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University of Toronto Scarborough
Women's and Gender Studies
Victoria Tahmasebi

BOOK REVIEW Working the night shift: Women in India's Call Center Industry- R. PATEL NAME: BIRUNTHA KRISHNAMOORTHY STUDENT NUMBER: 995437674 PROF: P. KINGSTON COURSE: POLC94H3 DUE DATE: MARCH 14, 2012 Introduction The freedom from restraint in movement for Indian women has been a subject for debate for a longtime. Rena Patel relinquishes this issue through the provision of an excellent and comprehensive ethnography, in the title of “Working the Night Shift”. She succeeds in explaining the existing regimes of surveillance that these women struggle with in their homes. Patel uses this phrase to reveal the meaning in cases where women’s mobility of movement both economically and physically is regulated by the family. She manages to develop a point of view and revelation to the readers using a picture of the call center business in India and the impact it has to the society (Patel 3). She explores the initial perceptions of the whole idea within the local scene. This paper presents an empirical analysis into what started as a new, exciting, but small idea and later exploded into the local scene where the analysis reveals the existence of regimes of surveillance on women employed in this call centers. Empirically, this paper instills the sense of what exactly transpired in the new customer service business and the inhibition of women mobility through surveillance based on excerpts from the author’s perspectives. The author uses a sociology point of view in developing the study. This perspective explores an array of options in the society using a multidimensional approach to the way of living and impact on the societal expectations and beliefs. She also enumerates the emancipation brought about by the call center business where women earn a good living by working at night giving them a sense of physical and economic mobility. The subject matter also addresses the link between bad character and the liberation of women as they work in the call centre business. She approaches the topic from a different perspective when compared to other sociology researchers who have performed researches on the same subject matter. She examines the impact of the call-centre night jobs on women not only their working lives and experiences, but also includes the societal view of the women who work in that industry (Patel 4). She is comprehensive on the gender disparity, but fails to consider the fact that men also service the industry. The book fails to provide a holistic approach of the call centre outsourcing business. Instead, the author chooses to demystify the subject matter using gender dimension. Choice of content The author spent ten months doing the fieldwork different areas of India, but mostly the interviewed respondents were from Mumbai, the information technology savvy, Bangalore and Ahmadabad. The respondents were mostly female customer care representative and their families. However, few interviews were conducted with different call centre managers, as well as consultants in the industry. She further sought more information from the film industry where she used various filmmakers working on documentaries in the call center. The use of various focus groups could have resulted to no value addition to the entire research work since, in a focus group discussion, the fears of having different ideas from the group are common (Patel 7). The group mentality reduces the effectiveness of the discussion. The field observation was also prone to bias based on several factors. This is a narrative with enormous opinions that reflect the feminist ideology in India where she choose to provide a legitimate reason for the independence and autonomy of women. She insists on the liberation of women at all levels of life in India unlike the cultural beliefs. The introduction of the global call center in Mumbai is to blame for the disruption of the “Regimes of Surveillance” because of the increased liberal freedom on the side of women that have come with the global call center. The study brings about an orientation of the feminist theory in Mumbai and other cities in India such as Bangalore. She opted to perform fieldwork in the cities of Mumbai, Bangalore and Ahmadabad conducting over seventy interviews with respondents who were mainly women. The choice of the respondents was not random based, but purposive with the selection criteria not well elaborated. This could have an impact on the research findings since it would be far from the statistical representation of the entire population under study (Patel 8). The existence of regimes of surveillance that keep women in restraint are a consequence of beliefs about what constitute of women’s work and their freedom to move around in the night, which she blames for the disruption of the surveillance regimes. The feminist ideology depicting the limited freedom of women and constrained autonomy has been demystified in the book. according to Patel, this is one of the outcomes of globalization that derive significance in responding to the question whether this is a positive impact to the society or not, and whether it depends on the perspective the subject matter is addressed. However, it is evident that the author fails to look at the moral standing, and the negative effects the night shift customer care representatives has to their families, and especially where children are involved. Working in night shifts for women around the world I the call centre industry provides unsettling opportunities for individuals. The uncomfortable situation these women are exposed to according to the author is a representation of an iconic moment in the society when opportunities of success are open to women. These places and spaces that open to women viewed to be independent show the in depth beliefs of the society about the roles of women in society (The future of contact center outsourcing in India and the Philippines, 2005. The study reveals that these regimes of surveillance have been disrupted by the call centre business since women working in the industry are becoming more aware of their independence since they are more economically empowered than before. The global call center has empowered women to the extent that the regimes of surveillance no longer wok in cities such as Mumbai. In Patel’s perspective, the empowerment and freedom for women that came with the introduction of the global call centre in India have obviously paved way for the emancipation of women working in the call center because of the increased autonomy and freedom with limited surveillance unlike before. The study ought to be all the customer care representatives in the entire call centre within India. The use of literature on gender issue in the book as references depicts the content purposed for communication in the book. The rich narrative trough, which the author uses to elaborate the situation according to the fieldwork study, falls short of providing enough empirical evidences that validate some statements mentioned in the book. However, the gives details on the influence of that form of employment to different levels of women in India. It elaborates that the immense effects can be felt amongst the lives and the families of the middle class women in the country. This reflects the picture that the most affected class in the society is the contemporary Indian family. According to the demographic profile provided by the author, the industry has been a huge challenge of the Indian traditional patriarchal beliefs. These beliefs include the patriarchal control and male dominance. Consequently, new forms of
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