Virtual Migration

The Programming of Globalization

Virtual Migration

Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: 2 b&w photos, 4 tables, 4 figures Published: April 2006

Author: A. Aneesh

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Geography, Globalization and Neoliberalism

Workers in India program software applications, transcribe medical dictation online, chase credit card debtors, and sell mobile phones, diet pills, and mortgages for companies based in other countries around the world. While their skills and labor migrate abroad, these workers remain Indian citizens, living and working in India. A. Aneesh calls this phenomenon “virtual migration,” and in this groundbreaking study he examines the emerging “transnational virtual space” where labor and vast quantities of code and data cross national boundaries, but the workers themselves do not. Through an analysis of the work of computer programmers in India working for the American software industry, Aneesh argues that the programming code connecting globally dispersed workers through data servers and computer screens is the key organizing structure behind the growing phenomenon of virtual migration. This “rule of code,” he contends, is a crucial and underexplored aspect of globalization.

Aneesh draws on the sociology of science, social theory, and research on migration to illuminate the practical and theoretical ramifications of virtual migration. He combines these insights with his extensive ethnographic research in offices in three locations in India—in Delhi, Gurgaon, and Noida—and one in New Jersey. Aneesh contrasts virtual migration with “body shopping,” the more familiar practice of physically bringing programmers from other countries to work on site, in this case, bringing them from India to New Jersey. A significant contribution to the social theory of globalization, Virtual Migration maps the expanding transnational space where globalization is enacted via computer programming code.


“[A] valuable contribution.” — Norman Matloff, Journal of International Migration and Integration

“[R]esearchers will find a rich vein of ideas in Aneesh’s book that can be taken into the field and tested and developed as we seek to come to terms with the social, economic, political and geographical characteristics of this latest iteration of the processes of economic globalization. There are not many books in the contemporary globalization canon that challenge us to think in entirely new ways about unfolding dynamics. This book certainly does that.” — Neil Coe, Progress in Human Geography

“[The book] is well-constructed and backed by arguments that appear to be very plausible and convincing. Another virtue of this excellent study is its artful integration of various strands of social theory and empirical analysis. It offers valuable insights not only to students of science and technology, but also to scholars working on globalization, migration, the future of work, and arguably even on development. . . . For these and other reasons, the book can be recommended without hesitation or qualification.” — Volker H. Schmidt, International Sociology

“Aneesh’s arguments are well-organized and effectively communicate the often jargon-ridden world of complex technologies for those who have yet to go virtual themselves. . . . Virtual Migration itself opens up a very real (as opposed to virtual) space for discussing new forms of migration, governance, and globalization in which geographic perspectives and voices still have much to contribute.” — Angela Gray, Cultural Geographies

“Aneesh’s highly innovative study offers a revealing account of a critical yet poorly understood phenomenon that shapes global capitalism today. . . . This cogently argued and clearly written book is a must read for students and scholars interested in recent transformations in global capitalism, the role of technology, labor regime, and immigration.” — Li Zhang, Journal of Anthropological Research

“Written in a clear lucid style, this book is both insightful and enjoyable. . . . [U]ltimately, this book helps us to be aware of the role that code plays in all aspects of our life.” — Rina Ghose, Urban Geography

Virtual Migration is an exciting, innovative, and brilliant examination of how software flows replace people flows. It joins the urgent effort now under way in the social sciences to map a new field of inquiry.” — Saskia Sassen, coeditor of Digital Formations: IT and New Architectures in the Global Realm

Virtual Migration is a phenomenal book on a very important topic. A. Aneesh not only describes, explains, and interprets the phenomena of ‘body shopping’ and virtual migration in the global software industry, with especial emphasis on India and the United States; he also provides a series of suggestions to improve policymaking in these rapidly changing areas of the global economy.” — Mauro F. Guillén, Dr. Felix Zandman Professor in International Management, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

“This is a brilliant and innovative intervention in the study of globalization that demonstrates how much the specific forms taken by global institutional arrangements and processes depend on the structure and design of computer code. Virtual Migration will be invaluable not only to students in science and technology studies but to scholars in all fields interested in the troubled politics of the global movement of capital, technology, and people.” — Akhil Gupta, author of Postcolonial Developments: Agriculture in the Making of Modern India


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

A. Aneesh is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Global Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Table of Contents Back to Top
1. Of Code and Capital 1

2. Programming Globalization: Visions and Revisions 14

3. Body Shopping 37

4. Virtual Migration 67

5. Actions Scripts: Rule of the Code 100

6. Code as Money 133

7. Migrations: Nations, Capital, and the State 153

Appendix A: A Note on Method 165

Appendix B: Tables 171

Notes 175

Bibliography 179

Index 191
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3669-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3681-5
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