A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows

Mathangi Krishnamurthy

Department of Anthropology

1-800 Worlds: Embodiment and Experience in the Indian Call Center Economy

Krishnamurthy’s research is concerned with the anthropology of work and globalization, and situates itself within the controversial and dynamic practices of the Indian call center industry. The call center, or Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, as it is popularly known, gained currency in urban India in the early years of the twenty-first century. Taking advantage of a large cache of English-speaking urban populations, multinational corporations began outsourcing customer service work to young, Indian middle-class men and women, who worked through the night, and cultivated foreign accents, and familiarity with the Western milieu as part of a transnational corporate regime. As a result, these American- and British-accent spouting denizens of a “global” India came to be invoked in multiple discourses either as the harbingers of triumphant, neoliberal, globalization or as the symptoms of a morally corrupt and anomic modernity. Krishnamurthy’s book project, titled “1-800 Worlds: Embodiment and Experience in the Indian Call Center Economy,” explores how these young workers” desires, formations of selfhood, and imagination of the world were altered in relation to processes of nightly work. It argues that the “local” and “global” are imaginaries that are reified at the cost of a complex reality and instead, shows through ethnographic research, how they are constructed in collusion and collision with one another.

Mathangi Krishnamurthy moves from The University of Texas at Austin where she completed her doctoral work on the nightly lives of transnational customer service workers in Pune, India. For this research, she spent two years in and around call centers in Pune, looking at questions of nocturnality, accent training and service culture. Her dissertation explores questions of affective labor and flexible capital as situated within the politics of the South Asian postcolonial nation-state. She has published articles and reviews for the Anthropology of Work Review and her essay on accent and language training in the call center is forthcoming in an edited volume on the changing modalities of English language usage in India. Krishnamurthy holds degrees from Pune University (B.Com), Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (PGDC), and The University of Texas at Austin (M.A., Ph.D), and has received grants from the National Science Foundation, the American Association of University Women, the South Asia Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, and an Endowed Fellowship from the University of Texas at Austin. At UW-Madison, she offers courses in globalization, ethnography, virtuality, and urban studies through the Department of Anthropology.


Fall 2010: Globalization and Work in Modern South Asia

Spring 2011: How We Became Global: Narratives and Theories

Fall 2011: Hypermodern Cities