Barbie in Shanghai, China closed several years of its operation, which is quite different from its success in Indian. My question is that what's the major difference in these two growing market leads to the different result of Barbie's "travelling"?

As i read through this article the term target marketing caught my attention. Grewal talks about how needs global/national consumers to buy its goods but each set of consumers would have to be targeted in different ways. What would be different ways that a company like mattel could use to advertise to diverse global audiences? How would their message change for each audience?

The essay mainly talks about how the Barbie traveled to India and how it affected the consumer subjects and brought transnationalism. As grown up in Japan, I have similar experiences as those girls in India, and we experience lots of transnationalism. My question is, does people who lives in the U.S. experience transnationalism from other countries?

So just to be clear, at the beginningish of the article (p 178) it is described as sales going up once the Barbie was dressed in traditional Indian atire. So basically, the Americanness of it had to go down, but it still contained the label of being American, so it sold better than perhaps similar domestic dolls? Can this be seen with any foreign products we buy that wouldn't sell if they weren't "American" enough for us? Do we have any examples?
I would also like to point out the interesting ideas toward the end describing successful Indians (for example, marrying a white woman). It is an interesting idea to think about and try to apply similar concepts to Americans.

While reading I found Mattels form of marketing in India interesting. When Barbie first started to sell in India it was due to her being dressed in a sari, this taking away the Americanness of Barbie. I more thought about why Mattel didn't introduce her in a traditional Indian outfit at first? Where they just trying to sell the Americanness of Barbie? When I was girl I remember having many different outfits for my barbies and some from other counties. And learned from Barbie and her differnt outfits. What I found more interesting was that Mattel could not stop with just the sari, they also had to incorporate the cultural practices in order to market Barbie properly to the consumers. Many places are known to want the "American Dream" and want a part of that life style. But the consumers in India had no interest in Barbie until she was more like them. Why is it that they wanted Barbie like them, could it be part of their culture or possibly religion?

The way that Mattel markets their Barbie is that all girls want to play with Barbies. There is this universality that all girls play with these dolls. They make such strong claims that this is how it all should be. How does this ideal or universality affect us? What are some other examples where we see another call for universality?

In terms of economic liberalization, I am still slightly confused at the ultimate goal of achieving this? Is the ultimate goal to achieve new consumers and create a new international market? I can see the example of Mattel and Barbie. Using the Saris is a great way to help young Indian girls relate to Barbie and help create that love that many American girls already have. I'm just questioning if Mattel has other motives besides just selling Barbies. Maybe they want to create a a new market through the love of Barbies.

Global brand looks trying to frontier new market out of their mother country. The brands don’t hesitate to adjust in different cultural nations. There is example about bobby doll in India. These kinds of examples are also in Korea. If you go to McDonald’s in Korea, you could find few more menu like Bulgogie (Korean BBQ) burger, and tomato bacon burger. This phenomenon is not special today. In case of Wal-mart couldn’t success in Korean Market because they managed same as they did in America. Failure to adapt and innovate will lead to obsolete buildings and obsolete companies. However I think some companies
are still holdouts for their style without change then get success. Is trying change able to develop always?


Barbie is the perfect example of how a product can be expanded into an overseas target market. Mattel, in my opinion, has really been the first company to launch such a growing product the has been able to appeal to a younger audience around the world. Sure Barbie is going to be adjusted to fit the cultural notion for the respective country that it has been exported to, but what remains unchanged is the effect Barbie has on its consumers, providing happiness to young girls. My question is, can you think of other products that has been able to take off globally without having its purpose of effect or intent change just because it has gone overseas?

It's amazing that Barbie is an international fictional superstar. Its funny how just a few minor changes can translate an ethnicity from an American product to an ethnic product. My question is, is this the same effect that Google has with its many foreign versions to better fit the culture you belong to, i.e. China and the restrictions that are in place?

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This page contains a single entry by zimme313 published on November 18, 2012 11:20 AM.

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