The case study on foxconn and the more pernicious effects of outsourcing reminded me of another example I found while researching for my final project. Call centers in India are an instance of a service, not a good, being outsourced to developing countries with lower wages. Imagine an every day scene: an old, frustrated American grandma trying to figure out Microsoft Office who is thrown into contact with a young Indian man who speaks with a different accent and lives on the other side of the world. What could be a better example of globalization?
As one can expect, call centers severely tax the psychological health of the phone operators. They are young, between 19 and 21, and work long hours speaking with irritated customers. They get American holidays off but miss out on Indian holidays. However, I never would have guessed that such a job could induce schizophrenia (Kumaravadivelu, Cultural Globalization and Language Globalization, 31). Indian call center operators are trained to speak in a British or American accent in order to fulfill the expectations of the caller. Having to speak so long in a foreign accent and trying to please judgmental caller leads many to a harsh confrontation with their identity. They are forced to navigate the choppy waters between their actual identities and a contrived, “corporate global citizen persona”. For some, this forced duality of accents, tone of voice, and verbal mannerisms increases anxiety and the likelihood of schizophrenic behaviors.
It’s disturbing how global economic linkages can have such negative, and weird, side-effects. I know there’s comparative advantage and competitive labor markets and all that, but still…if we’re going to outsource our labor in order to benefit from cheaper goods and services, why can’t we do a simple thing like being respectful toward other people’s cultures and accents?