Racist Tropes and Labor Discipline: How Tech Inherits and Reproduces Global Imaginaries of Race and Work

Date

May 26, 2021

Speaker

Dr. Sareeta Amrute

Affiliation

Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington and Director of Research at the Data & Society Research Institute

Overview

How do histories of race and labor make their way into the tech industry? What is the relationship between these histories and the way new ideas and profits are generated in the tech industry more broadly? This talk will approach the question of the relationship between labor and tech through a history of the racialization of Indian IT workers and the temporary workforce they often represent. I will trace antecedents to the current regime of temporary circulating labor in the tech industry by means of plantation economies in the 19th century colonial period and the way that period crystalized a particular relationship between Asianness and labor. Using evidence from dialogues within tech companies, I show how the tropes associated with racializing Asianness continue to circulate, even as Asian tech workers are racialized more broadly as model, automaton-like, engineers. In the latter part of the talk, I will turn to caste discrimination in the global tech industry as a cognate phenomenon to this racialization, which operates within and alongside Asianess.

Learning Materials

Learn more about Race and Technology: A Research Lecture Series >

Speakers

Dr. Sareeta Amrute

Sareeta is a cultural anthropologist exploring data, race, caste, and capitalism in global South Asia, Europe, and the United States. Her book, Encoding Race Encoding Class, was the winner of the Diana Forsythe Prize in Anthropology and the International Convention of Asia Scholars Book Prize. She is at work on a new project, supported by a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation, on the material and perceptual infrastructures that undergird protest movements, tentatively titled Sensing Dissent. Sareeta received her PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago and is currently Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington and Director of Research at the Data & Society Research Institute.