Rajarhat: New Work Spaces

Calcutta Research Group January 18, 2011


The transnational work spaces that have emerged in India as the product of transnational flow of capital, goods and services have remained confined to Information Technology and its related services. The emergence of these workspaces has led to a new category in the English speaking workforce - the knowledge professionals. They are the new workforce- the torchbearers of service oriented jobs in the back offices of various multinational corporations.

The studies documenting the lives of these knowledge professionals have primarily focused on the shifting relationships between capital and labour. Peripheral countries like India have always been a source of cheap labour and the history of exploitation goes back to shipment of plantation labour to various parts of the world; they still continue to be the site of such labour – in the case of India, cheap “cyber-coolies” in the age of globalization. What is interesting in the second phase is that workers are not shipped off but rather the “work” itself has been “outsourced” from the advanced capitalist countries to cheaper locations. These locations are characterized by catchments of English speaking, educated knowledge professionals who now work in a transnational virtual space challenging the time-zone difference.


A new work culture and work space has evolved over time, new work spaces have been created to train these workforces, acclimatize them to the “workspace” that is not here and then, but is constantly shifting with demands from those at the “centre”. These service jobs are numerous and have become synonymous with the fruits of globalization. It is significant to see how the “production of goods and services” is no longer limited to the “shop-floor”, “factory” sites and how the division between the “domestic” and public has become reversible through various new working arrangements. In other words, not only has there  been a role reversal but also the mutually constitutive forces and means of production have broken the limits of the “production” sites that could be managed through external limits – the law. These new workspaces have become sites of production and consumption where the workspaces become not only production centres, but also leisure zones – facilitating circulations of economy.


Some of these issues and concerns will be traced in the course of the study. Currently we are in the process of documenting the accounts of labouring lives in IT/ITes services to see and look into the shifting relation between capital and labour and how it has produced new spaces. The review essay plans to explore some of these issues that have emerged in the recent times with case studies from Eastern India to show  the complex nature of networking labour.


The fact that these new workspaces have additionally become sites of consumption (including dwelling) where workspace now combines with leisure zones resulting in an integrated new kind of space, implies that a pure world of a particular kind of work does not emerge as a result of the destruction of old economies, patterns of occupation, and lives. New houses, recreation centres, cash distribution centres, hotels – all of those that start co-habiting the work places must now also have dirt labour, the dirt labour that has been produced in the process of the creation of new work spaces through processes associated with the phenomenon of primitive accumulation.


We therefore require new studies of the work place as a space designed to produce and to consume. Such space also becomes the mark of destroyed life as well as always- unrealized possibilities and dreams of wealth. The current attempt by CRG to study Rajarhat and the accompanying review of earlier studies of special economic zones takes place in this context.