Ms. Simran Juglal
Simran is a researcher at the Centre for Women and Gender Studies (CWGS) at Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha, South Africa. Here, she works towards developing gender mainstreaming and transformation strategies in higher education institutions in South Africa, engendering and decolonizing the curricula, and organizing various book launches and roundtable events. Simran holds a master’s degree in media studies and her research areas include gender, cultural, and film studies. Her thesis, titled Colourism, the Commodification of Complexion and a Post-Colonial Analysis of Skin-Lightening Campaigns: A Case Study of the South African Indian Community, explored the colonial and Apartheid legacy of colorism and skin-lightening practices in South Africa. This dissertation included not only a media analysis of ethnic marketing techniques of skin-lightening advertising, but also involved audience studies in which she sought to identify the salient causes or perpetrators of colorist beliefs among South African Indians—a diasporic community that continues to yearn for a lighter or whiter complexion (despite the health risks). Simran also freelances as a ghostwriter, and she has written 10 plus books on history, politics, and social justice issues. She is an ardent reader and writer and hopes to pursue a PhD in the next year.
Description As a global phenomenon that affects previously-colonized nations and communities, colorism, or intra-racial discrimination, persists even decades after independence. Indeed, the highly-profitable, transnational skin-lightening industry is testament to the insidious ways in which the (manufactured) desire for a whiter or lighter skin tone arose from European colonial rule in India and in the countries with a significant Indian diaspora. In South Africa, for example, British colonial rule, the indentured labor system, and the Apartheid regime exacerbated skin tone tensions among its Black, Colored, and Indian citizens. While there is much literature on the prevalence of colorism and skin-lightening practices in India, we must also take a closer look at how colorism survived the Indian indenture labor system and seeped its way into the everyday lives of the Indian diaspora in Natal (South Africa), Kenya, Uganda, the Caribbean, and Mauritius, to name a few examples.
Owing to the nature of (forced and voluntary) migration, the cultural beliefs, norms, and practices of Indian diasporic communities, such as Indo-Africans and Indo-Caribbeans, have evolved, changed, or adapted over the last few decades. While the specific causes and mechanisms of colorism may vary among these communities, it is safe to say that colorism and, subsequently, skin-lightening practices, continues to be a rife, multi-layered socio-economic and healthcare issue in the Indian diaspora. Firstly, this Deep Dive discussion explores how colorist beliefs and discriminations have ‘travelled’ across the world since the early 19th century and, secondly, the ways in which members of the Indian diaspora can build transnational solidarities to confront the issue of colorism on community, national, and global levels.