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Phone Clones Authenticity Work in the Transnational Service Economy by Kiran Mirchandani

Phone Clones Authenticity Work in the Transnational Service Economy


Phone Clones Authenticity Work in the Transnational Service Economy by Kiran Mirchandani

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 interests.


Kiran Mirchandani is the indisputable leader in the field of work identities and transnational call centers in India. She provides one of the first in-depth, ethnographic studies of the Indian call center industry that is both multi-sited and longitudinal, as well one of the first rigorous analyses of the many fascinating issues surrounding identity. Phone Clones goes beyond the surface story in the popular press and mainstream academic work about Indian call centers, and the euphoria about cost-savings, social uplifting, and creating a 'flat world
as Thomas Friedman argues. It uncovers the more insidious side of the call center work experience

--control of emotion, time, race, gender, and nation. It presents an insightful analysis that recognizes power structures in the labor process, as well as how they are transformed. --Winifred R. Poster, Washington University, St. Louis

About the Author

Kiran Mirchandani is Associate Professor in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She is the coauthor of Criminalizing Race, Criminalizing Poverty and coeditor of The Future of Lifelong Learning and Work.

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Book Info

Publication date

17th April 2012


Kiran Mirchandani

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ILR Press an imprint of Cornell University Press


192 pages


Sociology: work & labour



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