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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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Through a journey interrogating some prime advertising pieces to examine the use and usefulness of imageries of the racial Other within the context of contemporary globalization, and with reference to the genealogy of racial tropes in early advertising discourse, this book has presented a snapshot of popular culture to puzzle out whether the world has moved on to a “color-blind” era in which “race” is no longer relevant or, conversely, whether race issues linger in twenty-first-century minds, and the once-pervasive racial politics continue to be in play. In the current landscape of global advertising, the use of imageries of the racial Other in a range of public interest and commercial campaigns suggests that the currency of race and the commodity-sign value possessed by the racial Other continues to hold and even grow.

This book has also shown that the debunking of the science underpinning the colonial concepts of race, the official condemnation of racism, the politics of multiculturalism, and the proclaiming of a color-blind era have not—some exceptions notwithstanding—prevented the colonial racial script from continuing to function and shape racial representations in advertising discourses. At best, the post-World War II struggles continue: postcolonial racial politics and acceleration of globalization have resulted in a situation where the ticket for overtly racist representations in advertising is no longer valid or permitted. Similarly, shifting racial demographics, consumer segmentation, and the resulting greater consumer power that the racial Other possesses have also driven adjustments in the manner...

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