Radhakrishnan, Smitha. Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011. xi + 239 pages. Paper, $22.95.
Appropriately Indian is a richly detailed ethnography of India's transnational class. From the starting point of her dissertation research in 2004, sociologist Smitha Radhakrishnan began to ask whether and how Indianness was being remade, given India's hailed role in the new global economy on the one hand, and the glaring contradictions this creates between traditions and modernity, caste/gender relations and equality, Hinduism and secularism, and the state and its citizens on the other hand. Radhakrishnan is not the first to remind us that India's transnational class is neither a large (2 million in a country of 1.2 billion) nor a random group (mostly urban and upper caste) (p. 8). But within this group, she insightfully identifies information technology workers (who cross national borders to achieve their status, in contrast to call center workers) as the subgroup of global workers that can best clarify the path of Indians to global elite status, and their objectives once they achieve this.
Radhakrishnan is an insider of this community and is clearly attuned to the markers of difference that Indian global workers imagine for and between themselves. She makes a sensitive and critical call on which group of Indians to consider, namely, not only Indians in India and Silicon Valley but also those in South Africa. Indeed, the timing of South Africa's post-apartheid state and the rise of India as a dominant economic player provides South African Indians with the highly desirable yet unexpected opportunity to be considered as part of India's transnational class. The personal narratives the author creates out of her interviews with them are particularly illuminating in unpacking current constructions of Indian identity at a time when this group can claim global elite status as they find themselves more alienated by the state of South Africa. Radhakrishnan's careful selection of the subgroups to interview is the most important contribution of the research presented in this book.
The focus of the book is largely on the interplay of...