Nav: Home

Study suggests the body is central to identity manipulation in call center work

November 14, 2017

New research highlights the politics of 'identity work' where Indian call centre workers manipulate their cultural identities to sell a global service.

The study, by sociologist and social worker Dr Sweta Rajan-Rankin of the University of Kent, examines the way workers in call centres are required to take on new identities but also make assumptions about the identity of the people they are calling.

Dr Rajan-Rankin suggests that there is a two-way process, with western clients making assumptions about call workers, and Indian call workers using visualisation techniques to 'imagine' the client, who is invisible to them during the voice call.

The study, entitled Invisible Bodies and Disembodied Voices? Identity Work, the Body and Embodiment in Transnational Service Work, is based on ethnographic research with two global outsourcing firms operating call centres in India from 2010-12.

Findings from the study suggest that, far from the accepted notion that this process is disembodied for all those involved, the body is central to global service work.

Call agents undergo elaborate training programmes where their bodies are targets of discipline; for instance by working on their own bodies (including posture, dress, voice modulation); by working on the bodies of others (through voice-based interactions) and by using embodied images of Americans to contextualise the service provided.

One of the Indian call centre agents, for instance, recounts that while her voice remains an embodied part of her work, the lack of visibility to the client makes the female call agent feel invisible. To counter this 'corporeal disappearance', she dresses and paints her nails in aesthetically pleasing ways to make her 'absent-present' body resurface in her own gaze.

The study found that the adoption of western pseudonyms provides another layer in identity work as there is an implicit assumption that the Indian identity would be problematic to western clients. Narratives around identity masking of call agents are rooted in attempts to stem racial abuse from western clients who may perceive them as 'job thieves'. However, this study reveals complex layers in which race, ethnicity and nation intersect within these encounters.

In one instance, an Indian call agent (pretending to be American) calls an American client (who is actually an Indian immigrant). The client challenges the Indian call agents' identity performance and becomes abusive. The call agent experiences customer abuse and alienation of his identity performance at several levels, as an Indian who is trying to be an American, but has failed to be American enough for an Indian living in America.
-end-
Invisible Bodies and Disembodied Voices? Identity Work, the Body and Embodiment in Transnational Service Work is published in the journal Gender, Work and Organisation. See: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gwao.12198/full

For more information or interview requests contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.

Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879

Email: M.J.Herrema@kent.ac.uk

News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news

University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

Note to editors


Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and 25th in the Complete University Guide 2018, and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, it is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities. Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

Kent has received two Queen's Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.

University of Kent

Related Invisible Articles:

Spotting the invisible
Chemists at Umeå University in Sweden have succeeded in mapping structures and functions of a transient enzyme state.
When gold turns invisible
A gold compound shifts from a visible fluorescence to emitting infrared when ground -- a big shift with potential applications in bioimaging and security inks.
Invisible symptoms impact rheumatoid arthritis patients' lives, hinder diagnosis
Rheumatoid Arthritis In America 2016, a national survey by Health Union of more than 3,100 individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), reveals that initial symptoms are often invisible to others, with respondents experiencing more than six on average.
Secret phenotypes: Disease devils in invisible details
The human eye often falls short in the hunt for faint genetic drivers that raise the risk of devastating neurological diseases such as autism and schizophrenia.
Flash of invisible light helps astronomers map the cosmic web
A brief but brilliant burst of radiation that travelled at least a billion light years through space to reach an Australian radio telescope last year has given scientists new insight into the fabric of the universe.
New UMN study: America's wars take uneven toll
In today's wars, Americans who die or are wounded in battle are disproportionately coming from poorer parts of the country, according to a new study released this week.
Seeing the invisible: Visible light superlens made from nanobeads
A paper in Science Advances provides proof of a new concept, using new solid 3-D superlenses to break through the scale of things previously visible through a microscope.
Human early visual cortex subconsciously resolves invisible conflicts
In the case of binocular rivalry, in which the conflict exists between the two eyes, the question becomes whether binocular rivalry requires conscious awareness of the conflicting information between the two eyes.
NUS Engineering team designs novel multi-field invisible sensor
A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore has invented a novel camouflage technique that effectively hides thermal and electronic sensors without compromising performance.
3-D model reveals how invisible waves move materials within aquatic ecosystems
Garbage, nutrients and tiny animals are pushed around, suspended in the world's oceans by waves invisible to the naked eye according to a new 3-D model developed by mathematicians at the University of Waterloo.

Related Invisible Reading:

Invisible
by James Patterson (Author), David Ellis (Author)

Everyone thinks Emmy Dockery is crazy. Obsessed with finding the link between hundreds of unsolved cases, Emmy has taken leave from her job as an FBI researcher. Now all she has are the newspaper clippings that wallpaper her bedroom, and her recurring nightmares of an all-consuming fire.

Not even Emmy's ex-boyfriend, field agent Harrison "Books" Bookman, will believe her that hundreds of kidnappings, rapes, and murders are all connected. That is, until Emmy finds a piece of evidence he can't afford to ignore. More murders are reported by the day--and they're all inexplicable. No... View Details


Invisible: How You Feel Is Not Who You Are
by Jennifer Rothschild (Author)

Author Jennifer Rothschild has a story for you. It's about an unlikely couple, an unusual courtship, a beautiful wedding, and an illicit affair. Despite this situation, the marriage did not fail. It flourished. Here is the story of Hosea's love for Gomer—a woman who might have disappeared into her transgressions if not for the love of her husband. It's a beautiful illustration of the story of God and Israel.

Believe it or not, it's your story too. God chose you and loves you.

If you wander off, He will find you.If you are afraid, He will reassure you.If you are broken, He will... View Details


Invisible Man
by Ralph Ellison (Author)

Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid... View Details


The Heart's Invisible Furies: A Novel
by John Boyne (Author)

From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, a sweeping, heartfelt saga about the course of one man's life, beginning and ending in post-war Ireland

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery -- or at least, that's what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn't a real Avery, then who is he?

Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in... View Details


An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny
by Laura Schroff (Author), Alex Tresniowski (Author), Valerie Salembier (Foreword)

This inspirational New York Times bestseller chronicles the lifelong friendship between a busy sales executive and a disadvantaged young boy, and how both of their lives were changed by what began as one small gesture of kindness. “A straightforward tale of kindness and paying it forward in 1980s New York….an uplifting reminder that small gestures matter” (Kirkus Reviews).

Stopping was never part of the plan...

She was a successful ad sales rep in Manhattan. He was a homeless, eleven-year-old panhandler on the street. He asked for spare change; she... View Details


The Invisible String
by Patrice Karst (Author), Geoff Stevenson (Illustrator)

For Adults too! A steady best-seller and The Invisible String is reaching all over the World!
OVER 250,000 copies sold!


"That's impossible", said twins Jeremy & Liza after their Mom told them they're all connected by this thing called an Invisible String. "What kind of string"? They asked with a puzzled look to which Mom replied, "An Invisible String made of love." That's where the story begins. A story that teaches of the tie that really binds. The Invisible String reaches from heart to heart. Does everybody have an Invisible... View Details


Invisible
by Barbara Copperthwaite (Author)

"Totally gripping and scarily believably characters. One of the most assured debuts of the year" BELLA "Dark, gripping, twisted - we loved it!" REAL PEOPLE MAGAZINE "This psychological thriller will stay with you for a long time after you've put it down" CRIME CONFIDENTIAL "Seriously impressed. Such a powerful psychological thriller... Monumental character development" MANY BOOKS, MANY LIVES "Totally and utterly convincing," POSTCARD REVIEWS "Quietly brilliant," BY THE LETTER BOOK REVIEWS "All-consuming. I lived and breathed this book. An absolutely gripping read, and quite unforgettable,"... View Details


Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine
by Michele Lent Hirsch (Author)

What happens when you’re expected to be healthy, building relationships, and starting your career but are faced with a life-altering medical condition?

When we meet a young woman with a serious illness, we tend to label her an outlier. But while we might think of young female patients as anomalies, they are, statistically, the primary demographic for many major illnesses. And they are also one of the most overlooked populations in our health-care system—a system that not only ignores young women to begin with, but women of color and trans women even more... View Details


Invisible Cities
by Italo Calvino (Author)

“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” — from Invisible Cities

In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo — Mongol emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts his host with stories of the cities he has seen in his travels around the empire: cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and designs, cities and the dead,... View Details


The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House
by Jesse J. Holland (Author)

THE INVISIBLES: Slavery Inside The White House and How It Helped Shape America is the first book to tell the story of the executive mansion’s most unexpected residents, the African American slaves who lived with the U.S. presidents who owned them. Interest in African Americans and the White House are at an all-time high due to the historic presidency of Barack Obama, and the soon-to-be-opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American Culture and History.

The Invisibles chronicles the African American presence inside the White House from its beginnings in 1782 until 1862,... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Simple Solutions
Sometimes, the best solutions to complex problems are simple. But simple doesn't always mean easy. This hour, TED speakers describe the innovation and hard work that goes into achieving simplicity. Guests include designer Mileha Soneji, chef Sam Kass, sleep researcher Wendy Troxel, public health advocate Myriam Sidibe, and engineer Amos Winter.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#448 Pavlov (Rebroadcast)
This week, we're learning about the life and work of a groundbreaking physiologist whose work on learning and instinct is familiar worldwide, and almost universally misunderstood. We'll spend the hour with Daniel Todes, Ph.D, Professor of History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, discussing his book "Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science."