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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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This book is about advertising and race in society. It captures a phenomenon in which the advertising industry deploys the concept and imagery of “race” through strategic and creative constructions. In the process, the faces, bodies, and cultural identities of the “racial Other” are turned into commodity signs in advertisements for mass consumption and used as an elixir to perform the magic of advertising in a race to gain attention, to persuade, to influence, and to dominate. This practice is as old (if not older) as the advertising profession and is rooted in a colonial culture. Tracing key concepts, metaphors, stereotypes, and imageries of the racial Other in advertising from the eighteenth century on, and using a combined semiotic interpretation and Foucauldian-inspired genealogical approach, this book examines imageries of the racial Other in historical and contemporary advertising campaigns to delineate both the continuities and changes in what is termed the “colonial racial script” within global advertising representations. In offering my research, I hope to provide a fresh critical angle, an extended scope, and a streamlined reference point to help puzzle out the interrelationships between image and strategy, between colonial and postcolonial ideology, between old and new rhetoric, and between overt and covert stereotype of the racial Other through mainstream advertising discourses.

It was a long road that took me from the beginning of my research to the publication of this book. What inspired me and kept me going in this huge undertaking was a keen...

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