Intersections: White Babies and Global Embodiments in Malaysia and Singapore
Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 23, January 2010

White Babies and Global Embodiments
in Malaysia and Singapore

Maila Stivens

  1. This article is a preliminary exploration of the visual imaging of young children in contemporary Malaysia and Singapore, with a focus on parenting magazines and baby/parenthood fairs and expos. In the course of a project on new Asian childhoods,[1] I have been exploring the ways in which children are imagined and theorised in the new post-development order in the two countries and the intersections between these theorisings, imaginaries around children, the cultural politics of new childhoods and the social and cultural valuations of children. I am especially interested in the places children occupy in a series of imaginaries of the nation, of the future, and of civilisation itself, imaginaries which are produced by a range of social groups, institutions and agencies, including the academy, and not least, by children themselves. As part of the research, I have been analysing a range of media productions and texts. I was struck by finding a strong presence of ‘white’ babies and children in images in both parenting magazines and in advertisements for the frequent ‘baby fairs’ and expos aimed at parents. Thus, overall, about thirty per cent of the images of babies and toddlers in the parenting magazines I examined were of children who seemed to be unambiguously white in appearance.[2] A sizeable further portion comprised images of children of ‘Eurasian’ appearance. This article is mainly concerned with situating this imaging as a theoretical reflection. It is based on a close reading of selected texts and images rather than a comprehensive content analysis.[3] For reasons of space, I concentrate here on the images of white children, leaving the analysis of the complexities of the ethnic composition of the other children portrayed for a different article. I also report on interviews that I conducted in 2009 with journalists and editors involved with parenting publications.
  2. The popularity of pale-skinned images of adult women in advertising in the West and globally has been noted frequently, and has been explained as a product of post-colonial inheritances, especially the workings of beauty regimes valuing 'white' skin.[4] In the present article, however, I am ultimately cautious about interpretations of the imaging of whiteness/westernness in post-colonies like Malaysia and Singapore that link this to colonial pasts and purported circulating hybridities in the contemporary global economy of beauty. Such propositions clearly have force. As I show, the editors of these magazines must carefully traverse the pronounced sensitivities of local ethnic formations in choosing the images gracing their publications. Here I want to propose some further possible explanations of the ways in which images of white babies might work within a complex field of reception to construct a number of dense and often contradictory meanings. I suggest, first, that images in these parenting magazines present the reader/viewer as 'parent' with often highly Romantic images of the child. In particular, the familial ideology and positions offered to readers/viewers to engage in cross-racial sympathetic identification have complicated relationships to the presentations of whiteness/westernness. Enmeshing the viewer in narrow 'familial' roles within a pronounced Romantic genre, they pose complex ideas about familial belonging and the simultaneous positing of ethnically-marked and extra-ethnic spaces.

    Parenting as project in Malaysia and Singapore
  3. Both Malaysia and Singapore have seen massive social changes in the last forty years.[5] Malaysia has experienced remarkable rates of economic growth, greatly expanding education, the rise of new middle classes, low unemployment for considerable periods, and marked improvements in education, life expectancy, infant mortality and literacy. Up to the economic crisis in 2008 Singapore had been routinely included in lists of global cities: thus, per head GDP in 2007 was $US35,163, on a par with affluent OECD countries.[6] Income distribution, however, has been more problematic and political freedoms even more so. Harold Crouch, among other commentators, has described Malaysia's political order as a 'soft-authoritarian' regime.[7] The 'developmental state' in Singapore also oversaw rapid industrialisation and concomitant rising standards of living, but has operated against a similar background of authoritarian governance.[8] A dominant story line within government rhetoric and much social science work in both countries has been one of 'progress,' a linear development from traditional to 'modern' society, with the modern conceived of as fairly recent. I would argue, however, that we need to conceive of the colony and post-colony as firmly formed within a modern that reaches back several centuries.
  4. It is also arguable that while both countries have formed separate nation-states since the 1960s,[9] in significant ways they constitute overlapping cultural spaces that draw on their shared colonial history.[10] Most of the publications under consideration here also treat the two spaces as one, with joint pricing and marketing. At the same time such spaces are deeply cross-cut by economic, political and social ties. In particular, their ethnic formations both categorise the varying groups within them into hyper-ethnicised, essentialised categories of 'Malay,' 'Chinese,' 'Indian' and 'Other.' These ethnic groups are routinely described as 'races' in local discourse, with the primordial loyalties attributed to 'race' seen as rendering the whole system as fragmented and unstable.[11] Both states promote a version of official multiculturalism (carefully even-handed in state publications/propaganda in the case of Singapore, for example),[12] in order to avert the dangers viewed as inherent in such primordialism.[13] Numerically, those classified as 'Chinese' are dominant in Singapore, while 'Malays' predominate in Malaysia, and 'Indians' form a small minority in both places.
  5. These overlapping cultural spaces are evident in the cultural politics surrounding parenting in both countries. Dramatic and diverse changes in education, household, family and subjectivities across the region have shaped new ways of being a child. Both places share a wider 'Asian' pattern, in which new middle classes have been energetically producing well-educated, well-fed, well-tutored and well-protected children. These children embody for both parents and the nation great hopes for a modern, prosperous future. Parents in both countries are under extensive pressure from state, media and consumer forces to energetically perform the demanding tasks of the mothering and parenting required to produce the 'fitter, brighter champions' promised by the new affluent, post-development order. Dumex milk powder advertisements in local magazines, for example, bear the slogan 'for fitter, brighter champions.'[14] Such energy has clearly been critical in producing new subjectivities, identities, and structures of feeling, with highly commoditised parenting deeply embedded in discourses of consumerist desire for the better life for parents and their children.
  6. This idea of energy is central to contemporary notions of 'good mothers' in both countries. A good mother is a kind, nurturing, caring homemaker; but in the new economy,[15] with large numbers of women now in the paid workforce, she is also in some cases a good worker who must balance her difficult life using her well-honed, energetic, managerial skills. Such qualities have important local specificities, however: for the Singapore state a mother's energy in producing children is critical. The low 'Chinese' fertility rates (a trend in both places) are seen to literally threaten state integrity in Chinese-majority Singapore, and officials make explicit connections between the need to balance work and life and their worries about the problems posed for the country by women's 'failure' to reproduce.[16] In Malaysia, while pro-natalism has a long history, it is also widely suspected by cynical political commentators that the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) secretly relishes the relatively lower Chinese fertility rate there, as the higher fertility rate among Malays will increase the Malay majority.
  7. Children are also sources of other forms of anxiety for their parents and the state, seen as sorely in need of protection in a risk-laden world. In the face of such intense concern, 'better' parenting has become a core moral project within both states, central to a range of nationalist/civic and religious projects.[17] Such saving of the child is demonstrably part of larger global phenomena, but it also has its own very clear local specificities.[18] Extensively orchestrated campaigns about 'family' and children have been at the core of complex intersections of versions of local and global 'family values' discourses, and have assumed a central place in many of the cultural contests staged by state, religion and the media about the social ills supposedly besetting modern society. The campaigns have drawn particular inspiration and backing from religious revivalist discourses, including Islamic and Christian religious revivalisms. As such, they are part of a resacralisation of the modern that theorists of modernity observe globally.[19] This resacralisation, however, has had a complicated relationship to ideas of the West in local cultural imaginaries. Countervailing post-colonial and anti-West critiques of western modernity, especially in Malaysia, have been prominent, with a discourse of westoxification among some elements like Islamic revivalists who see the West—and globalisation—as sources of many social ills.[20] Yet, at the same time, both countries have seen a massive growth in consumerism and its accompanying desires for the panoply of global goods and services on offer.
  8. Elsewhere I have suggested a post-modernisation of mothering in both countries, with multiplying and diverse images of mothers coming into play in a number of key sites, including the academy, state, market and religion.[21] Popular discourses about women, gender and mothering have had to make some substantial accommodations to the rapidly changing lived experiences of women. I see this as being linked to an internationalisation of mothering, both in terms of widely circulating global discourses about mothering and in the literal global movement of child care workers: global discourses about mothering include not only the ideas about good, energetic mothers balancing work and childcare, but also pose a model of a newly aestheticised, sexualised 'yummy mummy' motherhood. As well, large numbers of 'maids' from countries in the region have migrated to work in child care in both places. In Singapore foreign domestic workers number at least 140,000: about one family in seven in Singapore employs a 'maid.'[22] In Malaysia there are an estimated 1.5 million documented migrant workers and 200,000–500,000 undocumented foreign workers (male and female).[23]

      Parenting Magazines

  9. As noted, the shared parenting project in Singapore and in Malaysia is also reflected in the joint marketing of mothering and parenting magazines there. I have been collecting these since the mid-1990s. As noted, I have been very struck by the significant number of images of 'white' babies—and less so 'white' children—and their mothers in the photographs and pictures which fill their pages. I calculated these images as comprising on average about 30 per cent of all images in the magazines which I analysed. This presence was particularly marked in the English-language magazines catering to all ethnic groups, but aimed more at the middle classes. English is the dominant public language in Singapore (even though Malay is still an official language there, and the national language). In Malaysia, after several decades of nationalist promotion of Malay, English (as the global language so valued by the new middle classes) has been reasserting itself. I also found significant numbers of images of white children in Malay magazines, for example, as discussed below.[24] Similarly, websites and other advertisements for 'parenthood,' parenting manuals[25] and baby fairs in both countries also display significant numbers of images of white parents and children. Such depictions, as I shall show, appear not only in the many advertisements but also in feature stories.[26]

    Romanticism, 'race' and the familial gaze
  10. This article draws on Sharon Stephens' insightful argument that 'the child' and childhoods have become increasingly powerful focal points of contests around national, racial, ethnic and class boundaries.[27] While she was not addressing the Asian context, it is apparent that such contestations are now fully global as well as being country based in the contexts of Singapore and Malaysia. In her book Pictures of Innocence, Anne Higonnet provides a perceptive account of the myriad crises of representation surrounding the child in the West in the last centuries and the contests over such imaging with new definitions of childhood. Along with Patricia Holland, in her book Picturing Childhood: The Myth of the Child in Popular Imagery, and Marilyn Brown's collection, Picturing Children, Higonnet points to the ways that pictures of children (in the West) are 'at once the most common, the most sacred and the most controversial images of our time.'[28] She sees such images as guarding the cherished ideal of childhood innocence, the development of which she painstakingly traces, especially the development of the Romantic child, but yet carrying within them the potential to undo the ideal.[29] Tracing the forebears of Romantic imagery, like cherubim and seraphim in the Christian tradition, she suggests that most contemporary photographs of children remain consistent with their Romantic precedents. They are often shaped by forces and conventions long forgotten but transposed into photography.[30]
  11. Does this Romantic legacy function in similar ways in Malaysia and Singapore? Higonnet is writing about the West and there are significant problems in transferring conceptual frameworks developed for analysing visual representations of children in the West to the present contexts. I also know of no discussions of the relationship between Romanticism and photography in either country. But it will be clear from the representative images analysed below that the parenting magazines and other texts that I discuss present the reader/viewer with identifiably Romantic images of the child. These are both part of the global circulation of meanings and images, especially within advertising, that Higonnet documents, but are also to be read in ways that are specific to locale.[31]
  12. Higonnet remarks about the child in the West: 'How very white the Romantic child has been, so dominantly white that race did not even seem to be an issue.'[32] Higonnet points out the ways in which globally at least images of 'Other' babies often appear in the western media within another genre, the suffering third-world child, who is by definition not-western and not-white. She interprets much ethnographic imagery of children, for example, as condescending, parading a 'savage' innocence that lacks agency, while, she suggests, the Romantic child belongs to the affluent West.[33] I shall propose that this erasure of race might be one key to understanding why Romanticised images of the child in the two countries so frequently and consistently use whiteness/westernness as a central frame within which to present the imagined child. The present cases, however, also complicate this dualistic opposition, with many Romantic images of 'local' or 'Asian' babies in Singaporean and Malaysian media productions.
  13. Holland contends that pictures of children contribute to a set of narratives about childhood which is threaded through different cultural forms, organising patterns of expectation.[34] As she argues, many of the images of children in advertisements (in the West) are like family snapshots—'they invite viewers to act as if they were looking at their own family pictures, to undertake the same imaginative work and to invest these anonymous public images with some of the same emotional charge [that] family snapshots do.'[35] As both Higonnet[36] and Holland[37] also argue, the child's sex is frequently unmarked, with a default to the feminine, and the 'audience' is similarly often assumed to be feminine. I shall demonstrate that the intimate, caring, desiring maternal gaze is much to the fore in the images from Malaysia and Singapore. Indeed, the advertising pictures in these parenting magazines rarely represent any other adult apart from the mother or the occasional father looking after children. This concentration on close 'family' thus also presents a remarkable exclusion of the many foreign domestic workers ('maids' and 'nannies') caring for children in both countries. This erasure further embeds the intimate, domestic, exclusively familial character of the groupings pictured. But such exclusion poses a further significant question: why do advertisers and editors pose a cross-'racial,' sympathetic identification by the reader, an identification which is clearly simultaneously cross-cut by pigmentocratic[38] searches for distinction?

    Images of Whiteness
  14. In the following sections I shall discuss a small selection of images of white babies and children drawn from both parenting magazines and advertisements for the frequent 'baby fairs' and expos directed at parents in both countries. As noted, these images are drawn from my collection of parenting magazines dating from the mid-1990s to the present. I want here to draw out several themes around representation, race and the familial gaze that I consider to be significant in exploring the play of whiteness in these magazines' imagings of children.
  15. I want first to consider two advertisements in both English and Malay for Pureen ABD antibacterial detergent. (Pureen is listed as a product for washing towels and babies' nappies and clothes.) The images appeared, among other locations, in Motherhood (Singapore and Malaysia) in January 1996, and in Ibu (Motherhood) in May 1995 (Malaysia) and have graced the boxes of the detergent.[39] The images were identical, except that the accompanying text was in English in one and in Malay in the other. They depicted the same bonny, plump, golden-haired, very white baby, dressed in pastel blue dungarees and a frilled white blouse, with an adorable cowlick, who sits with her/his legs on either side of a pile of fluffy pastel-covered towels against a foreground of bubbles bearing the words 'cleanses,' 'freshens,' 'kills germs,' 'brighten,' and in the main foregrounded bubble, 'whitens.' The baby in the image used in advertising the same detergent ten years later in Parenthood magazine in July 2006[40] is a different baby, now dressed only in a nappy, who smiles and gestures back at the onlooker, sitting as before, with legs enfolding a pile of towels among similar slogan-bearing bubbles. The July 2006 detergent box image advertising the same product can be viewed as part of a larger image which also contains an image of another white baby gracing the Dry 5 baby diaper packet.[41] These advertising images both depict a clearly white child, who, like the earlier images, invokes an old-fashioned, nostalgic air.[42]
  16. In the earlier images the sex of the child was quite ambiguous—while the 'prettiness' of the baby and its blouse might be read as implying that it was a girl, the overalls s/he was wearing were blue, widely accepted as the colour of baby boys according to prevailing global gender colour codes. In the 2006 image in Parenthood which also appears in the web image,[43] the child's sex is also clearly unmarked: the baby is wearing only a nappy, and again, while 'pretty,' the possibility of its being a male child is not excluded.[44]

    Figure 1. Advertisement for 'Babywell Milk Expresso Formula Mixer,' in Motherhood, April 2006.

  17. In Figure 1, an advertisement in Motherhood magazine, in April 2006, we can see a similarly androgynous baby. In this case the mother's pleasure in the child is explicit. She hugs the blond-haired baby to her, displaying its plump, bare torso to the viewer. The product (the Babywell Milk Expresso formula mixer) is set in a separate frame alongside, listing dot point information about its desirable qualities.[45] An advertisement for a 'cybermall' in Malaysia selling 'health and personal care' (Motherhood magazine, July 2002, p. 12), once more depicts a happy mother-baby interaction, with a mother lying on her back energetically dandling her golden-haired child of indeterminate sex, who is dressed in only a nappy, like the baby in Figure 1.[46] The mother is herself glamorous, fulfilling the global image of the 'yummy mummy.' In both pictures, the lively maternal embrace enfolds the onlooker into the frame of an active, desiring maternal gaze.
  18. An advertisement for Neslac, in Motherhood magazine, May 2004, shows a slightly older, beautiful, similarly golden-haired, again indubitably white child, this time most probably a small girl. She gazes, in soft focus and dressed in pink, at a frame set below the picture which contains pictures of two tins of Neslac, a Nestlé milk product for older children marketed globally.[47] There is a further dimension to this image: the World Health Organization (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes decrees that there should be no pictures of babies on tins of infant formula.[48] To have the child thus gazing at tins of milk, but not pictured on them, represents a clever way of trying to negotiate around the restrictions.
  19. In an advertisement for a breast feeding forum organised in Kuala Lumpur by Avent (Motherhood, April 2006) a woman holds a very young nappy-clad baby nestled close to her. Avent markets breast pumps and other equipment for baby feeding in both places. The baby appears to be white, although the woman featured could conceivably be 'Eurasian.' The same woman also appears on a website from the US advertising Avent there, however. The image, which can be viewed on Avent sites globally, would appear in this case to be simply a recycled import.[49]
  20. An apparently white mother is again centre stage in the image embedded in a web page advertising the 3rd Parenthood Expo 2007, in Kuala Lumpur (see Figure 2). Her older (male) child leans onto her, touching her
    very obviously pregnant belly, while the mother's hand enfolds the child's. One of a series of expos held annually in recent years in Kuala Lumpur and sponsored by HareNet Communications Sdn Bhd & Today Publishing (publisher of Parenthood), the expo organisers describe it as 'Malaysia's most respected parenting & baby show.'[50] The later 4th (2008), 5th (2009) and 6th (2010) Parenthood Expo websites similarly all depict white mothers and their children as key images in the main poster advertisements.[51]

    Figure 2. '3rd Parenthood Expo 2007,' in Harenet Communications Sdn Bhd, 2007, online:, accessed 23 December 2009.

  21. These parenthood expos have been held annually since 2005, when, as the website explains, they were first called the Modern Mom and Baby Fair: 'Although dads & family members were always welcome at the show, we felt that the name should reflect that and be more inviting to them.'[52] Such baby fairs/expos attract a great deal of interest in both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The HareNet website for the 2008 Expo, for example, includes a video posting, which shows large crowds of local parents of all ethnicities attracted to the show—but few western expatriates.[53]

    Figure 3. (Dr Goh) Parenthood, June 2009, p. 98.

  22. Figure 3, from a story on fatherhood in Parenthood magazine (June 2009), once more shows a white baby being held by its father. It might be assumed that the accompanying story was simply a syndicated western article, but the author is in fact a Malaysian psychologist. A 'local' story is being illustrated with a non-local image from the image stock.[54]
  23. An advertisement for Delrosa rose hip syrup[55] in Motherhood, April 2006, similarly presents an unambiguously white mother enfolding her two equally white children in soft focus against a heart-shaped background of a sea of roses, on which is inscribed 'A Gift of Love with the Natural Goodness of Rose Hip.'[56] The echoes of Romanticism could not be clearer.
  24. From my examination of the parenting magazines, it seems that the images become less likely to portray white children as older children are pictured: white babies appear mostly to morph into more 'local' ethnic images as they age. Thus the cybermall company which I noted above as featuring a golden-haired baby being dandled by its 'yummy mummy' in a printed advertisement for the cybermall, pictures on one of its web pages a father and an older child, a daughter, who appears to be around four years of age.[57] Their ethnicity is presumably meant to appear to be 'local,' but indeterminate. An advertisement in Motherhood April 1995, however, for Pride'n'Joy ('baby apparels' [sic], 'funwear', 'nightwear' 'footwear' and ''accessories') provides a multicultural selection of cute small children, wearing purportedly upmarket clothes: it is captioned 'One is never too young to wear designers' [sic] wear.'[58] This image, perhaps not coincidentally, still sustains the one-third to two-third ratio of white to 'non-white' babies and children that I have suggested in the introduction to this article.
  25. Motherhood's July 2002 edition features an older boy in the advertisement for Dumex, mentioned before. He appears to be 'Chinese,' and is pictured reading a broadsheet newspaper entitled Business News, while his bewildered-looking father clutches a book entitled Business Management for Beginners. The advertisement is captioned 'Kids are getting so clever!'

      That's why new advanced DUMEX 1Plus has Maxi-Q, the precision nutrition to help in your child's brain development…With the right nutrition in the right amounts, you never know how far your little champion will go. Dumex 1Plus is formulated for one to three year olds.[59]

    The advertisement's banner at the bottom proclaims 'for fitter and brighter champions.' Finally, in a similar ad for Dumex in Young Parents, April 2006, a pigtailed, again 'Chinese'-appearing girl plays a cello above the captions of 'Bring out the genius' and 'Emotions drive attention, attention drives learning.'[60] The idea of the 'driven' genius child is close to the surface in these advertisements, echoing the deadly serious project of parenting for achievement that has become so prominent in recent years in both countries.

  26. I here want to draw out several themes that I consider significant in exploring the play of whiteness in the imaging of children and the future in Malaysia and Singapore. As I have emphasised, it is significant that the publications under consideration here mostly treat Malaysia and Singapore as an essentially overlapping if not shared space of image-making about parenting, with joint marketing and pricing, in spite of the many differences between the two societies. One can, therefore, make a number of points that apply to the two places equally.
  27. First, as I showed, the images in these parenting magazines are easily identifiable as firmly placed within a genre of Romantic visual imagery. Such images of idealised childhood present the reader/viewer/spectator as 'parent' with many visual pleasures. These pleasures arise not only from looking at adorable babies and children, but also from the prospect of the scrutiny and acquisition of the multiple consumer goods on display, which range from the frankly utilitarian to the most indulgent. As Higonnet argues, 'the selling point is the child's body' itself.[61] A key issue for the present discussion is why the romanticising images discussed here so consistently and frequently use whiteness/westernness—western, 'outsider,' global babies and children—as one important trope with which to present the imagined child to concerned, hyper-consuming readers/viewers/parents in Singapore/Malaysia.
  28. There are a number of initially plausible explanations: one 'obvious' set of answers to questions about the ethnic composition of the images is to be found in the editorial offices of these magazines. As part of my research, as noted, I interviewed a number of editors and journalists involved in parenting magazines about their publications.[62] In the course of these wide-ranging interviews I asked cautious, open-ended questions about the ethnic composition of images. My questions were clearly uncomfortable for the interviewees, who reiterated the highly 'sensitive' nature of the topic for them. None wanted me to quote them by name or to reveal the publication. One journalist in Malaysia told me, however:

      In the beginning we used a far larger amount of local and Eurasian [appearing] images. When we used local images, [we were told that] it wasn't that impressive to local mothers to see Asian faces in the magazine. We got feedback from the advertisers, 'Why is your magazine so 'Chinese'?' Advertisers want it to be an 'English' magazine.[63]

    This journalist told me that the photo stock was also a factor: it did not contain many images of 'Asians' [sic], she said, apart from images from China—and advertisers felt those images were not 'local' Chinese, but 'too Taiwanese' in appearance. But, as she exclaimed 'there is no one Malaysian face!' Several journalists told me, too, about the problems with the limited number of Malaysian faces in the image stock, and one magazine editor in Singapore told me that in fact they used many photos of the staff's own children to fill the gap in 'local' faces. I was told that there was a great shortage of Malay-appearing faces in particular in the photo stock.[64]
  29. One might also assume that the strong presence of whiteness in images was the outcome of the high level of syndication of stories in global media, with multiple, circulating images of white mothers and their children. Yet this was clearly not the case for a number of these images, whose accompanying stories originated locally. This was confirmed by the journalists whom I interviewed, who told me that most stories were commissioned locally, with very few imported from overseas.
  30. A second possible explanation might lie with the close links between whiteness/westernness and the production of distinction and prestige in the global beauty economy. The journalist's comments about magazines being too 'Asian' would seem to provide ample confirmation for this argument. It might seem banal to suggest that moves to associate commodities like nappies, bottles and formula with the prestige of glamorous 'modern,' white/western/global mothers are part of the making of distinction so well analysed by Bourdieu,[65] an obverse to the Benetton-like fake multiculturalism of clever corporatism elsewhere. Yet clearly, whiteness, the circulation of global cultural capital and consumption are inextricably entwined in the production of images of white baby bodies and those of their older siblings and mothers. The seemingly innocuous, familiar text about soap powder telling us that this product brightens, whitens and cleans, juxtaposed to a bonny baby, is completely familiar and banal, but pregnant with meaning after a century or more of soap powder advertising globally.[66] Moreover, this particular imagery has been consistent over time. In the hyper-ethnicised context of Malaysia and Singapore such texts clearly cannot be read as innocent on the part of the advertisers, especially when the main image in both English and Malay versions depicts an unambiguously white baby. No advertising agency is going to be careless about simply drawing on some global database of pretty pictures of lovable, 'old-fashioned'-appearing babies. Such messages of old-time quality and whiteness can be read as promising 'old-fashioned' quality by invoking an older, if not colonial, pigmentocratic order, but they simultaneously invoke a contemporary global order where skin whiteness brings much social and cultural capital.[67]
  31. Such seeking after distinction could also be seen as layered with a further sub-text, recalling the embedded associations of the old, allegedly deficient, 'lazy' ways of mothering, particularly among Malays.[68] The ways in which the shared British Malayan colonial past has been manifest in the complex, successive imaginaries of the histories of the 'mother' in both scholarly and political cultural production in both places have been described elsewhere.[69] The colonial period, for example, saw a great emphasis on the inadequacies of local mothers.[70] Both in the past and present western mothers have been seen in both places as significant bearers of wealthy, aristocratic and cosmocratic prestige,[71] education and cultural capital, as well as providing models of 'successful' mothering per se in terms of health and survival. In the present context, they might also, in Singapore at least, promise a more 'successful' balancing of work and life that produces the higher fertility of an Australia or a US (although not the low fertility of a Germany or Italy).
  32. Post-colonial analyses could also point us further to related arguments about skin-whitening products for women and the analyses of hybridised models throughout Asia, not least the popularity of so-called 'mixed-race' stars in Hollywood, in Bollywood and in Indonesian soap operas, for example. These accounts draw on a repertoire of explanations which discuss the power of whiteness attached to hegemonies of power, race and class as ultimate explanatory tools.[72] Patricia Goon and Allison Craven, for example, discuss the widespread practice of skin whitening in Asia, seeing a performance of whiteness by those using whitening creams.[73]
  33. It has been pointed out frequently, however, that valuations of pale skin in Asia are not easily traced simply to colonial influences. There is a long history of such valuations prior to colonialism, which may well be linked to histories of caste in India and class elsewhere. Such histories are clearly sedimented. In a study looking at the prevalence of white (adult) images in Indian advertising, Usha Zacharias proposes the concept of post-colonial whiteness, suggesting that its significance 'lies not in symbolic investment in more static, older colonial racial codes, but its resonance with incoming transnational economic transformations of market liberalization.'[74] She sees such whiteness as having opened up and expanded 'the space of socially articulated desire through flexible racial coding, liberating it from more frugal nationalist ideologies and metaphorically profiling new markets'[75] and opening up 'new, flexible, almost postnationalist spaces of desire, discovery, and conquest for the shape-shifting, consuming citizen.'[76] Her suggestion, in my view, provides a useful way to think about the comments by the journalists working on these publications. Such post-nationalism, however, highlights the ways in which the imagery of the magazines and other parenting media, populated by a significant proportion of overtly non-local, non-national bodies, pose strong counter messages to those from the state about parenting as a national(ist) task. At the same time, Romanticism attaching to small baby bodies might be just what a state highly anxious about its birth rate needs and wants, in the Singapore case at least.
  34. There is, on the other hand, the issue of the strong strands of anti-westernism present in post-colonial cultural imaginaries in both places. How do the idealised images of white children and their mothers sit with these strong undercurrents? A body of feminist writing in the last two decades has looked at how women's bodies are deployed as markers of boundaries between communities, nations, religions and ethnicities. It is clear, as writers in the area of visual representations of children have argued, including Higonnet,[77] Holland[78] and Brown,[79] that children's bodies are similarly deployed in the making of social boundaries, including that between the ever-shifting, unstable domains of the domestic and public. It is significant that white women's bodies bear diverse meanings within the cultural imaginaries of both places. They form a sizeable proportion of the global celebrities gracing women's magazine pages, for example. In the parenting magazines, they also commonly feature as 'yummy mummies.' Yet, at the same time, for significant portions of the populace they are often seen as symbols of decadence and immorality within a discourse of westoxification. Writers since Frantz Fanon[80] have noted the profound ambivalence with which the racialised Other regards the superordinate, which often includes a seeking after whiteness by the colonised, and a negation of the colonised self.
  35. In the magazines and other texts under discussion here, white western women's bodies are also sites where 'difficult' or 'sensitive' representations of matters around the physical body and sexuality can take place. Thus, a special issue of Mother and Baby (Malaysia) in August 2004 on breast feeding includes thirteen images of locals and five images of white women with their babies (and a couple where race is indeterminate). The images with breasts/nipples exposed, however, all show white women. It is rare, indeed, for any local woman of any ethnicity to be shown with breasts or belly exposed in these publications. I am suggesting that the adult white body here becomes a useful non-local, 'universal' body to use for such imaging.[81] Display of 'local' flesh would mostly be considered too 'sensitive' in societies where strong codes of modesty govern the display of naked female flesh, even in Singapore where the wearing of relatively 'revealing' fashions for non-Malays is unproblematic. In Malaysia, the Islamicisation of recent decades has seen intensifying pressure on bodily exposure by Muslims, with religious rulings (fatwas) against exposed flesh and bans on beauty pageants. I have observed the same phenomenon of using images of white bodies in stories giving advice on sexual matters in women's-interest magazines, where the models in the accompanying pictures seem to be almost invariably white. Can one then, following all this, argue for the imagery of the white baby and its mother as making in some circumstances at least, a similarly safe, non-ethnic space for postulating an image of idealised childhood? Or is the ongoing imaging of a sizeable number of white/western babies—and in some cases their white mothers disrobed, with 'baby bumps' or nipples on show—simply evidence of 'race as spectacle,' evoking Zacharias's post-nationalist spaces of desire, discovery, and conquest?[82]
  36. The point about safe, extra-ethnic space points to another possibility within the idea of the universal. Sara Ahmed argues, with other influential writers on whiteness, that whiteness has functioned as the implicit norm for the universal, functioning as an a priori universal.[83] In such arguments the white is read as the human, and the human thus becomes a highly exclusionary category. Gunew cites Montag, who says,

      [t]o be white is to be human, and to be human is to be white. In this way, the concept of whiteness is deprived of its purely racial character at the moment of its universalization, no longer conceivable as a particularistic survival haunting the discourse of universality but, rather, as the very form of universality itself.[84]

    Following Ahmed and Zacharias, the 'universal' 'human' of the white baby images here would thus be read as examples of the re-formed but ongoing exclusionary power of (post-colonial) whiteness.[85] Such arguments are persuasive; but taking seriously the ideas about familial positioning offered by these Romantic images also crucially complicates such arguments, opening up further possibilities within the idea of the universal. Some recent work on rethinking cosmopolitanism has looked at how the intimate and domestic, which have been ignored in much writing on cosmopolitanism, can configure the global and the cosmopolitan in its ethical, normative senses.[86] The images in question, with gender often unmarked as well, contradictorily offer a twist on the exclusions of the universal: in such a space images of white babies might not only deploy post-colonial whiteness, or manipulate caring parents to adopt the familial gaze for the furthering of hyper-consumption, or to evade hyper-ethnicism; they could also be seen as standing for the possibilities of a non-ethnicised space of childrearing, for a version even of familialised, post-nationalist, humanistic universalism that both evades the dangers of the hyper-ethnicisation inherent in local ethnic formations, and also moves beyond them.


    [1] The support of the Australian Research Council for the project Imagining the Asian Child: Towards an Anthropology of New Asian Childhoods is gratefully acknowledged, as well as funding for previous projects that also inform the present paper, including 'Inventing the “Asian Family": Gender, Globalisation and Cultural Contest in Southeast Asia (2000–2002). See Maila Stivens 'Thinking about the “New Asian Child",' in Changing Asia-Pacific Childhoods, ed. Deepak Behera and Roxana Waterson, (forthcoming), for a discussion of the ways in which theorising childhoods in Asia can engage with key narratives around the history of childhoods globally.

    [2] Studies of 'race' as a social construction produced by racism have long pointed to the problems with the concept. See Paul Gilroy, Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line, Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2000. Studies of whiteness pioneered by, among others, Ruth Frankenberg (White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993) have explored the unexamined character of whiteness. I shall use the term 'white' here to denote the social marking of the children and mothers in the images under consideration. The terms 'western,' or European, would be misleading given the diverse ethnic composition of most 'western' societies.

    [3] I sampled about fifty issues of a number of parenting magazines dating from 1993 to 2009 including the English-language magazines (all of which are sold in both Singapore and Malaysia): Motherhood, Singapore: Motherhood Pte Ltd, Eastern Holdings; Parenthood, Kuala Lumpur: Today publishing; Mother and Baby, Mediacorp, Malaysia and Singapore offices—the Malaysian office was closing down the day I arrived to interview the editor in April 2009; Family, Mediacorp, Singapore; Today's Parents, Singapore: Lifestyle magazines; Singapore Child, Lexicon group, Singapore; and Young Parents, Singapore: SPH Magazines. Malay-language magazines Ibu (Mother), and Mami dan Baby (Mother and Baby), Kuala Lumpur: Today publishing. I surveyed all images in these issues, quantifying the 'local' versus white/western images of children. I have not consistently sampled Chinese-language magazines, also on sale. Circulation figures, closely guarded, are not easily available.

    [4] See Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest, New York: Routledge, 1995.

    [5] For discussions of Malaysian and Singapore development see Richard Robison and David S.G. Goodman (eds), The New Rich in Asia: Mobile Phones, McDonalds and Middle-class Revolution, London and New York: Routledge, 1996; Michael Pinches (ed.), Culture and Privilege in Capitalist Asia, London and New York: Routledge, 1999; Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Industrialising Malaysia, London: Routledge, 1993; Yao Souchou (ed.), House of Glass: Culture, Modernity, and the State in Southeast Asia, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2001. For a feminist discussion see Krishna Sen and Maila Stivens (eds), Gender and Power in Affluent Asia, London: Routledge, 1998. See also Khoo Boo Teik, 'Searching for Islam in Malaysian politics: confluences, divisions and governance,' Working Papers Series, no 72, City University, Hong Kong (September, 2004), online:, site accessed 8 December 2004.

    [6] 'Time Series on Per Capita GDP at Current Market Prices,' in Statistics Singapore, online:, site accessed 13 December 2008.

    [7] Harold Crouch, Government and Society in Malaysia, Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1996. See also Ariel Heryanto and Sumit K. Mandal (eds), Challenging Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia: Comparing Indonesia and Malaysia, London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

    [8] Manuel Castells, The developmental city-state in an open world economy: the Singapore experience. Working Paper No. 31, Berkeley Round Table on the International Economy, Berkeley, CA., 1988; M. Perry, L. Kong and B. S. A. Yeoh, Singapore: A Developmental City-State, World Cities Series: Chichester: John Wiley, 1997.

    [9] British-controlled territories on the Malay Peninsula included the Straits Settlements of Singapore, Malacca and Penang (Singapore was to become a separate Crown Colony in 1946), the Federated Malay States and the Unfederated Malay States. Malaya was granted independence in 1957, but after joining Malaysia in 1963 Singapore broke away in 1965.

    [10] For an extended discussion of this shared social and cultural space, see Joel Kahn, Other Malays: Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in the Modern Malay World, Singapore: Singapore University Press and Asian Studies Association of Australia; Copenhagen: NIAS Press; Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2006.

    [11] Sumit K. Mandal, 'Transethnic solidarities in a racialised context,' in Journal of Contemporary Asia, vol. 33, issue 1 (2003):50–68; for discussions of ethnic relations in the two countries see Geraldine Heng and Janadus Devan, 'State fatherhood: the politics of nationalism, sexuality and race in Singapore,' in Bewitching Women, Pious Men: Gender and Body Politics in Southeast Asia, ed. Aihwa Ong and Michael G. Peletz, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995, pp. 195–215; Nirmala Purushotam, Negotiating Language, Constructing Race: Disciplining Difference in Singapore, Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1998; Leo Suryadinata (ed.), Ethnic Relations and Nation-building in Southeast Asia: The Case of the Ethnic Chinese, Singapore Society of Asian Studies, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004; Daniel P. S. Goh, 'From colonial pluralism to postcolonial multiculturalism: race, state formation and the question of cultural diversity in Malaysia and Singapore,' in Sociology Compass, vol. 2, no. 1 (2008):232–52; Abdul Rahman Embong, The Culture and Practice of Pluralism in Post-Independence Malaysia, IKMAS, Working Paper Series No. 18, August, Bangi: IKMAS, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (2000).

    [12] This point was underlined by one of the anonymous readers of this article.

    [13] Mandal, 'Transethnic solidarities in a racialised context,' pp. 50–68.

    [14] Advertisement for Dumex, Motherhood magazine, July 2002, p. 49.

    [15] Robison and Goodman, The New Rich in Asia.

    [16] Singapore's total fertility rate was 1.29 in 2007, 'New incentives for married couples to have more children,' in Newsflash, published by and at the directions [sic] of People's Action Party, Singapore, online:, site accessed 7 May 2009. See discussion in Maila Stivens, 'Postmodern motherhoods and cultural contest in Malaysia and Singapore,' in Working and Mothering in Asia: Images, Ideologies and Identities, ed. Theresa D/O Wilson Devasahayam and Brenda S. Yeoh, Singapore: Singapore University Press; Copenhagen: NIAS Press, Gendering Asia #2, 2007, pp. 29–50.

    [17] Stivens, 'Postmodern motherhoods and cultural contest in Malaysia and Singapore,' pp. 29–50; Maila Stivens, 'Modernising the Malay mother,' in Maternities and Modernities: Colonial and Postcolonial Experiences in the Asia Pacific Region, ed. Kalpana Ram and Margaret Jolly, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 50–80; Maila Stivens, 'Family values and Islamic revival: gender, rights and state moral projects in Malaysia,' in Women's Studies International Forum, vol. 29, no. 4, July–August (2006):354–67.

    [18] Stivens, 'Family values and Islamic revival,' pp. 354–67; Stivens, 'Postmodern motherhoods and cultural contest in Malaysia and Singapore,' pp. 50–80.

    [19] Stivens, 'Family values and Islamic revival,' pp. 354–67; see Gill Jagger and Caroline Wright (eds), Changing Family Values, London: Routledge, 1999.

    [20] Stivens, 'Sex, gender and the making of the Malay middle class,' pp. 86–126; Stivens, 'Modernising the Malay mother,' pp. 50–80. See ALSO Stivens, 'Family values and Islamic Revival,' pp. 354–67 for discussion of 'westoxification' in the region; see also Malaysian revivalist writer Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad's book, The West on the Brink of Death, London: ASOIB Books, 1992.

    [21] Stivens, 'Postmodern motherhoods and cultural contest in Malaysia and Singapore,' pp. 29–50.

    [22] Shirlena Huang, Brenda S.A. Yeoh and Maruja M.B. Asis, 'Filipino domestic workers in Singapore: impacts on family well-being and gender relations,' Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting on Migration and Development 27–29 August 2003, Bangkok, 2003, online:, site accessed 13 April 2004.

    [23] Asian Migrant Centre, Asian Migrant Yearbook, AMC and APEC, Hong Kong, 1998, cited in Rohana Ariffin, 'Domestic work and servitude in Malaysia,' Hawke Institute Working Paper Series No. 14, Hawke Institute, Magill: South Australia: University of South Australia, 2001, online:, site accessed 13 April 2004.

    [24] This can vary but, for example, while the Malay-language magazine Ibu features 'locals' strongly, Mami dan Baby in May 2008 contained more than fifty images of white children or their mothers, as against seventy-plus images of locals or Eurasian-appearing children and/or mothers, as well as some images containing mixed groups.

    [25] Parenting manuals in both places are mainly overseas imports, primarily from the Anglosphere, as can be seen from the Singapore Public Library, although a few local publications in English have appeared in recent years. See for example Jennifer Hor, Ho Ai Ling and Jocelyn Oo (eds), Asian Parenting Today, Kuala Lumpur: Rhino Press, 2006; Kenneth Lyen, Myint Myint Thein and John Ang, Asian Child Care: A Guide to Pregnancy, Parenting and Child Health, Singapore: Landmark Books, 1997. There are some sub-genres of religious instruction manuals on parenting that are available in Malay, such as the many religious instruction booklets directed at Muslim Malays, as well as Chinese language publications.

    [26] As an aside, I can note that one editor of a teenage magazine told me that he had a formal formula of 70 per cent local images and 30 per cent 'others,' which included Korean and other Asian celebrities (Interview with anonymous journalist, Singapore, April 2009).

    [27] Sharon Stephens, Children and the Politics of Culture, Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

    [28] Anne Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence: The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood, London: Thames and Hudson, 1998, p. 1; Patricia Holland, Picturing Childhood: The Myth of the Child in Popular Imagery, London: I. B. Tauris, 2004; Marilyn Brown (ed.), Picturing Children: Constructions of Childhood between Rousseau and Freud, Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2002.

    [29] Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence, p. 1.

    [30] Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence, p. 77.

    [31] For example, Anne Geddes's well-known baby calendars, featuring babies in flowerpots, and discussed by Higonnet (Pictures of Innocence), are widely on sale on Malaysian and Singapore eBay sites.

    [32] Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence.

    [33] Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence, pp. 119–20.

    [34] Holland, Picturing Childhood, p. 3.

    [35] Holland, Picturing Childhood, p. 54.

    [36] Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence.

    [37] Holland, Picturing Childhood.

    [38] Pigmentocracy means a social hierarchy based on human skin colour—colourism.

    [39] Permission to reproduce images refused by Summit Company [S] Pte Ltd.

    [40] Malaysia only, permission to reproduce image refused by Summit Company [S] Pte Ltd

    [41] 'Pureen Products,' Pureen, n.d., online:, site accessed 10 June 2009.

    [42] Holland, Picturing Childhood and Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence both discuss the role of nostalgia in western image-making about children.

    [43] Image can be viewed at 'Pureen products,' Pureen.

    [44] Advertisement for 'Babywell Milk Expresso Formula Mixer,' in Motherhood, April 2006.

    [45] Motherhood magazine, April 2006, reproduced with permission Babywell International Pte Ltd, Singapore.

    [46] Permission to reproduce image not forthcoming from WhereHealthBegins Pte Ltd.

    [47] Permission to reproduce image not forthcoming.

    [48] The World Health Organisation (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, World Health Organization, Geneva, 1981, online:, site accessed 19 June 2009.

    [49] 'About Philips AVENT,' on Philips, Sense and Simplicity, n.d., online:|2437373304, site accessed 28 December 2008.

    [50] The company's homepage describes it as the leading publisher of mother and baby magazines, which include Parenthood, Parenting, MomBaby and Mami & Baby. See online:, site accessed 10 June 2009.

    [51] Video productions of Harenet Communications' 4th and 5th Parenthood Expos can be viewed at:, accessed 23 December 2009. Further images of 'white' babies' on their sites can be seen at 'Harenet 6th Parenthood Expo 2010,' online:, accessed 28th December; and 'Motherhood Expo, 19–21 March 2010, Mid Valley Exhibition Centre, Kuala Lumpur, n.d., online:, accessed 28th December 2009.

    [52] Originally viewed online at, site accessed 26 December 2008. Available online now at, site accessed December 28th 2009.

    [53] View videos of the '4th Parenthood Expo 2008,' on the Harenet Communications Website, online:, site accessed 10th June, 2009; and '5th Parenthood Expo 2009,' on the Harenet Communications Website, online:, accessed 12 October 2009.

    [54] Permission to reproduce image from Today publishing, Kuala Lumpur.

    [55] Nostalgic bloggers claim that Delrosa Rose Hip Syrup has not been available in the UK for some years, but can still be found in some countries. See, for example 'Rosehip Syrup,' in Contemplating Change: Living Lightly in Changing Times, Friday 9 November 2007, online:, site accessed 1 January 2009.

    [56] Permission to reproduce image not forthcoming from distributor.

    [57] For this father/daughter image, see 'Enzyme Therapy,' on Where Health Begins, n.d., online:, accessed 11 January 2010.

    [58] The clothes were imported by Summit, the company importing Pureen—permission to reproduce image refused by Summit.

    [59] Advertisement for Dumex, Motherhood, July 2002, p. 49.

    [60] Permission to reproduce image not forthcoming from distributor.

    [61] Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence, p. 65.

    [62] It is worth noting that actually obtaining interviews with journalists working in the parenting field was extremely difficult. Almost none answered a succession of emailed, then snail-mail and faxed requests for an interview, and while visiting the offices directly scored a reasonable success rate, several others were 'too busy' to be interviewed. All wished to be quoted only anonymously. As will be apparent, I had similar problems in trying to obtain permissions to reproduce images.

    [63] Interview with anonymous journalist, Kuala Lumpur, April 2009.

    [64] Interviews with anonymous journalists, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, April 2009.

    [65] Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge, 1984.

    [66] See Anne McClintock's chapter on the history of soap and the exploration of the racialisation of domesticity within the British Empire, where she identifies an alchemy of racial uplifting through historical contact with commodity culture: Anne McClintock, 'Soft-soaping empire: commodity racism and imperial advertising,' in Travelers Tales: Narratives of Home and Displacement, ed. George Robertson, London and New York: Routledge, 1994, pp. 131–54.

    [67] McClintock 'Soft-soaping empire,' pp. 131–54; Evelyn Nakano Glenn, 'Yearning for lightness: transnational circuits in the marketing and consumption of skin lighteners,' in Gender and Society, vol. 22, no. 3, June (2008):281–302.

    [68] See Stivens, 'Modernising the Malay mother,' pp. 50–80; Stivens, 'Family values and Islamic revival,' pp. 354–67; Lenore Manderson, 'Shaping reproduction: maternity in early twentieth-century century Malaya,' in Maternities and Modernities: Colonial and Postcolonial Experiences in the Asia Pacific Region, ed. Kalpana Ram and Margaret Jolly, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 26–49.

    [69] Stivens, 'Modernising the Malay mother,' pp. 50–80; Stivens 'Postmodern motherhoods and cultural contest in Malaysia and Singapore,' pp. 29–50.

    [70] Stivens, 'Modernising the Malay mother,' pp. 50–80.

    [71] Cosmocratic' is a term used in the sociological literature to refer to internationally highly mobile, upper middle-class 'cosmocrats.'

    [72] For relevant references on whiteness and skin whitening, see Makiko Ashikari, 'Urban middle-class Japanese women and their white faces: gender, ideology, and representation,' in Ethos vol. 31, no. 1 (2003):3–4, 9–11; Stephanie Hemelryk Donald, 'Seeing white – female whiteness and the purity of children in Australian, Chinese and British visual culture,' in Social Semiotics, vol. 10, no. 2 (2000):157–71; Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks; trans. Charles Lam Markmann, New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991; Patricia Goon and Allison Craven, 'Whose debt?: Globalisation and whitefacing in Asia,' in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, Issue 9, August (2003), online:, site accessed 4 April 2007; Sneja Gunew, 'Rethinking whiteness: introduction,' in Feminist Theory, vol. 8, no. 2 (2007):141–48; Philip Holden, 'Reinscribing orientalism: gendering modernity in Colonial Malaya,' in Asian Journal of Social Science, vol. 29, no. 2 (2001):205–18; Margaret Hunter, Race, Gender, and the Politics of Skin Tone, New York: Routledge, 2005; Angela Ka Ying Mak, 'Advertising whiteness: an assessment of skin color preferences among urban Chinese,' in Visual Communication Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 3, (November 2007):144–57; Peter McLaren, 'Developing a pedagogy of whiteness in the context of a postcolonial hybridity: white identities in global context,' in Dismantling White Privilege: Pedagogy, Politics and Whiteness, ed. Nelson M. Rodriguez and Leila E. Villaverde, New York: Peter Lang, 2000, pp. 150–57; Shoma Munshi, Images of the Modern Woman in Asia: Global Media, Local Meaning, Routledge: London and New York, 2001; Susan Runkle, 'Making "Miss India": constructing gender, power and nation,' in South Asian Popular Culture, vol. 2, no. 2 (2004):145–59; Usha Zacharias, 'The smile of Mona Lisa: postcolonial desires, nationalist families, and the birth of consumer television in India,' in Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 20, no. 4 (2003):388–406, p. 398.

    [73] Goon and Craven, 'Whose debt?'

    [74] Zacharias, 'The smile of Mona Lisa,' p. 398.

    [75] Zacharias, 'The smile of Mona Lisa,' p. 391.

    [76] Zacharias, 'The smile of Mona Lisa,' p. 398.

    [77] Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence.

    [78] Holland, Picturing Childhood.

    [79] Brown, Picturing Children. See also George Dimock, 'Children's studies and the Romantic child,' in Picturing Children: Constructions of Childhood between Rousseau and Freud, ed. Marilyn Brown, Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2002: pp. 189–99.

    [80] Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks.

    [81] Similar suggestions for Japan and Korea reported by Katherine Toland Frith, Hong Cheng, and Ping Shaw, 'Race and beauty: a comparison of Asian and Western models in women's magazine advertisements,' in Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, January (2004):53–61.

    [82] Zacharias, Usha, 'The smile of Mona Lisa, pp. 388–406.

    [83] Sara Ahmed, 'A phenomenology of whiteness,' in Feminist Theory, vol. 8, no. 2 (2007):149–68.

    [84] Warren Montag, 'The universalization of whiteness: racism and enlightenment,' in Whiteness: A Critical Reader, ed. M. Hill, New York: New York University Press, 1997, pp. 281–93, p. 285, cited in Gunew, 'Rethinking whiteness: introduction,' p. 143.

    [85] Ahmed, 'A phenomenology of whiteness,' pp. 149–68; Zacharias, 'The smile of Mona Lisa,' pp. 388–406. Robyn Wiegman, 'Whiteness studies and the paradox of particularity,' in boundary 2, vol. 26, no. 3 (1999):115–50; Gunew, 'Rethinking whiteness: introduction,' pp. 141–48.

    [86] Pnina Werbner (ed.), Anthropology and the New Cosmopolitanism: Rooted, Feminist and Vernacular Perspectives, London: Berg, 2008; Maila Stivens, 'Gender, cosmopolitanisms and rights claims,' in Anthropology and the New Cosmopolitanism: Rooted, Feminist and Vernacular Perspectives, ed. Pnina Werbner, London: Berg, 2008: pp. 87–110.

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