Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mimicry generation

Dead Ringers is somewhat disturbing as it chronicles the life of workforce in the outsourcing industry. This workforce represents globalization enthusiasts who have compromised their names, accents, habit and lifestyle because mimicry is their job requirement. That they are being trained to tell ‘lie’ to their (un)suspecting western clients neither concerns them nor their orthodox parents. What counts is the relatively high wages that they muster by mimicking.

The flipside to the otherwise great story of economic upturn is that global corporations view the outsourcing industry as a low-cost, often low-skill sector. Add poor labour conditions, graveyard shifts and accent neutralization to it and what you seem to get is a workplace that not only mentally stresses its inhabitants but helps them lose their sex drive as well. Behind the high rise world of luminous signage there is dark and dingy world of silent sufferers.

Shehzad Nadeem argues that these high wage earners of the new and emerging India are also subject to what Karl Marx called the ‘dull compulsion of economic relations’. They have bargained for high wages by mortgaging themselves, their freedom being caged to strict discipline and deft surveillance. That the educated middle-class youth are being colonized into hybrid lives is the price the society would need to pay in the long run. No one seems to care!

The promise of outsourcing-led development has seemingly been wildly oversold. Nadeem has drawn a wide canvas wherein the socio-cultural impact of outsourcing has been measured against many downsides of the globalised workforce. Through lively ethnographic detail and subtle analysis of interviews with workers, managers, and employers, Dead Ringers offers evidence-based picture on several hidden but disturbing facets of outsourcing industry.

Dead Ringers is riveting and engaging, peeling layers after layers of what goes on within the glitzy world of outsourcing. Most notable fact being that this industry is dependent upon the temporary condition of the global labour market. Should the demand collapse, the situation of these workers may no longer be as enviable. At the end, outsourcing industry has stressed its workforce by exposing them to ‘political economy of insecurity’....Link

Dead Ringers
by Shahzad Nadeem
Princeton University Press, Princeton
273 pages, US$ 35

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