Mazzarella, William 1969- (William T.S. Mazzarella)

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Mazzarella, William 1969- (William T.S. Mazzarella)


Born June 23, 1969. Education: University of California—Berkeley, Ph.D., 2000.


Office—University of Chicago, Department of Anthropology, 1126 E. 59th St., Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail—[email protected]


University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, associate professor of anthropology and social sciences.


Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2003.

Contributor of chapters and articles to books, including Asian Media Productions, edited by B. Moeran, University of Hawaii Press, 2001; The Sarai Reader 02, Sarai Media Lab (Delhi, India), 2002; Everyday Life in South Asia, edited by S. Lamb and D. Mines, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 2002; Advertising Cultures, edited by T. Malefyt & B. Moeran, Berg (London, England), 2003; and Enchantments of Modernity: Empire, Nation, Globalization, edited by S. Dube, Routledge (New York, NY), 2007. Contributor to journals, including Public Culture, Biblio: A Review of Books, Annual Review of Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, Anthropological Quarterly, and Mind, Culture and Activity.


University of Chicago anthropology professor William Mazzarella is the author of Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India, a study of emerging consumerism in the subcontinent following independence. The author, wrote Zoe Yule on the M/C Reviews Web site, "concentrates on the mediation between the local and the global, particularly since the independence movement in India, and the role of consumerism and advertising in the development of a local Indian identity." "Since the independence movement in India," Yule explained, "Gandhi's swadeshi movement championed a boycott of foreign goods, and a return to traditional Indian self-sufficiency. This insular policy was reversed dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s, when international investment in the form of huge multinational organisations, with a global market space, were encouraged." Even though India had been independent from British rule since 1947, the country's flirtation with Marxist-style communism and command-style economics retarded the development of transnational corporations for a couple of decades. It was not until the late 1960s that India began entering the global market, developing its own consumer brands and accepting those with existing worldwide recognition for Indian consumption, and it was only after 1991 that the country really began opening up, expanding its relationship with the United States and accepting American brands for sale to its population.

The question Mazzarella investigates boils down to this: how do marketing firms with a global reach (including, perhaps, management that makes decisions without a good understanding of Indian local culture) make international products appeal to Indian middle-class buyers? The University of Chicago professor looks at the ways a Bombay firm dealt with the issue of branding three different types of product: mobile phones, soft drinks, and condoms. "The branding of Kama Sutra condoms," for example, stated Phillip Mar in the Australian Journal of Anthropology, "utilised the association with a stereotypical Indian cultural text, while drawing on a ‘global’, i.e. Western, erotic repertoire. Mazzarella shows how the controversial Kama Sutra campaign had to combine a ‘public service’ role with aspirational fantasies of sexual freedom." Since part of the message the ads had to convey was that condoms help prevent unwanted pregnancies (India is the second-most populous country in the world and is working to control its population growth) and help stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, including AIDS, the copywriters had to find a way to keep this message while still making the articles appealing within the context of Indian society and differentiating their product from others available to the target body of consumer. "At the same time the ads contained an implied critique of the ‘propaganda’ style of government family planning," Mar concluded, "presenting a glamorous ‘world class product’ tar removed from the ‘government’ condom."

On a more general level, Mazzarella's work looks at the ways in which advertising agencies construct their own cultures. Ad companies, the anthropologist reported, present a virtually unique chance to investigate the ways in which global products intersect with locally produced ones. The University of Chicago anthropology professor reveals that the ad writers were faced with the problem of appealing to a broad range of viewpoints. "The agency worked to construct something that they could use to construct an authoritative standpoint: the ‘Indian Consumer’," wrote Nicholas Nisbett in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. "This would fulfill both universalist models of the global consumer and particularist visions of the Indian middle classes." "More importantly, however," Nisbett continued, "it would certify the agency's cultural expertise. Their vision of the Indian teenager, for example, is rooted in a set of expectations and values centred on the Indian family, whilst the ‘Indian Consumer’ more generally becomes associated with his/her ‘grass-roots savviness’, turning washing machines into lassi-makers."



Australian Journal of Anthropology, April 1, 2005, Phillip Mar, review of Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India, p. 135.

Journal of Asian Studies, August 1, 2004, Christopher Pinney, review of Shoveling Smoke, p. 829.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, March 1, 2006, Nicholas Nisbett, review of Shoveling Smoke, p. 251.


M/C Reviews, (August 21, 2008), Zoe Yule, review of Shoveling Smoke.

University of Chicago Anthropology Department, (August 21, 2008), author profile.