Encoding Race, Encoding Class

Indian IT Workers in Berlin

Encoding Race, Encoding Class

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 9 illustrations Published: August 2016

Author: Sareeta Amrute

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > South Asia, Sociology

In Encoding Race, Encoding Class Sareeta Amrute explores the work and private lives of highly skilled Indian IT coders in Berlin to reveal the oft-obscured realities of the embodied, raced, and classed nature of cognitive labor. In addition to conducting fieldwork and interviews in IT offices as well as analyzing political cartoons, advertisements, and reports on white-collar work, Amrute spent time with a core of twenty programmers before, during, and after their shifts. She shows how they occupy a contradictory position, as they are racialized in Germany as temporary and migrant grunt workers, yet their middle-class aspirations reflect efforts to build a new, global, and economically dominant India. The ways they accept and resist the premises and conditions of their work offer new potentials for alternative visions of living and working in neoliberal economies. Demonstrating how these coders' cognitive labor realigns and reimagines race and class, Amrute conceptualizes personhood and migration within global capitalism in new ways.


"In addition to the valuable text, users of the publication are also to benefit from the acknowledgments as well as the lucid introduction; copious notes; the detailed bibliography; and the valuable subject index." — Damien Ejigiri, African and Asian Studies

“What stands out in her well-crafted and thoroughly researched ethnography is how various notions of Indianness ... permeate the transnational/Germany workplace and how it is interpreted, negotiated, and occasionally also appropriated. Drawing on a vast array of representations of Indian IT professionals in German media and elsewhere, Amrute’s analysis ... provides insight on a changing world.” — Michiel Baas, Economic and Political Weekly

"A riveting ethnography of the personal and professional lives of short-term Indian IT workers in Berlin, Germany. . . . This book has a wide potential audience, and is essential reading for scholars interested in transnational migration and labour, neoliberal knowledge economies, as well as contemporary South Asia and its diasporas." — Anar Parikh, Social Anthropology

"The expressiveness of Amrute’s prose allows what are admittedly complex ideas to become engaging and accessible. This, combined with the strength of her description and the evident timeliness of her subject matter, make Encoding Race, Encoding Class a remarkably flexible text for teaching. It is an ethnography that will work as well in an undergraduate class as a graduate seminar, since it has the clarity and rigor for both." — Alisha Wilkinson & Meg Stalcup, Savage Minds

"A fascinating study that is both informative and narratively compelling. Situated in the era of digital globalization, this complex ethnographic project makes a major contribution to European anthropology and pushes forward the insights of critical race theory, international migration studies, and the sociocultural dimensions of science and technology." — Uli Linke, Anthropos

"Encoding Race, Encoding Class is recommended reading for all those interested in the sociology of work and in the relationship between work and leisure. It also provides a good example of readable, yet theoretically ambitious and convincing ethnographic research. Even more crucially, the book marks an important attempt to bring together the categories of race and social class in a study that can also be situated in the field of migration studies, and analyse them in a way that takes into consideration both the European and the Indian context." — Marja Peltola, Sosiologia

"A brilliant ethnography of Indian IT workers in Germany. . . . Perhaps Amrute’s most important contribution is her extension of the work of the Italian Autonomist Marxists." — Carol Upadhya, Contributions to Indian Sociology

"Extremely timely. . . . The book’s theoretical grounding is convincing and compels the reader to grapple with the contradictions in the Indian IT worker’s world. . . . Amrute expertly weaves race into her analyses." — Chitra Akkoor, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Telling an unusual story about the global 'cognitariat' through the lenses of class and race, Sareeta Amrute takes us from close readings of the everyday life of the racially overdetermined Indian IT worker in Germany to a much broader historicization and conceptualization of how and why such bodies (and minds) end up in Germany in the first place. Encoding Race, Encoding Class will make an impact not just on Europeanist anthropology, but on studies of migration, globalization, critical race theory, and the social and cultural dimensions of science and technology. An outstanding and compelling book."
  — Andrea Muehlebach, author of The Moral Neoliberal: Welfare and Citizenship in Italy

"In this pathbreaking book Sareeta Amrute challenges some of the more pedestrian notions around race and technology, showing how race gets encoded in technology, not only at the level of devices and platforms, but at the level of structure, infrastructure, and systemic formulations of the bodies of technology and the technologized bodies of digital globalization. Bound to excite interest from a variety of disciplines, Encoding Race, Encoding Class will emerge as a critical milestone in the landscape of scholarship on the intersections of technology, body, race, and policy."
  — Nishant Shah, Cofounder of the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, India


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sareeta Amrute is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction: Cognitive Work, Cognitive Bodies  1

Part I. Encoding Race

1. Imagining the Indian IT Body  29

2. The Postracial Office  54

3. Proprietary Freedoms in an IT Office  86

Part II. Encoding Class

4. The Stroke of Midnight and the Spirit of Entrepreneurship: A History of the Computer in India  111

5. Computers Are Very Stupid Cooks: Reinventing Leisure as a Politics of Pleasure  137

6. The Traveling Diaper Bag: Gifts and Jokes as Materializing Immaterial Labor  164

A Speculative Conclusion: Secrets and Lives  185

Notes  203

Bibliography  231

Index  253
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2017 Diana Forsythe Prize, presented by the General Anthropology Division of the American Anthropological Association.

Winner of the 2019 International Convention of Asia Scholars Social Sciences Book Prize

Additional InformationBack to Top