Accepted Paper:

Highly skilled labor migration from India to Europe: consuming leisure on-site  


Hannelore Roos

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses how the new middle class from India defines its boundaries through the sphere of leisure. Based on a case study of Indian ICT professionals in Brussels, it is questioned how traveling becomes a status marker for the professional middle class.

Paper long abstract:

Career-paths are no longer linear trajectories, nor neatly defined in time and space, but have become fluid in what Bauman (2000) describes as "the age of liquid modernity". In booming economic sectors of emerging economies such as the outsourcing service industry in India, ideal résumés reflect the traveling from project to project through which employees can build up "exposure" or the expertise of flexibility. What was once a scarce and highly desired assignment, namely to travel outside the country to the client on-site, has quasi become a routine practice. As a proof of taking full advantage of the opportunity assigned to a mobile meritocratic class of professionals and its distinguished identity, individual profiles on social networking sites depict series of travel photographs. These are not merely aesthetic representations of a corporeal mobile class of cosmopolitans who circumvent the uncertainties related to job-related relocation as a result of a volatile global economy, but exhibit also the visual experience of consumption of leisure abroad. The sharing and displaying of these photographic accounts of the consumption of touristic places play an important role in the construction of their identity as belonging to the new Indian middle class. Drawing upon ethnographic research conducted in Brussels and online, this paper considers how the professional identity of highly skilled migrants from India and the symbolic value of their displayed identity of leisure are entangled. These images reveal the uplifting of the professional identity through the consumption of leisure and questions boundaries between tourism, traveling and migration.

Panel W070
Work and consumption: insurmountable links in uncertain times (EN) (FR)