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CSSS is organizing a talk by Dr. Winifred R Poster

CSSS is organizing a talk by Dr. Winifred R Poster

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CSSS is organizing a talk by Dr. Winifred R Poster
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Centre for the Study of Social Systems

School of Social Sciences


CSSS Colloquium


Winifred R. Poster

(International Affairs, Washington University, St. Louis)


Will be presenting a paper on


Maintenance Work on the Global Information Highway:Village Outsourcing Centers in India

Date & Time:

November 22, 2018 (Thursday), 3.30 pm

Venue:CSSS Committee Room (No: 13), SSS-II

Abstract:Data flows in the global economy are not without maintenance stops. At times, information needs to be processed, reconditioned, and transformed. This presentation focuses on sites of such data processing in unlikely places – the newly-installed village ICT outsourcing centers of India. Referred to as “social enterprises,” these data centers are touted as a solution to unemployment. They receive data from Europe and the US (on package tracking, sales invoices, human resources, etc.), and then transform, input, and transmit it back. While this growing industry has historically been concentrated in the techno-hubs of India (Gurgaon, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, etc.), it is now moving into rural areas of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. In these locations, the work is broken down into more simple tasks, but still directly connected to global information systems, and done in real time. This analysis will trace the modern history of information and communication technology outsourcing to India based on a three decade long fieldwork in high tech production sites around the country, and examining changes in their sociotechnical labor and geographies. The early stages of the 1990s were marked by software development and electronics manufacturing in enclosed high-tech parks of major cities like Delhi. Expansion to mid-level info-services (like global call centers) contributed to suburban sprawl in the 2000s and the diffusion of ICT firms within them. The current stage of the 2010s marks another era of ICT outsourcing – into villages and what is called “rural outsourcing.” These rural outsourcing centers represent meeting points – of old and new technologies, of rural and urban spheres, of consumption and information industries, of technical and non-technical labor. It is “unskilled,” but still involves interfacing with computer software, as well as reading and typing in many global languages. It is routine work, but involves the high pressure labor of linguistic translation, data conversion, and inputting information in real time, often just minutes. In this way, this iteration of ICT outsourcing in India represents a downward movement in the chain of technical skill, level, wages, and labor marginalization by gender, caste, class, and region.

Bio:Winifred R. Poster teaches in International Affairs at Washington University, St. Louis, and has held visiting positions in India, Sweden, Germany, and Canada. Her research interests are in digital globalization, feminist labor theory, and Indian outsourcing. Under several grants from the National Science Foundation, she has been following ICT industries from the US to India, both in earlier waves of computer manufacturing and software, and later waves of back-office data processing and call centers. Recent projects explore the labors of surveillance, crowdsourcing, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence. Her latest books are Invisible Labor (University of California Press) and Borders in Service (University of Toronto Press).

A warm welcome to the modified and updated website of the Centre for East Asian Studies. The East Asian region has been at the forefront of several path-breaking changes since 1970s beginning with the redefining the development architecture with its State-led development model besides emerging as a major region in the global politics and a key hub of the sophisticated technologies. The Centre is one of the thirteen Centres of the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi that provides a holistic understanding of the region.

Initially, established as a Centre for Chinese and Japanese Studies, it subsequently grew to include Korean Studies as well. At present there are eight faculty members in the Centre. Several distinguished faculty who have now retired include the late Prof. Gargi Dutt, Prof. P.A.N. Murthy, Prof. G.P. Deshpande, Dr. Nranarayan Das, Prof. R.R. Krishnan and Prof. K.V. Kesavan. Besides, Dr. Madhu Bhalla served at the Centre in Chinese Studies Programme during 1994-2006. In addition, Ms. Kamlesh Jain and Dr. M. M. Kunju served the Centre as the Documentation Officers in Chinese and Japanese Studies respectively.

The academic curriculum covers both modern and contemporary facets of East Asia as each scholar specializes in an area of his/her interest in the region. The integrated course involves two semesters of classes at the M. Phil programme and a dissertation for the M. Phil and a thesis for Ph. D programme respectively. The central objective is to impart an interdisciplinary knowledge and understanding of history, foreign policy, government and politics, society and culture and political economy of the respective areas. Students can explore new and emerging themes such as East Asian regionalism, the evolving East Asian Community, the rise of China, resurgence of Japan and the prospects for reunification of the Korean peninsula. Additionally, the Centre lays great emphasis on the building of language skills. The background of scholars includes mostly from the social science disciplines; History, Political Science, Economics, Sociology, International Relations and language.

Several students of the centre have been recipients of prestigious research fellowships awarded by Japan Foundation, Mombusho (Ministry of Education, Government of Japan), Saburo Okita Memorial Fellowship, Nippon Foundation, Korea Foundation, Nehru Memorial Fellowship, and Fellowship from the Chinese and Taiwanese Governments. Besides, students from Japan receive fellowship from the Indian Council of Cultural Relations.