Appropriately Indian

Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class

Appropriately Indian

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 13 illustrations, 1 table Published: February 2011

Asian Studies > South Asia, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Sociology

Appropriately Indian is an ethnographic analysis of the class of information technology professionals at the symbolic helm of globalizing India. Comprising a small but prestigious segment of India’s labor force, these transnational knowledge workers dominate the country’s economic and cultural scene, as do their notions of what it means to be Indian. Drawing on the stories of Indian professionals in Mumbai, Bangalore, Silicon Valley, and South Africa, Smitha Radhakrishnan explains how these high-tech workers create a “global Indianness” by transforming the diversity of Indian cultural practices into a generic, mobile set of “Indian” norms. Female information technology professionals are particularly influential. By reconfiguring notions of respectable femininity and the “good” Indian family, they are reshaping ideas about what it means to be Indian.

Radhakrishnan explains how this transnational class creates an Indian culture that is self-consciously distinct from Western culture, yet compatible with Western cosmopolitan lifestyles. She describes the material and symbolic privileges that accrue to India’s high-tech workers, who often claim ordinary middle-class backgrounds, but are overwhelmingly urban and upper caste. They are also distinctly apolitical and individualistic. Members of this elite class practice a decontextualized version of Hinduism, and they absorb the ideas and values that circulate through both Indian and non-Indian multinational corporations. Ultimately, though, global Indianness is rooted and configured in the gendered sphere of home and family.


Appropriately Indian is a highly readable, richly detailed, and insightful contribution to the literature on transnationalism and contributes to the social sciences in moving the referent from the state to everyday strategies of identity.” — Unna Lassiter, International Social Science Review

“Smitha Radhakrishnan gives us a textured account of members of a new transnational class represented by India’s skilled knowledge professionals who have indeed played a leading role in the global IT industry. Her wide-ranging interviews reveal the ways in which they craft their identities by bridging Indian cultural practices with Western work practices and values.... I find this book to be timely, engaging, and a valuable insight into a group that belongs to a growing class of transnational professionals.” — Indermohan Virk, Contemporary Sociology

“This book is a strong rebuttal to the popular argument that neoliberal economic policies have opened the doors of opportunity for all. Instead
it offers important insights into how local cultures and internal hierarchies shape the nature of cultural and economic globalization.... [T]his
is an exceptionally well written and theoretically rich book that will be a great addition to graduate and upper-level undergraduate courses on
transnationalism, globalization, culture, development, sociological theories, or South Asian studies.” — Jaita Talukdar, American Journal of Sociology

Appropriately Indian is an innovative sociological study of Indian IT professionals, mainly women, and the cultural and social changes in post-liberalization India that are revealed by their narratives about their work and personal experiences…. the monograph is a must-read for scholars of contemporary south Asia, globalization, and the sociology of work, class, and gender.”  — Carol Upadhya, International Review of Social History

Appropriately Indian is a wonderful book, which provides crucial background about India’s rising image in the world and at home. Smitha Radhakrishnan covers notions of caste, class, and prestige, as well as the transnational character of the privileged knowledge workers she discusses. At the same time, does not portray these professionals only in terms of privilege. Her intimate descriptions of people’s lives are full of dilemmas and heartaches. The passages on traditional marriage expectations and modern individualistic drives are particularly illuminating.” — A. Aneesh, author of Virtual Migration: The Programming of Globalization

“With her soberly critical ethnographic eye, Smitha Radhakrishnan proves a delightfully judicious guide to what happens when class and culture get transnationally stretched. Refusing both the hype that surrounds the world of India’s global IT class and a simple ideology critique, she gives us a vivid portrait of everyday lives lived at a leading edge of globalization.” — William T. S. Mazzarella, University of Chicago


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Smitha Radhakrishnan is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: On Background 1

1. Privilege: Situating India's Transnational Class 25

2. Global/Indian: Cultural Politics in the IT Workplace 53

3. Merit: Ideologies of Achievement in the Knowledge Economy 87

4. Individuals: Narratives of Embedded Slaves 115

5. Family: Gendered "Balance" and the Everyday Production of the Nation 145

6. Religion: When the Private is Transnational 173

Conclusion: Apolitical Politics 199

Notes 207

Bibliography 215

Index 227
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4870-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4843-6
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