Transnational customer service workers are an emerging
touchstone of globalization given their location at the
intersecting borders of identity, class, nation, and production.
Unlike outsourced manufacturing jobs, call center work requires
voice-to-voice conversation with distant customers; part of the
product being exchanged in these interactions is a responsive,
caring, connected self. In Phone Clones, Kiran Mirchandani
explores the experiences of the men and women who work in Indian
call centers through one hundred interviews with workers in
Bangalore, Delhi, and Pune.
As capital crosses national borders, colonial histories and
racial hierarchies become inextricably intertwined. As a result,
call center workers in India need to imagine themselves in the eyes
of their Western clients-to represent themselves both as foreign
workers who do not threaten Western jobs and as being "just like"
their customers in the West. In order to become these imagined
ideal workers, they must be believable and authentic in their
emulation of this ideal. In conversation with Western clients,
Indian customer service agents proclaim their legitimacy, an effort
Mirchandani calls "authenticity work," which involves establishing
familiarity in light of expectations of difference. In their daily
interactions with customers, managers and trainers, Indian call
center workers reflect and reenact a complex interplay of colonial
histories, gender practices, class relations, and national
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