Brown Skin, White Dreams: Pigmentocracy in India
Dhillon, Komal Kaur
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Pigmentocracy or colorism refers to the practice of intraracial groups applying a preferential valuation to lighter skin, resulting in a system of contextual privileges and discriminations based on skin color. In India, this phenomenon is informed by numerous factors, including colonialism, the caste system, media, cultural practices, and patriarchy. The fundamental forces contributing to pigmentocracy are explored independently as well as in conjunction with each other in order to elucidate the multifaceted aspects of social organization in India, specifically, the larger effects of imperialism, capitalism, globalization, racism, and sexism as they relate to colorist ideology. Everyday practices and attitudes informed by caste, class, religion, language, region, and customs are also examined in relation to pigmentocracy. Although there are numerous mechanisms that contribute to the complexity of examining pigmentocracy, larger patterns also prevail that allow for a comprehensive understanding of how pigmentocratic notions influence and are influenced by multiple background and demographic conditions. Benefits for those who are on the lighter end of the skin color spectrum are recognized and leveraged in accordance with the systemic logic of being naturally superior. Conversely, often those on the darker end of the spectrum are perceived as inferior, thus perpetuating the superiority of whiteness. Pigmentocracy is detrimental psychologically, physically, and socioeconomically due to the ways in which darker skin is often viewed (by society, media, lighter individuals as well as darker people who subscribe to the belief that white is better) as less attractive, less valuable, less pure, and less clean. For those perceived to be darker, the consequences can include violence, marginalization, and discrimination in areas of employment, education, government, access to resources, psychological trauma, disparities in marital opportunities and conceived notions of beauty, and underrepresentation in media.
- Doctoral Dissertations