a colour complex


With The Colour Balance Project, Roth identifies a cultural bias that finds Whiteness embedded as an initial default within technologies and products which have a sense of “flesh” as central to their design. Roth investigates this “colour complex” as she examines the racialized imagery and representations of skin colour as constructed and defended by manufacturers and marketers of seemingly innocent products. Notably, she articulates and makes visible the light skin tone preferences deeply embedded within the technological infrastructures that manufacture, produce and represent skin colour – whether through communications media or everyday goods.

By tracing the catalysts that have, at times, inspired companies to modify their approaches to skin colour, Roth reveals the corporate stakes involved in a colour aesthetic that favours Whiteness – an aesthetic that may perpetuate a belief in the superiority of those with lighter skin. Further, she assesses the larger socio-political and economic implications of colour-balancing products and procedures with a particular focus on how this impacts on the self-esteem of both children and adults in multiracial societies.

Scholars have noted this “colour complex” and have deconstructed its relationships with colonialism as well as with concepts of beauty, power, and privilege (R. Hall, 1994, S. Hall, 1990, Hill, 1997, hooks, 1990, 1992, 1996, among many others). However, few have focused on how skin colour biases have affected visual technologies and common products (with the exception of a few insightful scholars that have noted the dominance of lighter skin tones mainly within cinematography: Comolli and Narboni, 1971, 1977, 1986; Winston, 1985, 1996; Dyer, 1997).

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