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Advertising and Race

Global Phenomenon, Historical Challenges, and Visual Strategies

Linda C. L. Fu

Since colonization, dominant ideologies of «race» have been visualized and communicated through advertising. At its core, this book delineates the continuities and changes in what is termed the «colonial racial script» within global advertising representations. The origins of that script are traced back to the eighteenth century – through the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the age of High Imperialism, the post-World War II era to the current stage of globalization – and are identified and analyzed.
From ads selling slaves to the ones promoting the ideal of equality, from the campaigns generating new racial currencies to the ones turning down the existing racist overtones, Linda C. L. Fu examines over 100 advertisements and draws on a 300-year span of references to reveal the plurality, chaos, variation, and resilience of the colonial concepts of race in society through advertising discourses in the West.
Advertising and Race is the first book devoted exclusively to the study of strategic deployments of racial tropes in advertising amid waves of historical challenges. With a well-mixed theoretical, historical, social, and professional narrative, it presents a new approach, critical insight, and a comprehensive reference for the study of advertising and communication, as well as the study of race, society, culture, and globalization.
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Chapter 5: Race in Public Interest Campaigns


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The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) was set up by the British government in 1977 under the country’s 1976 Race Relations Act. Under the act, the commission is responsible for “the elimination of racial discrimination” and “the promotion of equal opportunity, and good relations between persons of different racial groups generally.” Coinciding with a shift in the dominant national racial paradigm from an earlier emphasis on “integration” to “diversity,” the birth of the CRE was indicative of a change in the official politics of race in the United Kingdom. During the 1990s, the commission launched several advertising campaigns with anti-racism messages partly to promote awareness of the commission and partly to draw attention to the existence of racism in Britain. Two of the most controversial campaigns were launched in 1998 and are examined here as complex exemplars of the tactic of using racial stereotypes to address racist attitudes at a national level. Bhabha regards stereotypes—a major strategy within colonial discourse— as “a form of knowledge and identification that vacillates between what is always “‘in place,’ already known, and something that must be anxiously repeated” (Bhabha, 1994: 66). Indeed, as Hall (1997b: 249) notes, the traces of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century racial stereotypes had not died out but instead persisted into the late twentieth century. What makes these two CRE campaigns extraordinary is that while they had the express purpose of fighting the...

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