Tag: India

​​Traveling but Not Arriving: Hieroglyphics of Caste in Computing

When I landed in Bangalore in early 2020, it was a long-awaited moment of my grad school journey. I had finally defended my proposal and was set to transition into fieldwork in the next couple of months. In my preparation for fieldwork, I had read many ethnographies, most of which had an arrival scene. It seemed that the first couple of weeks of entering a field site presented a crucial lever of juxtaposition for ethnographic writing that lends itself to evocative descriptions of the setting. The “arrival trope” has been long challenged in anthropology through accounts that complicate the narrative of an ethnographer entering an unperturbed native setting (Pratt 1986). Pratt also complicates the artificial distinction between personal narrative and “objective” description, particularly as they are blurred in moments of transition or arrival in ethnographies. For me, the trope of arrival was exciting despite all its problems because it finally gave me an opportunity to re-enter a world that I was familiar with and describe it on my own terms. I had worked as a software engineer before and now wanted to study gender and caste relations in the computing industry. Dalits, formerly seen as “untouchable” under the caste system, and other lower caste people, have been subjects of upper castes doing research for a very long time. I was looking forward to subverting the arrival trope as a Dalit woman doing ethnography where upper castes were my research subjects. I wanted to do this through participant observation in the computing industry that is highly dominated by upper castes. (read more...)

Enigmas of Corporeal Justice: Surrogacy and Legality in India

Over the last two decades, India has become a popular global destination for what is commonly referred to as reproductive tourism, wherein clients travel from one part of the world to another to seek biomedical interventions to help them have children. Breakthroughs in assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF), have led to a boom in surrogate pregnancies as a means of having children, with international clients (mostly from the Global North) flocking to countries in the Global South, like India, to avail of these services. Like much of the medical tourism industry, this movement is motivated by access to state-of-the-art medical facilities, skilled professional care, along with remarkably low costs and the availability of poor bodies to extract from. (read more...)

Regulating Misinformation from the Global South

India is among the top three internet markets internationally with nearly seven hundred million users. What can debates in India about protecting user privacy under right-wing authoritarian political regimes highlight about social media platforms and the spread of misinformation? In February 2021, the Indian Information Technology, Law and Justice Minister announced wide-ranging regulations over social media firms, streaming services, and digital news outlets that require firms to enable traceability of end-to-end encrypted messages, acknowledge takedown requests of unlawful, misleading, and violent content within twenty-four hours, and deliver a complete redressal within fifteen days. Less sensitive cases, such as those engaging explicit sexual content, are required to be removed within twenty-four hours, and companies are required to establish local offices staffed with senior officials to deal with law enforcement and user grievances. These new regulations pose new challenges for technology giants which count India, Asia’s third-largest economy, as a key overseas market. These gains increasingly struggle with Prime Minister Modi’s government as his promise of muscular economic progress increasingly reveals itself to be ambivalent economic nativism. (read more...)

Like, Share, Comment, and Follow: Labor and Capital on Instagram

Social media content creator Ishita Mangal (@ishitamangal) uploaded a post with multiple slides on her Instagram page. The first slide is entitled “an apology letter to my audience.” In the rest of the slides, she highlights a “barter collaboration” gone sour. The collaboration entailed the digital creator featuring four Indian kaftans (a type of clothing) brands on her Instagram page in exchange for keeping the outfits that she would feature. One of the brands was singled out, with their Instagram handle mentioned in the caption for viewers of the post to easily access. The brand was accused of harassing the digital creator; walking back on the terms of the agreement; asking for the garment in question back after “absorbing maximum benefits of all the posts on various platforms.” The digital creator proceeds to tell the tale of harassment and “extortion” she experienced at the hands of the luxury brand owner. (read more...)

Days of Their Lives: The Limits, Possibilities, and Parallels of Media-Ted Research during a Pandemic

On a regular day, a Hindi soap opera production set in Mumbai is home to upwards of 100 artists and technicians – production associates, actors, make-up artists, costume artists, lighting technicians, assistant directors, creatives, and spot boys.  Their collective efforts ensure that audiences have new episodes to look forward to daily. Come rain, hail, or shine, through collaborations and conflicts, together they build melodramatic worlds that entertain millions of households in India. But what happens when the meaning of “regular” is redefined? What happens when even two become a crowd? When the first wave of COVID-19 hit Mumbai in March 2020, it brought, among other things, the Hindi soap opera industry to a halt. Daily production activities of soap operas across channels were abruptly paused. Sets had to be abandoned in haste when a citywide lockdown was announced. The absence of film work meant that workers would go without payments (read more...)

Indian Food Delivery Networks During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the past decade, the concept of the gig economy has gained momentum in academic discourse. Often linked to temporary employment created by multinational technological corporations through digital platforms, the gig economy has transformed conventional discourses of labor and economy. It brought to the fore the increased precarity in employment, transformed modes of mobilization, fueled workers’ unionizing efforts, and produced new vocabularies (Vallas and Schor 2020; Khreiche 2018). In India’s dynamic economic landscape, these changes are particularly visible. One can argue that the use of digital technologies has reached a new peak in the ongoing global pandemic–as we have observed the changes in techno-bio-political regimes associated with COVID-19-tracking and increased reliance on mobile applications (Battin 2020; Segata 2020). In this light, focusing on India in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic becomes especially useful considering the narratives of hegemony and precarity often associated with gig labor within this geographical context, (read more...)

Platypus Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month

In celebration and recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, take a look back at some of our favorite past posts from and about the region. (read more...)

Driver-Citizens and Technical Safety in India: Traffic Violations and Penalties in the Motor Vehicle Act 2019

One of the first things that gets discussed with reference to India is road traffic. Erstwhile known as a land of snake charmers, this classically orientalist image of the country has been displaced by a more technocratic obsession with road traffic and accidents. While debates amongst the educated elite around the “appropriate” use of roads have been ongoing since the early colonial period, it is only more recently that road safety has begun to garner palpable urgency in its visibility as a social problem that needs to be solved by the Indian state. As such, with the United Nations declaring 2010-2020 as the ‘Decade for Action on Road Safety’, international pressure on the Global South to adopt road safety has only intensified. (read more...)