Children, Gender, Class and Fashion in Kolkata: An Intersectional Analysis of Discrimination

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 15:30
Location: Übungsraum 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Piyali SUR, Jadavpur University (Department of Sociology), India
In late capitalism there has been a growing ‘commercialization’ of childhood where children are perceived as active consumers of fashion. This presentation critically interrogates the role of fashion, in the form of clothes, shoes, cosmetics, accessories in the lives of children of 15 to 17 years of age in burgeoning consumer society of Kolkata, thereby attempting to bring forth its class and gender dimensions which result in discrimination. There is gender politics behind fashion as girls’ subjectivities are oriented towards fashion in ways boys are not. Though teen boys unlike their fathers or grandfathers are taking active interest in fashion, too much preoccupation with it is still defined by them as ‘feminine’and is devalued. Fashion is also a site where there is production and reproduction of class inequalities and discrimination. Fashion industry creates a hierarchy of ‘taste’ (Bourdieu) in fashion, indicating processes of discrimination which defines and marks off the high from the low. Teen girls from privileged socio-economic backgrounds having access to first world fashion ideas and practices through the internet and popular media, consume and present themselves in ways that express their distinct “costly” taste.  These children ‘do difference’ (West and Fenstermaker) along class lines by wearing branded clothes, global branded products and discriminate against girls from less privileged backgrounds who are held in contempt for their “inferior” taste and style.Teen girls from lower socio-economic backgrounds with limited buying capacity feel deprived and inferior in relation to their bodies which may have long term effects on their identity. The feelings of inferiority gets multiplied if combined with socially constructed undesirable physical traits. The global political economy of fashion industry reproduces hierarchies of inequality around ‘habitus’ and ‘taste’ where body is the central mechanism through which difference in terms of class is performed.