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A few shades fairer, please

Rakhi Ghoshal

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2017.100


This piece critically reflects on the growing Indian desire for fairer shades of skin. While skin-whitening products vanish off store shelves, notwithstanding protests against such products, the event that generated a storm some time ago in the media was the Garbha Sanskar workshops. In these workshops, women were allegedly taught methods to purify their wombs and beget fairer (and taller) children. In this article I argue that not only is it simplistic to label this ideology regressive, but that it becomes rather difficult to criticise the sanskaris because of the “register” they employ, ie the language they use to rationalise and explain their actions. The sanskaris use the rhetoric of modern medical science to justify their methods, while the same science tells us that their logic is not scientific; consequently, we are stranded between a paradox and a dead-end. A step-wise, critical look at this discourse reveals how complex its nature is, especially its attempt to lay simultaneous claims to different (and contradictory) epistemologies. I offer no easy solution, for there is none. I map some of the complexities and contradictions of the scenario as a first step.

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