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Brokering Culture and Labor: An Anthropological Analysis of IT Offshore Labor between Japan and India

Akiko Murata

Title:
Brokering Culture and Labor: An Anthropological Analysis of IT Offshore Labor between Japan and India
Author(s):
Murata, Akiko
Thesis Advisor(s):
Varenne, Herve H.
Date:
Type:
Dissertations
Department:
Anthropology and Education
Permanent URL:
Notes:
Ph.D., Columbia University.
Abstract:
The rapid expansion of information and communication technology (ICT) has accelerated the distribution of work across geographically dispersed areas, and this transnational relocation of work is viewed as a seamless transaction by proponents of technological globalization. However, a close examination of the collaboration involved in Indian/Japanese software offshoring illuminates an array of difficulties that problematize the "seamlessness" of this endeavor. This dissertation investigated the complex social world of offshoring by focusing on analyzing India-Japan software offshoring, and the study revealed corporate control as well as workers' efforts and struggles to make this ICT-supported relocation of work function smoothly. Through the analysis of the interviews with Indian software engineers and liaison officers between companies and within companies, in combination with observations of their workplaces, this dissertation highlights the corporate demands for flexibility in two layers: demands for being flexible in macro-labor circulations, to function as "labor buffers," and being flexible in terms of micro-communication issues and clients' demands. At the same time, it also reveals that corporate control is not a monolithic and totalizing force, but a complex and contradictory process generated through the struggles and intense labor of both Indian and Japanese sides that attempt to connect the disjunctions and make the business look "seamless." This study illuminates the irony that the relocation of work can intensify labor for both sides because of clients' micromanagement and communication difficulties. In addition, it also captures workers' efforts to distance themselves from corporate control, and their attempt to utilize the "onsite opportunity" to pursue their own interest. By highlighting the corporate demands for dual flexibility, as well as layers of communication difficulties and contradictions in Japan-Indian offshoring businesses, this dissertation provides insight into an anthropological and sociological analysis of offshoring as a complex global social phenomenon.
Subject(s):
Cultural anthropology
Sociology
Information science
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