It is 21st century commonsense that India is an “emerging” economy. But how did this common sense itself emerge? How did India’s global image shift from that of a poverty-infested Third World country to that of a frontier of boundless economic opportunity? In her nimbly researched and lucidly narrated new book Brand New Nation: Capitalist Dreams and Nationalist Designs in Twenty-First-Century India
(Stanford UP, 2020), Prof. Ravinder Kaur
tracks the over two decades of mega-publicity campaigns which have gone into producing “Brand India” as a desirable commodity for global investors. What can government- and corporate-sponsored media campaigns like India Shining in 2004 and Lead India in 2009 tell us about the resounding success of the post-2014 acche din
(“good days”) campaign which we are living with to this day? How do cultural nationalism and capitalist growth together produce images of a modern India which is nevertheless rooted in a decisively Hindu antiquity? How does the figure of the aam aadmi
or common man, associated with the 2011 anticorruption campaign, become yet another locus from which entrepreneurship and free markets can once again be championed? This book addresses these and many other questions with clarity and insight, and is an important read for all interested in contemporary India, media and cultural studies, and the making of a hegemonic imaginary.
Aparna Gopalan is a Ph.D. student at Harvard University with interests in agrarian capitalism in rural Rajasthan.