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Future Tense: Affective Capitalism and Potentiality in a Transnational Service Industry

Akhil Gupta and Purnima Mankekar

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM (Pacific Time)
Hybrid – Online and Bunche Hall 10383


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ABOUT THE PRESENTATION

We draw on diachronic research with workers in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, commonly referred to as “agents,” who live in Bengaluru, and perform affective labor for customers in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. What is it like to be an agent in the sprawling BPO industry? What does it feel like to perform affective labor for customers one has never seen and is unlikely to ever meet, including troubleshooting for them, attending to their needs, answering their questions, and putting up with their frustration? How does working in the BPO industry open up different pathways for navigating the globalized world and for imagining one’s future in such a world? And what do these imaginings of the future suggest about relationships between futurity, capital, and technology that shape the contemporary moment? The typical story of informational capitalism is that it has colonized various domains of social life for subjects, in particular for laboring subjects: in this narrative, futurity is inextricably entangled with the work of capital. But what happens when we flip the script of this metanarrative of capital and attend to the role of embodied labor, intimacy, and translational failures in capitalism? What might this do to our understanding of the future of futurity? We are interested in how affect and affective labor generate and, simultaneously, problematize, the very possibility of futurity. 

 

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Akhil Gupta is Professor of Anthropology at UCLA.
https://anthro.ucla.edu/person/akhil-gupta/
Akhil Gupta is Former President of the American Anthropological Association (2019-21); and former Director of the Center for India and South Asia (CISA) (2011-21). His new project on the future of AI taps into his background which includes advanced engineering degrees from MIT and Stanford. As a sociocultural anthropologist, Gupta's research projects have led him from studying agriculture to state development agencies to multinational corporations. Gupta is interested in the themes of contemporary capitalism, development, postcoloniality, globalization, and the state. His book, Red Tape (2012), was awarded the Coomaraswamy Prize by the Association for Asian Studies.  Recent books include The Promise of Infrastructure (2018) and The Anthropology of Corruption (2018). His latest research is to be found in a book manuscript on BPOs entitled Future Tense (with Purnima Mankekar), which will be published by Duke University Press. 
 
Purnima Mankekar is Professor in the Departments of Anthropology; Asian-American Studies; Film, Television, and Digital Media; and Gender Studies at UCLA.
https://anthro.ucla.edu/person/purnima-mankekar/
Trained as a cultural anthropologist, Purnima Mankekar has conducted interdisciplinary research on television, film, and digital media. Her latest book, on affective labor and the production of futurities in the Business Process Outsourcing industry in Bengaluru, India, is titled Future Tense: Affective Labor and Disjunctive Temporalities (co-authored with Akhil Gupta). Her new research is on the sociopolitical implications of Artificial Intelligence in India and on human-centered AI. Her teaching interests include digital and “virtual” anthropology and Asian American and South Asian Studies. She is the author of several books and has been awarded several distinguished fellowships.

 


 

WEBINAR CODE WILL BE PROVIDED UPON REGISTRATION

 

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In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, UCLA will honor requests for reasonable accommodations made by individuals with disabilities.
Requests can be fulfilled more effectively if notice is provided at least 10 days before the event.
Direct accommodation requests to mohammadi@ucla.edu.

 

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For any questions, please email us at CISA

 

 



Download file: Gupta-Mankekar-yc-fw3.pdf

Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia

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