Counter-Cola: A Multinational History of the Global Corporation

Reassembling and Remaking of the Brand

But the image wasn’t an artist’s individual creation, instead, the photo captured a community’s everyday remaking of the brand.  As the Company had developed the brand in India, appropriating local culture to do so, communities and activists engaged in its reassemblage (as visual anthropologists term the reuse, remixing, recontextualizing and sometimes rejection of dominant meanings) imbuing it with political potential.
Protesting women would regularly place their plastic pots in front of the Coke factory “in mute performance of water scarcity.”  In repeating it, this “semiotic activity turned an ordinary gesture into the kind of expressive ritual that becomes popular culture.”  The repeating image of the water pot placed in front of Coca-Cola trademark began to “scramble the mass media icon, becoming semiotic acts that were reproduced in news photos and documentary footage.”  In these accounts, the pot recurs sometimes plastic or earthenware, but “always dry, always empty.”  When Haksar put up his billboard, the signification of the pots had reached a level of literacy with the Indian public having learned to read “what they communicate in these daily performances.”[i]
Thus, the photo not only drew new attention to the growing movements, it also signaled a fissure in corporate hegemony -- “mark[ing] the already begun process of an icon’s epistemological crisis” and its reemergence as a volatile signifier, politically potentialized in its future consumption.[ii]
[i] Bishnupriya Ghosh, Global Icons:  Apertures to the Popular (Durham, NC:  Duke University Press, 2011), 52. 
[ii] (Ghosh, 51-52).

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