India wiring out: ethnographic reflections from two transnational call centres in India

  • Meher Varma Bard College

Abstract

This article examines the increasing presence of North American call centres in Bangalore and Delhi and analyses the ways in which these products of transnationalism have impacted notions of Indian national identity. The analysis is based on primary fieldwork conducted in the summer of 2006, and reflections on Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat, one of the earliest pieces of literature that discussed the call centre phenomenon. The argument presented suggests that the popular notion that India has become an equal global power because of the outsourcing business is flawed; instead, it points out that evident within many pro-globalisation claims is the reproduction of a first/third world hierarchy that works to further oppress the third world worker. I focus on accent training sessions and information gathered from first-hand interviews and observations to suggest that the call centre business has emerged as a convenient way for North American companies to create Indians as subordinate workers, who are expected to exchange physical mobility for the comparatively high economic benefits that the business promises.

Author Biography

Meher Varma, Bard College
Meher Varma recently finished her undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology from Bard College, New York. Her thesis, entitled "India Wiring Out: The relationship between transnational call centers and the Indian nation-state", examined the ways in which the call centre business has impacted notions of Indian national identity. Her work is based on primary fieldwork that she conducted in Bangalore and New Delhi and analysis of popular literature that has dealt with the subject of outsourcing in India. She is currently living in Washington, DC, and preparing for further graduate study. She can be contacted at meherv(AT)gmail.com.