CECI n'est pas EXECUTE Hélène Kessous

Hélène Kessous

PhD Student
Field: Ethnology / Social Anthropology
Institutional affiliation(s): EHESS

Professional contact information



Dissertation director: Catherine Servan-Schreiber

PhD program: EHESS - Social Anthropology and Ethnology

Initial registration: 2011


Whiteness of Skin in India. From Cosmetic Practices to Redefined Identities


The success of whitening creams in India is now well established. Be it Fair & Lovely (F&L) face creams or whitening soaps for personal hygiene, every part of the body seems to be placed under the caveat of whiteness. In the 1990s, with the liberalization of the economic market, F&L, which had reigned supreme for 30 years, saw its market share diminish. Indian competition, western competition, if the development of the cosmetics market plays an important role in this whiteness craze, it should not lead us to forget that the preference for a pale complexion is nothing new in India. Race color that revives the questions surrounding relationships between Aryans and Dravidians, caste color that supposedly physically differentiates between upper and lower castes, or class color that confers modernity and social success; whiteness of skin, paleness of complexion are now spreading beyond the feminine spheres of beauty and marriage and becoming assimilated into broader social issues. Through still or moving images in particular, the anthropological approach makes it possible to understand where this preference comes from, and how and why it seems to have a particular resonance in Indian society today.


Last update: 5 December, 2017 (NG)




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