In the Indian outsourcing industry, employees are expected to be "dead ringers" for the more expensive American workers they have replaced--complete with Westernized names, accents, habits, and lifestyles that are organized around a foreign culture in a distant time zone. Dead Ringers chronicles the rise of a workforce for whom mimicry is a job requirement and a passion. In the process, the book deftly explores the complications of hybrid lives and presents a vivid portrait of a workplace where globalization carries as many downsides as advantages.
Shehzad Nadeem writes that the relatively high wages in the outsourcing sector have empowered a class of cultural emulators. These young Indians indulge in American-style shopping binges at glittering malls, party at upscale nightclubs, and arrange romantic trysts at exurban cafés. But while the high-tech outsourcing industry is a matter of considerable pride for India, global corporations view the industry as a low-cost, often low-skill sector. Workers use the digital tools of the information economy not to complete technologically innovative tasks but to perform grunt work and rote customer service. Long hours and the graveyard shift lead to health problems and social estrangement. Surveillance is tight, management is overweening, and workers are caught in a cycle of hope and disappointment.
Through lively ethnographic detail and subtle analysis of interviews with workers, managers, and employers, Nadeem demonstrates the culturally transformative power of globalization and its effects on the lives of the individuals at its edges.
Shehzad Nadeem is assistant professor of sociology at the City University of New York, Lehman College.
"[Nadeem] offers concrete and important insight into the world of outsourcing. . . . One cannot help agreeing with the author that the brave new IT world documented in his interviews disturbs more than it shines."--Andrew Robinson, Nature
"Dead Ringers is an excellent resource for both students and scholars and should be required reading for policymakers, whose faith in or distrust of globalization may miss its very point: 'economic growth should be recognized not [as] an end in itself but as means toward the realization of diverse human potentialities.'"--May-Lee Chai, Asian Affairs
"Nadeem's account of the relationship between new economy management styles and labor rights is especially illuminating."--Sareeta Amrute, India Review
"Dead Ringers' insightful and articulate contribution proves to be a fruitful, engaging, provocative response to the questions asked by anyone that ever found themselves talking to an Indian call centre worker and wondered what it would look, smell, feel and sound like on the other end of the line."--Zachary Condon, Journal of Intercultural Studies
"This is an important book. The tone of the book is academic and the style difficult, and some may disagree with the Marxian framework used, it is well worth a read for anyone who wishes to understand the sociological dynamics of this fledgling industry."--Jajodia, Businessworld
"After speaking with dozens of employees from call centers and white-collar subsidiaries of multinational firms, Nadeem questions the optimistic and conventional view that outsourcing, and globalization in general, benefits Indians. His concerns are not economic--those employed in the outsourcing industry certainly do earn comparatively higher salaries--but rather on the effect that outsourcing has on individual workers and Indian society as a whole."--Maura Elizabeth Cunningham, Asian Review of Books
Table of Contents:
Chapter One. Leaps of Faith 14
Chapter Two. Variations on a Theme 27
Chapter Three. Macaulay's (Cyber) Children 50
Chapter Four. The Uses and Abuses of Time 73
Chapter Five. The Rules of the Game 102
Chapter Six. The Infantilizing Gaze, or Schmidt Revisited 132
Chapter Seven. The Juggernaut of Global Capitalism 169
Chapter Eight. Cyber-Coolies and Techno-Populists 192
Appendix. Research Methods 221