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Global "Body Shopping":
An Indian Labor System in the Information Technology Industry
Xiang Biao

Winner of the 2008 Anthony Leeds Prize in Urban Anthropology, Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology

Paperback | 2006 | $32.95 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691118529
208 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 9 halftones. 3 line illus. 1 table. 1 map.
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How can America's information technology (IT) industry predict serious labor shortages while at the same time laying off tens of thousands of employees annually? The answer is the industry's flexible labor management system--a flexibility widely regarded as the modus operandi of global capitalism today. Global "Body Shopping" explores how flexibility and uncertainty in the IT labor market are constructed and sustained through concrete human actions.

Drawing on in-depth field research in southern India and in Australia, and folding an ethnography into a political economy examination, Xiang Biao offers a richly detailed analysis of the India-based global labor management practice known as "body shopping." In this practice, a group of consultants--body shops--in different countries works together to recruit IT workers. Body shops then farm out workers to clients as project-based labor; and upon a project's completion they either place the workers with a different client or "bench" them to await the next placement. Thus, labor is managed globally to serve volatile capital movement.

Underpinning this practice are unequal socioeconomic relations on multiple levels. While wealth in the New Economy is created in an increasingly abstract manner, everyday realities--stock markets in New York, benched IT workers in Sydney, dowries in Hyderabad, and women and children in Indian villages--sustain this flexibility.


"Xiang Biao's book opens a fascinating window. . . . Although addressing a profoundly complex subject, it is intended to be read by people with little background in India or familiarity with the IT industry. Global 'Body Shopping' is an enjoyable and easy read, while offering a detailed and sophisticated critique of the unchallenged embrace of global capitalism. It deserves a wide readership among those with an interest in globalization studies and will be particularly useful for people desiring to find out more about ethnographic work that is global in scope."--Nanlai Cao, Pacific Journal of Anthropology

"Xiang Biao's avowed goal at an analysis incorporating ethnography and political economic analysis has long been a requirement for scholars interested in the production and maintenance of transnational work and flexible labor. Global Body Shopping more than lives up to this ideal. . . . I strongly recommend this ethnography as essential reading for scholars interested in questions of globalization, transnationality, and flexible labor."--Mathangi Krishnamurthy, American Ethnologist

"Xiang Biao tells the fascinating story of how body shopping brought globalization into the lives of hitherto minimally influenced rural youth and facilitated their movement into the highly volatile global arena of information technology . . . he has created a remarkably clear picture of a complex globally dispersed labor chain. . . . Not only does this innovative book provide a strong foundation for scholars interested in this under-researched global labor system, it is a great resource for teaching political and economic geography as well as courses exploring the various facets of globalization."--Monalisa Gangopadhyay, Political Geography

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