Working the Night Shift: Women in India's Call Center Industry

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Relatively high wages and the opportunity to be part of an upscale, globalized work environment draw many in India to the call center industry. At the same time, night shift employment presents women, in particular, with new challenges alongside the opportunities. This book explores how beliefs about what constitutes "women's work" are evolving in response to globalization.

Working the Night Shift is the first in-depth study of the transnational call center industry that is written from the point of view of women workers. It uncovers how call center employment affects their lives, mainly as it relates to the anxiety that Indian families and Indian society have towards women going out at night, earning a good salary, and being exposed to western culture. This timely account illustrates the ironic and, at times, unsettling experiences of women who enter the spaces and places made accessible through call center work.

Visit the author's website at and facebook group.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Unlike many studies of working women in India then, it goes beyond their roles in the household as mothers and wives. It extends more broadly to consider issues of movement and space—riding on buses, getting apartments, etc. It is also about how other groups—those in the society at large—view and construct the image of these women . . . No doubt this will become a primer for anyone interested in gender, work, call centers, family, and more, in South Asia."—Winifred R. Poster, Anthropological Quarterly

"Overall, the book is well-written and easy to read. The case studies are detailed, interesting, and provide the reader a complex understanding of the varied ways in which the call center industry affects its female employees' lives. In the main, it provides a good foundation for students who want to study the effects of globalization on individuals and communities."—Sandya Hewamanne, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Patel's book offers a fascinating look into the complex manifestations of gender inequality within emerging markets such as India . . . Overall, Patel provides a captivating inquiry into the complex reality of high-wage labor and its implications for women's autonomy."—SaunJuhi Verma, American Journal of Sociology

"In a text which is refreshingly clearly written, free of too much gratuitous information, and which bears all the hallmarks of appropriate ethics and reflection on positionality, Patel has roundly succeeded in her task of sketching out a good deal of the social and economic anatomy of contemporary call centre work in urban India . . . Its accessible, personalised style will undoubtedly appeal to students in gender, geography, anthropology, and sociology, keen to flesh out the human face of feminised employment. Working the Night Shift also provides an excellent basis for debate and new lines of enquiry among researchers of evolving labour markets in developing nations in academic, policy and activist circles."—Sylvia Chant, Gender, Place and Culture

"It will be difficult for anyone who has not recently conducted research in India to appreciate the massive social changes which the outsourcing revolution has brought to that society. Reena Patel's excellent ethnography, Working the Night Shift does, however, succeed in conveying to readers a sense of what is involved when new customer service industries originating in the West explode on the local scene . . . [T]he book provides a much needed gender dimension to research on global call centres."—Bob Russell, Canadian Journal of Sociology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804769143
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/26/2010
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Reena Patel is a feminist scholar and currently serves as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S Department of State. She also advises companies on gender issues in the workplace.

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