High Tech and High Heels in the Global Economy

Women, Work, and Pink-Collar Identities in the Caribbean

High Tech and High Heels in the Global Economy

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 7 illustrations, 2 maps Published: March 2000

Author: Carla Freeman

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Caribbean Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

High Tech and High Heels in the Global Economy is an ethnography of globalization positioned at the intersection between political economy and cultural studies. Carla Freeman’s fieldwork in Barbados grounds the processes of transnational capitalism—production, consumption, and the crafting of modern identities—in the lives of Afro-Caribbean women working in a new high-tech industry called “informatics.” It places gender at the center of transnational analysis, and local Caribbean culture and history at the center of global studies.
Freeman examines the expansion of the global assembly line into the realm of computer-based work, and focuses specifically on the incorporation of young Barbadian women into these high-tech informatics jobs. As such, Caribbean women are seen as integral not simply to the workings of globalization but as helping to shape its very form. Through the enactment of “professionalism” in both appearances and labor practices, and by insisting that motherhood and work go hand in hand, they re-define the companies’ profile of “ideal” workers and create their own “pink-collar” identities. Through new modes of dress and imagemaking, the informatics workers seek to distinguish themselves from factory workers, and to achieve these new modes of consumption, they engage in a wide array of extra income earning activities. Freeman argues that for the new Barbadian pink-collar workers, the globalization of production cannot be viewed apart from the globalization of consumption. In doing so, she shows the connections between formal and informal economies, and challenges long-standing oppositions between first world consumers and third world producers, as well as white-collar and blue-collar labor.
Written in a style that allows the voices of the pink-collar workers to demonstrate the simultaneous burdens and pleasures of their work, High Tech and High Heels in the Global Economy will appeal to scholars and students in a wide range of disciplines, including anthropology, cultural studies, sociology, women’s studies, political economy, and Caribbean studies, as well as labor and postcolonial studies.


“[A] fascinating and insightful analysis of the experience of women on the global assembly line.” — Kiran Mirchandani , Atlantis

“[A]n important and innovative study. . . . By questioning how women perceive and symbolically produce status, High Tech and High Heels is . . . a welcome amelioration to the anthropology of the Caribbean, which has been concerned with the Man of Style but oblivious to women’s preoccupations with the same.” — Karen Richman , American Ethnologist

“[An] insightful ethnography . . . .” — Sarah England , Current Anthropology

“[D]ispel[s] old myths while making evident the modern-day reality of working women. . . . This anthropological study opens a new door to the study of gender and class in labor.” — Caribbean Historical and Genealogical Journal

“Freeman shows us a vital and even powerful group of women. . . .” — Lillian S. Robinson , Women's Review of Books

“Freeman’s book brings the long tradition of anthropological studies of Caribbean women and work into the contemporary period of globalization and offshore data processing. . . . Freeman has mastered the research literature on women, gender, work, and class in the Caribbean, and on women in globalization elsewhere. She has contributed a worthwhile addition for all academic libraries.” — R. Berleant-Schiller , Choice

"Freeman's book has important implications for analyses of the formation of class consciousness as well as gender consciousness." — Elizabeth Crespo , Anthropology and Humanism

"Freeman's investigation into the lives of Barbadian informatics workers is a welcome contribution to our understanding of how gender, class, and culture shape, and are shaped by, women's work both within and across the international division of labor." — Jennifer Sparrow , interventions

"Freeman's study advances our knowledge about a new and growing sector of women's work in informatics. . . . The book deserves a wide readership among scholars of the Caribbean region as well as those who study transnational economic processes, information technology, and gender and development issues in other regions." — Deborah S. Rubin , New West Indian Guide

High Tech and High Heels is a treasure trove. Freeman is among a handful of truly original thinkers in the field of social anthropology and she has produced in this book a major contribution to our understanding of the fluid relationship between gender, social class, and culture.” — Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, Princeton University

“Freeman helps us understand how new forms of labor power are being tapped in old places. This is a penetrating demonstration of the genuine relevance of anthropology to the modern world. It also shows us in what ways change and persistence are subtly interwoven, in a world that is not quite so new as others tell us.” — Sidney Mintz, Johns Hopkins University

“What Freeman’s innovative investigation of Barbadian women data-entry workers reveals is that cultural processes—globalization, identity(ies), constructions, consumerism—are informed in no small part by the ways in which paid labor is structured—and restructured. She alerts us to phenomena that should shake us out of our all-too-comfortable dichotomizing habits.” — Cynthia Enloe, Clark University


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Price: $28.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Carla Freeman is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at Emory University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of tables, maps, and figures ix

Acknowledgments xi

1. Introduction 1

2. Pink-Collar Bajans: Working Class through Gender and Culture on the Global Assembly Line 21

3. Localizing Informatics: Situating Women and Work in Barbados 66

4. Myths of Docile Girls and Matriarchs: Local Profiles of Global Workers 102

5. Inside Multitext and Data Air: Discipline and Agency in the "Open Office" 140

6. Fashioning Femininity and "Professional" Identities: Producing and Consuming Across Formal and Informal Sectors 213

7. Epilogue 253

Notes 263

Bibliography 293

Index 323
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2439-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2403-4
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