Accepted paper:

"Back to Serve" or "Back to Consume"? The uncertainties of return among highly skilled Indian professionals in Bangalore.

Author:

Helene Ilkjaer (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic fieldwork among highly skilled Indian return migrants in Bangalore, this paper discusses how consumption practices can be ways of managing the experienced uncertainties of return and addressing expectations of giving back to the Indian nation.

Paper long abstract:

Based on ethnographic fieldwork among highly skilled Indian return migrants in Bangalore, I will discuss the relations between consumption practices, experienced uncertainties of return and expectations of giving back to the Indian nation. I argue that the highly skilled Indians who have returned after several years abroad can manage the uncertainties of return to India through consumption practices that cushion them from the surrounding Indian society, such as settling in California-style gated communities and joining associations of expats meeting in Bangalore's upscale restaurants and hotels. At the same time, however, many of the highly skilled return migrants also identify with the idea of returning to serve India. They talk about giving back and as an addition or alternative to the traditional involvement in charities they conceptualise their employment and training of hired help, such as maids, chauffeurs and gardeners, as an indirect way of giving back to India. For the returnees, consumption thus goes beyond material things to include people and feelings (of safety, of fulfilment) and becomes a way of addressing the expectations of being back to serve.

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Work and consumption: insurmountable links in uncertain times (EN) (FR)