ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Outsourcing Identities

As vans with tinted windows creep at night into middle class, urban neighbourhoods in India, spiriting away young men and women to work until dawn at multinational call centres, identities are transfigured, the local making uneasy room for the lucrative global. Following the short-lived dotcom boom in India (2000-02), Information Technology Enabled Services- Business Process Outsourcing was first considered by many infotech industry watchers as a capricious venture, liable to crash due to poor infrastructure. The phenomenal success of BPOs, particularly call centres, continues in 2005, offering high-school and college English-speaking graduates quick employment with comparatively high wages. Through empirical research, this article addresses the transformation of Indian urban labour into a global proletariat. The paper focuses on the role call centres play in unmooring local identities to construct transnational labour identities for a neocolonialist workplace.

C all centres in India and China have been triumphantly upheld by conservative journalists, as evidence of a brave new flat world, where the lucrative outsourcing of various information services from North America and Europe, translates into equal opportunities and prosperity to third world labourers [Friedman 2005]. The transnational media executives echo this euphoria, pointing to the programming on global channels such as BBC, Animal Planet and Discovery, hybridised for national audiences, as tangible proof that colonialism and cultural imperialism are damning processes of the past [Weil 2004]. What is at the heart of such liberal pluralist ruminations, is the notion of individual agency: that in a globalising world, new economic opportunities and media choices are available to those who take advantage of them. And evidence of such opportunism is widely available.

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