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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Self as Other: Worlds of Programmers

A. Aneesh.

In this ever-intensifying global – presumably post-national – economic order, I analyze the complex nationalist orientation of Indian programmers who are temporary or permanent immigrants to the United States. Combined with the economics of body shopping – a practice of bringing programmers from India to work onsite in the United States through temporary work visas, the lives of these programmers carry paradoxes and ironies of transnational living within a nationalist framework. Lacking a transnational or post-nationalist mode of apprehending reality, these programmers – as this study identifies – display a continuous nostalgia for the “other” nation: that is, they miss India while in the United States and long for American life when they go back to India.
I understand this immigrant condition as produced by a specific discursive practice, which I term “total closure,” whose logic and grammar helps constitute the world in terms of neatly divisible, bounded and closed substances, such as nations or races. In its institutionalized form, “total closure” expresses itself in terms of immigration restrictions, constituting these programmers as “aliens,” whereas in its non-institutionalized or cognitive form, it speaks through the nationalist self-identification of transnational workers, who, despite unsteady identities, recognize themselves as Indians alone. With this theoretical framework, the thesis of transnational immigrant condition should achieve, I hope, a generality that goes beyond the case of Indian programmers.


A. Aneesh  (United States)
Program in Science, Technology & Society
Stanford University

Author of articles on information technologies and migration, Aneesh's interests lie at the intersection of technology, nation-state and migration studies. His current book manuscript investigates how new technologies of globalization effect a break with previous notions of labor and migration.

  • Transnational
  • Labor
  • Globalization
  • Programming
  • India

(30 min Conference Paper, English)