Tina Basi

Title: Globalization and Transnational Indian Call Centres: Constructing Women’s Identities

Beginning in the mid 1990s, India’s burgeoning call centre and data entry industry has captured the attention of British academics, unionists, journalists, and the general public with reports of the ‘fleeing’ and ‘fleecing’ of jobs as retribution for colonial exploitation. This thesis presents a case study examining the way in which women working in the Indian transnational call centre industry exercise agency over the processes of identity construction. The research explores to what extent social processes, both local and global, influence these processes and to what extent these women are passive victims, agents of resistance or both? The research demonstrates that agency and structure are constitutive of one another and although these women do see themselves as constrained by patriarchal structures, they also view themselves as agents of social change. In this way this case study presents a clear understanding of how identity is socially produced and reflexively constructed.

Based on qualitative empirical data collected in Delhi, Gurgaon, and Noida from November 2002 to August 2003, the research advocates earlier studies on women’s international employment in arguing that definitions of skill are sexually biased. However, the research also makes an argument for more culturally nuanced analytical frameworks that account for socio-historic, and cultural contexts. The research shows that whilst call centre work has decreased the economic gender divide, it has also deepened some of the negative stereotypes of working women. Using sartorial strategies to express globalized, national identities, women call centre workers negotiate localizing and globalizing processes and discourses in establishing patterns of identification and recognition. Moreover, they used clothing as a form of spatial practice to increase mobility, impacting upon the wider production of socio-spatial relations outside the call centre.

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