Title

Indian IT workers in the U.S.: Race, gender, and state in the making of immigrant labor

Date of Award

2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Advisor(s)

Linda Carty

Keywords

Immigration, Globalization, Indian IT workers, Gender and race, Neoliberalism, Information technology

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology | Work, Economy and Organizations

Abstract

This research focuses on Indian immigrant information technology (IT) workers in the U.S. Given the predominance of IT during globalization, U.S. businesses hired thousands of immigrant IT professionals, the overwhelming majority from India, under the H-1B visa program since the late 1990s. Through archival research, analysis of government and policy documents, and in-depth interviews and fieldwork in the U.S. and in India with IT professionals, managers, and recruiters, this dissertation analyzes the complex transnational mechanisms of immigrant incorporation and labor migration spanning between India and the U.S. Chapter One juxtaposes the Indian state's efforts in aligning the country's labor force to the demands of the global economy through the promotion of science and technology oriented education, development, and foreign investment policies with the U.S. government's reformulation of work-visa policies in response to the corporate lobby's appeals in Congress for increased access to workers on the H-1B for global competitiveness. Chapter Two details the research methods of this dissertation. Chapter three delineates how labor flexibility has been actuated between the U.S. and India by mapping the so-called supply-chain of labor--starting from clients and their consulting firms in the U.S. to the Indian-run labor vendors and Bodyshops. Chapter Four shows how labor flexibility has engendered a curious pattern of subcontractor-based speculative hiring, where "labor-ready" immigrants must be kept available on labor-vendor rosters at all times. Chapters Five and Six analyze how H-1B visa policies and flexible employment marginalize immigrant IT workers, render their subordination and dependence on employers, and maximize surplus generation for intermediaries. Chapter Seven discusses the socio-legal processes that produce flexible workers and shape their experiences of disembodiment in racial and gendered terms. Chapter Eight historicizes this contemporary equation between labor and capital by analyzing the application of the rule of property in British India, which suggest that social relations embedded in surplus production and land sub-infeudation under colonial capitalism resemble today's transnational subcontracting chains in the service economy. This chapter concludes the dissertation by proposing that labor regimes in neoliberal globalization involving immigrant workers are analogous to erstwhile feudal and colonial relations of power, patronage, control, and appropriation.

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