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Working the Night Shift: Women in India’s Call Center Industry Paperback – March 25, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

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"Call centers have become the flash point for debates about globalization. However, the social impacts of call centers within India are immense and largely uncharted. Patel makes an important contribution towards understanding this phenomenon through a rigorous focus on gender. Her lively prose makes this book accessible to all audiences but will be especially appealing to students of sociology, geography, women's studies, and anthropology."—Akhil Gupta, University of California, Los Angeles


"In this timely, beautifully written, and path-breaking ethnographic exploration, Patel brings to life the often unnoticed human beings who answer our phone calls on the other side of the world, making visible the dreams, lives, and desires of the women behind the anonymity of the call centers. In clear and accessible prose, she interweaves insightful analysis with the real life stories of these key players of economic globalization. Working the Night Shift should become indispensable reading; it is a book for everyone, for right now."—Cecilia Menjivar, Cowden Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Arizona State University


'Patel provides a rare glimpse into the lives of Indian women, as global call centers dislodge restrictions on mobility and transport them into night and public worlds. Amidst renewed surveillance by the media and community, how these women navigate new freedoms of transportation, housing, and socializing is a fascinating story.'—Winifred Poster, Lecturer in Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Washington University

'This is a fascinating book. Combining an acute geographical imagination with careful attention to detail, Patel makes a significant contribution to debates about the complex and contradictory consequences of women's growing labour market participation. This is a key text for all social scientists interested in global change and new divisions of labour.'—Linda McDowell, Professor of Human Geography, University of Oxford

About 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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press (March 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804769141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804769143
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #606,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By John Geffroy on February 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
A feminist theorist working somewhere between geography and anthropology, Patel explores how gender roles change in response to the economic opportunities brought about by globalization. The book seizes our attention by exposing a series of unexpected transformations in workplace roles created by the expansion of call centers in India: First, there is the "temporal imperialism" resulting from the simple fact that to make use of their relatively cheap labor, call centers servicing North America must do their work during the North American day; second, there is the fact that what are low-wage day shift call center jobs in the U.S. become high-wage night shift jobs in India("high-wage" relatively to Indian pay scales,of course); third, since the call center workers must speak "good" English, the employees must be relatively well-educated--meaning that these young workers almost always come from the middle class; fourth, these middle class workers, if they are women, are exactly the women who traditionally are not supposed to go out by themselves at night, much less work at night--the night, even more so than the public streets, "belongs" to males, and only poor, disreputable women "belong" to the night!

I have used this book as an ethnography in an International Baccalaureate course this past year, and I know my students have found it engaging and easy to relate to a whole range of issues in social and cultural change caused by globalization.
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Format: Paperback
Reena Patel's book gives great insight into an industry and culture that, despite its rising popularity, has an air of mystery about it. Through her words and research, I learned a great deal about the world of call centers and found interesting that much of India's population still retains an ultra-conservative approach to women in society. The struggles that women have in a world that relies on their ability to duck conventional norms could not be accurately portrayed without the thoughtful analysis by Patel. I would highly recommend this book for anyone wishing to learn more about the call center industry and a women's purgatorial place in society and that industry.
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Format: Paperback
Thanks for sharing with me your book. Besides the fact that you were able to present your academic research in a well-written document that was easy to read, I found it profound, challenging, moving, and humanly inspiring. I sensed deep reflection that touched your inner-depth that allowed you to see call center employment as a place with the "potential to reshape individuals perceptions about themselves and of the community that surrounds them."

Your book opened my curiosity to, hopefully, keep a deep conversation somehow in the near future.
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Format: Paperback
Ms. Reena Patel's book is compelling. It is eye-opening, not only into the world of the call center industry, it's impact on India's cultural perception of women and the complex struggles they face, but opens the door to the untold realities of the effects of our global economy on a personal level. Kudos to Ms. Patel for making the reality of the call center industry in India and women's sacrifices our reality as well.
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Well written account of challenges and opportunities for women working in call centers that delivers a depressing dose of reality. I grew up in India and have not lived then for over a decade. Reading this book reminded me again of why I left and how hard it is to change traditional attitudes towards women in India. The tragedy is that modern tools are now used to enforce and reinforce regressive patriarchal traditions.
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