Social Science Research Council Research AMP Mediawell

Instagram your Durga Puja! Social Media, Hashtags and State-Sponsored Cultural Marketing

Sundaram, Dheepa; Zeiler, Xenia

This chapter begins with a brief methodology and discussion of the social media platforms examined, followed by background and context on the development of the West Bengal Tourism Ministry and Biswa Bangla. It examines how hashtags convert social media posts into cultural products that must compete to ensure that their meanings are linked to the virtual semiotic thread and seen by other users. Within the world of business and marketing, cultural marketplaces and the concept of cultural marketing have been seen as the method by which to gain a “competitive advantage” and make brands more relatable and effective in drawing in new consumers. The chapter explains the globalization processes often applied to online religion – disembedding and deculturation and the process of unmooring that takes place when a public ritual like Durga Puja is transformed for social media consumption. Searches on Instagram for the hashtag #mahisasura invariably lead the user to posts with images of Durga killing Mahisasura.