Sailaja N. Joshi

Archive for the ‘Presentation of Self’ Category

Question: Who should I be?

In American Dream, Branding, Presentation of Self on October 27, 2010 at 7:00 am

Answer: A Cavalier.

So, I love(d) LeBron James. I was in Cleveland his first season with the Cavs and the man is he awesome to watch. The man, moves. I like the rest of Cleveland, was pretty upset (understatement) when the man moved to the Heat. But that is all in the past.

This newest ad by Nike titled Rise gives us a glimpse into the icon that LeBron has become, or wants to be. Its hard to say whether this work is the creative genius of LeBron, or the work of their ad agency, but none the same the message is provocative. Not only that, the ad challenges our thinking of LeBron and the status we have given him in our society. Is it really his responsibility to be a role model? Should he really involve an entire state or nation in his career decisions?

The truth is, LeBron is a Cavalier. He went against what the public wanted to better himself. We as Americans should appreciate it, after all we are the country that invented the self-made man. In a society where CEOs continue to pay themselves millions of dollars in bonuses while laying off lower level workers, can you really blame LeBron for making the move?

So, what are your thoughts my readers? Who should LeBron be?


“It” Beauty: Where tradition and globalization collide.

In Presentation of Self, Social Change, Uncategorized, United States, Women in Society on September 16, 2010 at 9:44 am

CNN recently published an article entitled, “Is ethnic beauty the new ‘it’ factor?” Now the fact that we’re having this conversation makes me incredibly excited because it means America, is starting to accept a wider definition of beauty.

The article goes on to talk about how there has been a great call for ethnic women (Beyonce, Kim Kardashian) in fashion magazines in an effort to appeal to a global ideal of beauty. In addition, more white women are tanning and straightening their hair in an effort to emulate their Asian sisters.

It’s wonderful that the definition of beauty is beginning to expand to include other races, though I can’t help but think that this article is a bit short sighted. It discusses how American (read: white) women are changing their bodies in order to emulate a more ethnic ideal. I’m glad American women are embracing their ethnic roots, or wannabe ethnic roots, but what about the REST of us non-white Americans?

So we talk about American women embracing an ethnic ideal, but perhaps it’s the other way around for women of ethnicity? Let’s take our girl Beyonce for example. She’s curvy. She’s tan. And she’s got, (hold the phone) blond hair.

Now, considering Beyonce’s roots and ethnicity, I’m to go ahead and say she’s not a natural blond. In fact, she’s probably far from a natural blond, but the point here is that she morphed herself to meet an image. And that image at the time, was that of (perhaps) a Stepford Wife.

It is telling that she, as a women of ethnicity, was attempting to morph herself into an image of ‘ideal American beauty.’ It seems to me that while CNN reported about white women going ethnic, they failed to point out that some ethnic women are going white.

In the world of Anthropology, we often talk about the Anglo-perspective. Where, we as Americans considering our point of view, to be the world’s point of view. With globalization though, we are quickly learning that we are NOT the only one’s on this planet and in fact, our perspective is very often not shared globally.

I think this CNN Article, does an excellent job of pointing out the shift in ideal beauty in America, but does so from a decidedly Anglo perspective. As we embrace ‘ethnic’ beauty, perhaps its time we also examine ethnic beauty and understand how THAT is shifting in this global marketplace. Moreover, how do we define ethnic beauty in this global world? Is it simply the opposite of what the norm once was or is it something more?

Only time, and this Anthropologist, will tell.

Fair Boy, Fair Girl. What’s the Difference?

In Anthropology, India, Presentation of Self, Social Change on July 23, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Fairness Creams in India

So it’s no surprise that Indian women are obsessed with fair skin. India has a long, rich tradition of believing that fair is lovely. But thanks to globalization, or perhaps the woman’s liberation movement, it seems that the tables are turning in India and fairness is no longer just for women.

After my last post, Fair for Facebook, I got some great press via Global Voices and comments which got me thinking, What’s the difference between a fair [Indian] boy and a fair [Indian] girl?

Well to start, a fair girl is lovely. She represents the values of her family. It’s an asset for her to be fair. In the past this meant she was the top pick in the arranged marriage lot. Times however are changing in India. While arranged marriages are still popular, Indian women have a choice now.

And that choice has given birth to the fair boy.

Now the fair boy is not lovely. He’s smart. He also knows that if he wants to get married, to a nice girl from a nice family that it’s going to take more than just an engineering degree.

He has to look good too.

Gone are the days when men could rely on their Visa status and degrees. Indian men, whether it is because of globalization or shifts in population, must look good. And that looking good requires them to be fair.

So, in other words, in order for Indian men to find a ‘suitable match’ they must have fair skin.

My, how the tables have turned.  Ladies of India, enjoy your power.

Betty White: Funny Gal, Bad Ass Grandma & Anthropologist Extraordinaire

In Erwing Goffman, Presentation of Self on May 10, 2010 at 2:36 pm

This weekend, I like many other people stayed up past my bedtime to watch the amazing Betty White perform on SNL. Now, I’ve always loved Betty White and was truly amazed by her comedic genius, her general bad-ass-ness and well, astounding anthropological skills.

In listening to Miss White’s opening monologue, I thought she was apt to point out how Facebook has turned some lame and boring pastimes (re: looking at vacation photographs) into well, a wonderful way to procrastinate and reconnect. Who would have thought that a virtual book could help reconnect millions of people and simultaneously make them less productive.

Facebook has in effect completely changed the way in which we create and develop our social circles. In addition to making vacation pictures now a means of procrastination, Facebook has created a transparent environment in which we present ourselves to the world. With each status update and change in profile picture, we are changing the way in which our friends, and the world view us.

While Facebook is a fascinating place in which to study the world we live in, I can’t help feeling a bit saddened by its existence. Sure, its nice that I can connect with my four-month-old niece in Arizona but it wouldn’t be even nicer if I could see her in person?  Yet, somehow I feel connected with her because Facebook has made it ok to forgo human-to-human interaction for human-to-Facebook Profile interaction.

How we create our social bonds is an engrained part of our socialization.  I can’t help but wonder how my children are going to interact in this age of digital relationships. Will they only know their cousins through Facebook? Will family get-togethers now be conducted via webcam? Or will this age of hyper-digital relationships give way to an age in which we go back to traditional ideas of relationship and see people in (gasp) person?

There are many movements that indicate our society (or some members) is heading towards the path of more traditional values and ways of communicating. Take a look at sites such as Etsy and the number of CSAs that have popped up over the past two years. People are looking for handcrafted goods because they are looking to create real, human relationships once again.

So while venture capitalists and social media specialists are trying to anticipate the next “Facebook” I think they should take a moment and look at what people are really doing and how they are really interacting.  Because, even if there is a new Facebook out there, will anyone join it if they’ve gone back to writing letters?


In Consumer 2.0, Homo-Indus, India, Presentation of Self, Social Change, United States on April 27, 2010 at 4:58 pm

“So, is there going to be like a elephant there?” asked one of my husband’s friends in reference to our upcoming wedding.

“No, we don’t do that, it’s not our tradition. Punjabi people do that.” responded my husband.

“Oh,” said my husband’s friend perplexed. “Well, what’s the difference?”

Just a few thousand miles, a language and several customs.

People today tend to think of Indians as one large group of people who hail from India and whose traditions are homogeneous. India is in fact quiet the opposite. People from the Northern India rarely have the same customs or language as those from the South and vice-a-versa. There are no pure “Indian” traditions or even an “Indian” language. India is made up of a variety of people who speak a variety of language and have a variety of customs. (India is cool like that.)

Till now.

Perhaps its economic success or the media, but the variety of Indian customs is slowly merging both here in the United States and in India.

Case in point? My wedding. My family and my husband’s had similar customs when it came to the wedding rites, but after that we had nothing.

“Well, what about the Mendhi Laag and the Baarat?” I asked my Mom.

“Those aren’t our customs,” replied my mom.

Imagine that! The things that I thought were ‘quintessential’ to an Indian wedding (Thanks Bolloywood!) were in fact, “Not our customs.” It was in this conversation that I came to see the key difference between my generation and my parents. My parents see themselves as Telugu and are defined by the region they hail from in India, while I see myself as simply Indian.

I believe that my generations’ feelings of being simply Indian has resulted in homogenization of Indian culture. The language we speak at home or the state from which our parents came from no longer defines us. Our traditions and cultures have become mixed and intertwined. This has resulted in (drum roll please)…

Homo-Indus. A generation of Asian-Indian American who are a venerable hodgepodge of Indian culture, happy to mix and assimilate our ‘cultural’ values into one big hot-pot of Indianness.

This surge in Homo-Indus has opened up the need for products that are Indian, helping to  make way for Homo-Indus-centric companies such as, Gyanna and Alankar Decors. Companies like these start small, but I think will make huge headway in this economy because they see the need for their services among a growing, affluent community.

Companies should take note this Homo-Indus trend. Catering to the Indian population with goods that speak to their ‘Indianness’ is crucial to gaining the trust and acceptance of this population. This cannot be achieved by simply hiring an Indian actress to promote a cosmetic line. A company must know Homo-Indus and understand their needs starting from their roots.

And what better person to give your company that knowledge than a fellow Homo-Indus?

Ideation (n): the formation of ideas or concepts.

In Consumer 2.0, Presentation of Self, Social Change, United States, Women in Society on April 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I’m a visual learner. I like seeing things on paper and color-coding. I’m not much of a doodler, but I do take a lot of notes, most of which do not make sense when I go back to read them.

With that said, I decided it was high time I visualized my hypothesis. Now, I’ve actually drawn this out multiple times but, now that my proposal is turned it I feel as though I have a better idea of what is going on.

Thus, my hypothesis is as follows:

Cultural Values are the lens through which we see Identity, which is the lens through which one views Ideal Beauty, which is the lens through which we see Cultural Values.

At the center of this study is the Woman’s Body because, woman are the biologically holders of culture and thus their body is critically viewed.

I’ve spent the past few days doodling and here is the visual ideation of my work:

In essence I believe:

Our culture values are influenced by society, which can be broken down into a variety of macro and micro influences. Culture values than influenced a person’s identity because it’s the framework in which we see ourselves. Subsequently, our identity is how we see and interpret ideal beauty. Each one of these forces acts on and is acted UPON by the woman’s body.

So, what do you guys think? How is the visualization? How do my fellow Consumer Anthropologist out there ideate? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Note: Graphic is via the Uniform Project’s website.
Double Note: While imitation is the greatest form of flattery please contact me before using this ideation for any of your own work.

Generation One-hundred and forty (or Gen140 for short)

In Consumer 2.0, Presentation of Self, Social Change on April 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot about Gen140, a name I coined in reference to the generation (present and future) that will undoubtedly be fixated with how to shorten words, phrases and the like.

Gen140 is an interesting generation. It is not made up of a certain group of individuals born during a specific century or era. Gen140s are not from a specific country or speak a specific language. In fact the only force that binds Gen140 together is this little thing called twitter.

Imagine that.

A generation of people who are bound together by a force that in all reality we cannot see or touch.  It is this invisible entity that has quickly become the very identity on which many people live upon.

And then today, while reading through my twitter feed I  saw the following via bostonmarketer who is attending the 140conf:

That’s right. With every tweet we send out into that wonderful universe known as the World Wide Web, we share a little piece of our identity, our culture and ourselves.  Not only are we sharing ourselves, but we are also adapting ourselves as new cultures and people influence us. Thinking back to my friend Goffman, twitter has essentially become a virtual presentation of self.

When twitter was first gaining further popularity I thought, “Geez, this is going to be the demise of the written language.” And well, let’s face it, it probably has. But language, along with culture and society, are not static. They are in fact a living, breathing collection of individuals who are constantly changing the organism of culture they live within.

While I’m sure the results of 140 will be felt in subsequent generation, I think twitter presents us with an opportunity we have never encountered. It allows people of different cultures, ideals and values to interact on a common plane. It allows for new cultures to be formed and developed without the typical social hierarchies that society is use to seeing. As a result, the way we begin to interact with people in the ‘real’ world is going to change dramatically along our perception of culture and identity.

All this in just 140 characters, now isn’t that amazing?

iPad, iPhone, iSelf.

In Anthropology, Erwing Goffman, Presentation of Self, Social Change, Teatime Theory, United States on April 15, 2010 at 10:24 am

Now, before those Mac rumor blogs start tweeting away at Apples latest gadget, the iSelf is not the latest Apple gadget but in fact my generations’ latest state of mind.

Before we talk about the iSelf, we must talk about my main theoretical squeeze and inspiration, Mister Erwing Goffman (I mean, who wouldn’t love a man named Ewring right?). Goffman is the sociologist who came up with the Presentation of Self saying that we are all merely actors/actresses within society. We assume roles, and much like the theater there are scripts that define our roles as well as props and costumes. These roles can be changed, based on our “set” and our ‘characters’ are never static.

Drawing from my man, Goffman’s ideas I believe the iPad/iPhone have become the quintessential prop in my generations’ existence. More than just the “Are you a Mac or are you a PC,” mentality, the iPad/iPhone have together with the iTunes App Store created the iSelf.

No longer are people displaying their diplomas or wearing white coats, we’re all now walking around with identical looking Pods and Pads, blissfully unaware of how these Pod-Pads have equalized us. No longer can we tell the elite members of society from the regular folk.

That is where the iSelf steps in.

I define the iSelf as the, “the manifestation of a person’s cultural values and ideologies through the download and use of Apple Applications of the iPhone/iPad/iTouch.” It is essentially, how we present ourselves through our ‘props’, in this case, the iPhone/iPad.

The crucial point of this observation is; when and how are companies going to utilize this iSelf?

By taking a look at a person’s applications, I think companies will uncover a deep seeded cultural ideals that even the owners may not have know existed.  I’m sure that Apple is out there, working on a logarithm to analyze all this information, but truth be told they need ethnography. Humans are after all, social creates and therefore developing an understanding of HOW people are downloading their Apps and what in means for them, I think Apple will gain an even further edge on the market.

And so, the next time you download an Application onto your Pod/Pad/Touch, as yourself, what does this REALLY say about me?