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Life Support

Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor

Kalindi Vora
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Life Support
    Book Description:

    From call centers, overseas domestic labor, and customer care to human organ selling, gestational surrogacy, and knowledge work, such as software programming, life itself is channeled across the globe from one population to another.

    InLife Support, Kalindi Vora demonstrates how biological bodies have become a new kind of global biocapital. Vora examines how forms of labor serve to support life in the United States at the expense of the lives of people in India. She exposes the ways in which even seemingly inalienable aspects of human life such as care, love, and trust-as well as biological bodies and organs-are not only commodifiable entities but also components essential to contemporary capitalism.

    As with earlier modes of accumulation, this new global economy has come to rely on the reproduction of life for expansion. Human bodies and subjects are playing a role similar to that of land and natural resource dispossession in the period of capitalist growth during European territorial colonialism. Indeed, the rapid pace at which scientific knowledge of biology and genetics has accelerated has opened up the human body as an extended site for annexation, harvest, dispossession, and production.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4352-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Language & Literature, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. INTRODUCTION. Life Support: India’s Production of Vital Energy
    (pp. 1-24)

    In October 2002, an article was published in theJournal of the American Medical Association(JAMA) on the phenomenon of impoverished people in India selling kidneys for transplant.¹ The JAMA publication was one of the first in mainstream medicine to recognize the existence of the international trade in human organs. In the years since, critical public discourse about the organ trade has primarily focused on ethics, values, and human rights as they allow for and can potentially limit the exploitation that occurs through the market in human organs. 2 However, the advent of the procurement and circulation of human organs...

  4. 1 Limits of Labor: Affect and the Biological in Transnational Surrogacy and Service Work
    (pp. 25-42)

    This chapter traces a colonial history of biological and affective labor to provide the necessary foundation for understanding how exploitation operates in Indian transnational contexts like call centers and commercial surrogacy. In conversation with feminist critiques of labor, the imperial legacies at work in transnational Indian labor suggest a new lineage for the study of the effects of racialization and gendering in emerging sites of affective and biological labor. Contemporary forms of work that blur the line between the subject and the work performed, like that found in Indian call centers and surrogacy, but also in sites such as clinical...

  5. 2 Call Center Agents: Commodified Affect and the Biocapital of Care
    (pp. 43-66)

    “The Bangalore butler is the latest development in offshore outsourcing,” announced Steve Lohr in a 2008New York Timesarticle, referring to the growth of long-distance customer service into the realm of personal assistants and primary and secondary school tutors.¹ The Bangalore butler is a compelling phrase, redolent with a fantasy of the sensorium of British colonial elites, where brown men in crisp white uniforms and turbans served meals on silver platters to smartly dressed colonials, allowing them not only to get their work done in an unmanageable Indian environment but to experience indulgence and pleasure. The image is apt,...

  6. 3 Information Technology Professionals: Innovation and Uncertain Futures
    (pp. 67-102)

    In popular magazine articles about outsourcing to India, journalists writing for U.S.-based magazines in the late 1990s to mid-2000s countered fear of American workers’ future obsolescence by asserting that the creative and innovative work of U.S. labor would always be essential for world economic growth.¹ This creative and inventive labor is contrasted with a description of the kinds of jobs appropriate to people in South Asia, work that could be replicated almost anywhere and that is merely reproductive of prior invention. Giving voice to how this assumption is embedded in the international division of labor, Akash G.,² a software engineering...

  7. 4 Transnational Gestational Surrogacy: Expectation and Exchange
    (pp. 103-140)

    The Manushi fertility clinic, located in northwestern India,¹ features a gestational surrogacy practice that caters equally to affluent, primarily urban-based Indians and to transnational clientele from the United States, United Kingdom, Israel, Japan, Taiwan, France, and Germany, as well as other less commonly represented countries. The United States and the United Kingdom produce more than half of these clients, whom I call “commissioning parents,” in line with the legal language about assisted reproductive technology (ART) regulation in India. They often come to India after encountering legal and financial obstacles to pursuing gestational surrogacy in their home countries to arrange for...

  8. EPILOGUE: Imperial Pasts and Mortgaged Futures
    (pp. 141-148)

    Did my iPhone kill 17 people?” Joel Johnson asks in his investigative report on Shenzhen’s Foxconn facilities in aWiredmagazine article published in 2011.¹ The concerns voiced by the author and those he represents, the consumers of iPhones, are not framed as a socialist-style politics of “workers of the world unite” but rather as a liberal politics that engages the conditions of production and labor to the point where the relatively comfortable inhabitants of the Global North, the readers ofWired,don’t have to feel guilty about consuming high-tech gadgets. The highly publicized suicides of workers in the Foxconn...

    (pp. 149-152)
  10. NOTES
    (pp. 153-174)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 175-184)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 185-185)