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Keywords:

  • Coca-Cola;
  • Pepsi;
  • consumerism;
  • brand image;
  • India;
  • liberalization;
  • environmentalism

In India, and elsewhere, the effects of globalization, especially increased consumerism, in expanding the circulation of branded goods, has produced a complex mix of responses and readings that are often contradictory. In striving to make sense of the apparently autonomous and often-dizzying pace of economic and cultural change, media and other discourses utilize narratives and strategies that, although located in symbolic–political fields, remain contingent in their specific configurations. Coca-Cola and Pepsi as brands are hybrid embodiments of the larger dissonances constitutive of the present moment in Indian modernity. On the basis of an analysis primarily of media commentary about a recent environmental campaign to highlight the presence of pesticides in Coca-Cola and Pepsi products, this article charts out the recurring discursive motifs that illustrate the political potential and limitations of the evolving sociopolitical fields, encompassing such contested categories as the state, multinational corporations, and the consumer, and their interrelationships in a globalizing India.