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Caller Hate: The Orchestrated Production of Western Nationalism


Kiran Mirchandani

Customer anger has been recognised as one of the most stressful dimensions of jobs in Indias transnational call centres. While angry customers exacerbate worker stress and intensify the need for training, they also serve a productive purpose in the everyday creation and perpetuation of western nationalism. The western state and public discourses on offshoring sanction customer aggression on calls; these calls provide opportunities for customers to exercise citizenship rights over jobs which are assumed to have been stolen, and in so doing, continually define and then protect assets (jobs) which belong to the nation. In essence, customers in the west enact patriotism through their anger.

Kiran Mirchandani (kiran.mirchandani@utoronto.ca) is at the Adult Education and Community Development Program, OISE/University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
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n a radio programme in Philadelphia some years ago, the host made a mock service call to India and referred to the customer service worker who answered as a dirty rat eater. While this caused outrage amongst listeners, it was also acknowledged that workers in India are, in fact, routinely subject to such abuse (Thanawala 2007). The widespread prevalence of irate customers during voice-based service interactions has been identied as amongst the most stressful dimensions of business process outsourcing (BPO) workers jobs. A survey of call centre workers in India revealed that 77% experienced high stress, and 45% of these attributed this stress primarily to customer abuse (Dhillon 2008). Constructed as an organisational problem, the unending stream of angry customers is widely acknowledged to lead to health problems and high turnover amongst call centre workers (Sengupta and Gupta 2013). Two sets of arguments are made in the organisational studies literature to explain the prevalence of angry customers during telephone-based interactions. The rst relates to the disconnect between customer desires for personalised attention and the lower-cost scripted customer service which most organisations provide. The second focuses on the importance of training where workers can learn voice, accent and soft skills to diffuse and appease irritated callers. In this article, I argue that the construction of angry customers as an organisational problem sidesteps the social, economic and historical context within which the transnational service economy is situated. I ask what are the productive consequences of customer anger and how is this anger legitimised? I argue that customer service interactions provide a forum for the re-inscription of boundaries through expressions of relations of power between individuals located in different national contexts. I explore the backlash to offshoring and the effect of this backlash on the work experiences of customer service agents in India, drawing on interviews conducted between 2002 and 2010 with 100 workers in Indian call centres. I argue that transnational customer service interactions have become a forum for the exercise of an orchestrated everyday nationalism for customers in the west. Western nationalism takes two forms in relation to Indian customer service work. First, it involves the creation of the boundaries within which nation states exist. Rather than a focus on a physical territory, this takes the form of the assignment of citizenship to jobs, whereby national ownership is attributed to and claimed to inherently reside in certain jobs. Customer service jobs, typically feminised, poorly paid and devalued in the west, are deemed possessions of American, British
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or Australian citizens. In this manner, jobs are personied and bestowed a citizenship. A second form of nationalism involves the construction of Indians as thieves who threaten the jobs which belong to the nation and its citizens (Ahmed 2004). Researchers, writers, journalists and worker advocacy groups have collectively amassed a wealth of knowledge on the violent, aggressive and racist nature of many customer-service interactions between Indian agents and customers in US, UK and Australia. Western customers being served by Indian sales and service agents frequently use words and tones which would constitute harassment in face-to-face settings. It is common for customers to make derogatory comments about India and Indians during calls. Workers routinely hear phrases such as you f****** cow (Dhillon 2008), you Indians suck (Lakshmi 2005), terrorist (Poster 2007: 287), F*** off you jobstealing Paki (Foster 2005), and you bloody Indians, m***** f*****s, youre taking our jobs (Nath 2008: 718). One worker, interviewed as part of this project (Mirchandani 2012) reports:
They dont take the people in India as human beings mostly. They dont treat them as human beings. They say that the Indians are like down market or something like that. They have that idea in their mind.

Another agent says, The moment they know you are from India, they directly say, I should not be telling this to you F****** Indian . As comments such as these reveal, customer assessments of customer service are often inextricably tied to attributions made to peoples and nations. In this sense, such expressions of customer anger are also articulations of customer sentiments about nations both their own and that of the service provider. Fox and Miller-Idriss argue that the nation is not simply the product of macro-structural forces; it is simultaneously the practical accomplishment of ordinary people engaged in routine activities (2008: 536). Such everyday nationalism is an act of production (2008: 550). The orchestrated nature of this production is the focus of this article.
Nation in Production

2009). Such a focus on banal nationalism suggests that rather than a thing, a nation is in fact a contingent process (Skey 2011: 12). Based on interviews with members of the ethnic majority in Britain, Skey documents the ways in which everyday talk about lives, work and news stories are guided by a national frame of reference which is taken for granted. He argues that it is through peoples daily engagement with, and mutual recognition of, these everyday symbols, institutional arrangements, familiar places and social practices that having a national communitymakes sense (2011: 152, italics removed). As Fox and Miller-Idriss (2008: 549) note, the near complete assimilation of nationhood into the realm of the ordinary testies to its prosaic power. The focus on people giving meaning to notions of the nation through their everyday interactions allows for the consideration of the context in which the routine expression of customer anger against transnational customer service interactions is based. Customers in the US, UK and Australia evaluate public discourse and political speeches on offshoring. They evaluate debates on the value or threat of offshoring for their nation, and depending on the outcome of their deliberations, they enact the nation through their conversations with agents in India.
Methods

While understandings of nationalism have traditionally been limited to social movements focused on the creation or protection of national borders, theorists note that nations are in fact created and produced on an everyday basis. Fox and Miller-Idriss (2008: 539) provide examples in daily life such as sporting events or physical catastrophes which provide the forum for people to talk with the nation and exercise nationhood. Similarly, through their evaluation of elite discourses, such as speeches made by politicians, individuals talk about the nation which serves to foster national solidarities. These contexts provide the opportunity for people to express commonality with others in the nation. Such nationalism has been referred to as banal and includes mundane practices which continually serve as reminders of the nation. Examples include ags displayed unnoticed in public buildings or sports pages in daily newspapers which encourage readers to support a national cause (Billig 1995). Political speeches and media debates on issues of national interest give rise to everyday language and practices of nationalism amongst the general public (Skey 2009; Billig
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This article is based on interviews conducted between 2002 and 2010 with 100 transnational customer service workers located in three cities in India (Mirchandani 2012 for a complete discussion of the ndings from this study). Seventy-eight respondents were frontline customer-service representatives (43 male and 35 female) and the remainder were trainers, managers and team leaders. Call centre workers interviewed were employed with transnational organisations and provided voice-based customer service support in a broad range of sectors. Most workers received calls from customers who had dialled toll-free numbers in the west, and a few made sales calls to prospective customers in the west. Some calls were short, and involved providing support on credit card payments, catalogue sales, lost baggage, etc, while others involved longer conversations with customers to resolve technical difculties, set up mortgages, or process insurance claims. During condential interviews which were held at a non-organisational site, workers were asked to describe their work histories, experiences of training and on the job interactions with co-workers, customers and managers, and career aspirations. The aim of interviews was to explore how people recounted their work histories and made sense of the decisions that they made as they navigated their personal and professional lives (Maynes et al 2008). A large proportion of workers interviewed raised the issue of irate customers. This article traces workers experiences with angry customers in the context of public and state discourses on offshoring, occurring mostly in the US, but also in the UK and Australia.
Organisational Narratives on Customer Aggression

Customer anger in Indias BPO sector has been widely recognised as a serious organisation problem. There have been two
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approaches to this problem. First, some theorists note that customer dissatisfaction may be more intense in cross-border interactions but in fact pervades the call centre sector as a whole. Cost reduction pressures prompt organisations to rationalise processes and streamline work to reduce costs and increase efciency. At the same time, many companies market their products on the basis of the excellent customer service. Marek Korczynski and Ursula Ott (2004) summarise that management reconciles the dual logics of customer orientation and organisational efciency by promoting the myth of customer sovereignty. While the customers think they are the most important actors in service interactions, the production process in fact structures the exchange. The service workers job is to guide the customer through the constraints posed by the way in which the production process is set up. In call centres, for example, workers are often required to follow predened protocols that limit possible customer responses. Workers often use menus to provide customers with choices from preestablished lists and are strongly encouraged to speed-up interactions so that they can take the maximum number of calls per shift. When customers realise the limits of these structures, dissatisfaction leads to angry customers. Such an approach suggests that more efcient work processes (such as shorter wait times, more efcient menus, more agents on duty at peak times, better technology) would ameliorate customer anger. The problem of automated, routinised processes within call centres is exacerbated by employees with poor skills. Customers become angrier when they have difculty understanding agents or being understood by them, and by agents poor customer-handling techniques. Accordingly, researchers note that training on voice and accent, as well as in emotional labour, can reduce customer anger (Kumar and Prakash 2008). One trainer, interviewed for this project, summarises:
[T]here used to be people who were very weak and they used to have a lot of regional accent. As long as you satisfy your customer with whatever queries they have, they do not have a problem wherever in the world they are calling, but if the customer is not able to follow the question, or if the person is not able to satisfy their questions or queries then they used to get really mad at us.

The Economy of Customer Aggression Despite the widespread acknowledgement of the negative effects of customer anger on workers, however, surprisingly little has changed in the intensity and frequency of this problem in the decade that has passed since the large-scale offshoring of customer service work to India in the early 2000s. In an article entitled, I Just Called to Say I Hate You, Srivastava (2005) documents the growing rate of customer abuse, quoting a young woman working in a Mumbai call centre who says: Earlier, people would get abusive if we didnt answer their questions satisfactorily. Now, I get calls on some days up to ve a shift from people who are calling only to abuse. Despite the attention that has been paid to the issue of customer aggression, by and large, the problem of irate callers has only become more widespread. As noted by a health minister in India, Teenagers straight out of school and collegeare collapsing in front of their computers because of insulting British callers (Dhillon 2008). Ahmed argues that feelings, such as the hate which gives rise to customer anger, should not be conceptualised as a sentiment which just resides in individuals. Rather, it forms an economy in the sense that it is productive and circulates by sticking gures of hate together, transforming them into a common threat (2004: 15). Probing the economy of irate customers raises questions such as how does customer anger create particular subject positions? How is it sanctioned? What purpose does it serve? By exploring these questions, I argue that the western state and public discourses on offshoring sanction customer aggression on calls; these calls provide opportunities for customers to exercise citizenship rights over jobs which are assumed to have been stolen, and in so doing, continually dene and then protect assets (jobs) which belong to the nation. Customers enact patriotism through their anger. Customer anger on calls to India is sanctioned through a combination of state and public discourses on offshoring. There is a circulation between the ideas expressed in these state and public discourses and the ways in which the American public consumes these ideas and in turn talks about them. Debating Offshoring: Sanctioning Customer Abuse

Organisational responses to the problem of angry customers have, accordingly, focused on training agents, both in voice and accent, as well as asking workers to engage in the emotional labour of being empathetic to customers on the telephone. There is evidence that other minor adjustments to the labour process have also been made which allow agents to disconnect calls after repeated slurs, or maintain a database to prevent calls from particularly persistently abusive customers. Some companies also provide access to sports facilities, massages or therapists to help workers cope with the negative psychological impact of being victims of constant customer abuse (Dhillon 2008). While these attempts have not always been successful in appeasing angry customers, or reducing the negative impact of this abuse on workers, these strategies continue to be widely promoted to deal with the negative consequences of the prevalence of abusive customers.
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Although abusive customers were common in the early 2000s and provoked complex organisational strategies of hiding the location of callers (Poster 2007), the prevalence of anger on calls intensied after the 2004 American presidential election race. In the weeks leading up to the election, candidate John Kerry made the following promise,
When I am President, and with your help, were going to repeal every benet, every loophole, every reward that entices any...company or CEO to take the money and the jobs overseas and stick the American people with the bill (National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP 2007, April, p 1).

Kerrys position added fuel to a debate which was clearly already occurring in many circles. In high proles forums such as Lou Dobbs Exporting America series, business leaders were targeted with public shaming for allegedly exporting American jobs to overseas locations. These efforts served to dene
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certain people within the nation as traitors. Offshoring businesses, some of which were state-aligned organisations, were constructed as traitors it was found, for example, that the customer service activities for a New Jersey food stamp programme, which was operated by a private contractor, had been shifted to India. In light of this case a community leader is reported as saying, it is unconscionable to send state-funded jobs overseas in the face of the staggering number of unemployed New Yorkers (Madore 2004: 1). Similar trends were occurring in Australia where customers responded with outrage to the publicity about Indian workers dealing with Coles Myers credit inquiries. In the UK, in 2003, the Communications Workers Union launched a high prole campaign focusing on British Telecoms (BT) decision to outsource work to India. By adopting a nationalist protectionist frame (Downey and Fenton 2007: 663) the union held BT responsible for exporting British jobs. For the past decade, this discourse on offshoring has continued unabated. In response to the economic crisis of 2009, Obama is quoted as saying:
Its time to nally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the United States of America[About the current tax system] Its a tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, USA (Anthony 2010: 1).

the volume of bills led, surprisingly, however, almost all these bills have failed in the past decade because they violate free trade agreements in place. In 2004, for example, when over 200 bills were tabled in state legislatures in the US, only ve became law. Another 190 bills were introduced in 2005 and 2006, out of which only seven became law. The bills passed promote better disclosure or data collection on offshoring and none have had a signicant impact on the broader trend towards offshoring (NFAP 2007). As Emilcar (2012: 220) notes, despite the continued introduction of antioffshoring proposals in state legislatures, these bills are unlikely to become law because they violate pre-existing agreements which the US has signed such as the Agreement on Government Procurement and NAFTA. Signicantly, these bills are debated actively in the legislature and the media and provide a forum for public ofcials to express nationalist sentiments on the need to protect the jobs assumed to belong to their electorate.
The Business Debate

In his 2012 State of the Union address, Obama again made an impassioned speech about the dangers of offshoring, saying, Its time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. Later that year, the debate on offshoring once again took centre stage during the presidential election campaign. Part of Obamas campaign strategy was to cast Romney as a pro-offshoring politician. Obama produced a map entitled Mitt Romneys Record: Outsourcing American Jobs (http:// www.barackobama.com/outsourcing-map/) which listed job losses and offshoring contracts supported by Romney in various states. These strategies are indicative of the traitor talk which attempts to deface individuals and organisations which fail to protect American jobs under threat. At the centre of these speeches and public discussions is the very notion of an American or British job. These are the primary citizens which are deemed in need of protection in these discussions. In direct contrast to the free trade language of mobility and international exchange, jobs are claimed as citizens of particular western nations. These citizens are conceptualised as being under threat, and patriotic duty demands their preservation. The threat is posed by thieves who are seen to be those outside the nation attempting to take what is rightfully not theirs. Jobs as citizens are protected in the US through the introduction of hundreds of bills in state legislatures since the early 2000s. Most recently, in December 2011 President Obama announced the tabling of the US Call Centre Worker and Consumer Protection Act which aims to force companies to disclose the location of their customer service centres and pay taxes accordingly. This bill forms one of hundreds tabled to curb offshoring in the past decade. Despite
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These issues, often presented as a pro- or anti-offshoring debate provide the opportunity for a focused, active discussion on whether western national interests are served or undermined by offshoring an issue on which politicians as well as the general public (who are the customers who interact with Indian agents) have a variety of opinions. The framing of the debate is often one where business interests supporting offshoring are pitted against the interests of workers and the nation (Nadeem 2011). The pro-offshoring camp, often represented by business leaders, stresses the long-term benet of lower consumer costs and better organisational efciency made possible. Compelling arguments are made about company decisions to offshore it is noted for example, that had Hewlett Packard not outsourced 30,000 jobs it would have been unable to survive its competitive business environment, jeopardising 1,00,000 jobs (Bhagwati 2011). In this way, pro-trade business leaders argue that offshoring is necessary to secure US corporate success in the era of globalisation. In making this argument, however, like those who oppose offshoring, they aim primarily to protect their nation. McKenna (2011), in a study of business leaders perceptions of India and China notes that senior executives in the west construct these countries as having volatile, bureaucratic and less developed economies in comparison to the disciplined, fair and progressive economy of the US. Indians and Chinese are seen as less equal and less free workers, who want standards of living enjoyed by citizens of western nations, and have little choice but to work hard to achieve this. McKenna notes that business leaders perpetuate a neocolonial discourse where the west is seen as advanced and India or China as backward. In a rather paternalistic fashion, offshoring is said to allow for global economic development with the more advanced countries helping economies which are seen to be at earlier stages of development. Other researchers whose work contributes to the prooffshoring side of the debate highlight the need for the creation of better jobs locally. They note that there is no clear evidence of the relationship between job loss and offshoring.
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Batt et al (2009: 46), for example, nd based on their survey of 2,477 call centres in 17 countries that
call centre employment as a percentage of the workforce appears to be stable or growing in advanced economies...While evidence suggests that call centre employment is growing more rapidly in countries such as India and the Philippines, there is little evidence that employment is shifting from advanced to emerging markets.

The UK government has similarly noted that offshoring had generated a net benet for Britain by maximising prots and lowering consumer costs (Downey and Fenton 2007: 664). The 2007 US Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that only 2% of the recent layoffs within companies of more than 50 employees cited offshoring as a factor (NFAP 2007: 9). In contrast, the anti-offshoring camp focuses on human interest stories proling individuals who were experiencing job loss. A New York Times Fathers Day editorial, for example, characterised offshoring as a form of intimate, familial robbery (quoted in Palm 2006: 2). As Palm (2006) notes,
The most resonant human interest stories followed workers who had lost their manufacturing jobs during one or another recession, then managed to nance their own reskilling, and now are losing the very white-collar jobs that they had fashioned themselves to qualify for. The plight of these versatile and resilient workers are a central concern for anyone sympathetic to labor in the US (p 2).

Indeed, despite evidence from several studies, as Mordecai (2005: 95) reports, most Americans view offshoring and outsourcing as a major cause of unemployment in the United States; polls have indicated that as many as sixty-nine per cent of Americans believe that offshoring damages the economy of the United States. They act on this view by exercising their consumer choices such as preferring domestic products and judge services provided by foreigners as inferior (Bhardwaj 2007). In contrast to the ndings of researchers who cite the weak relationship between offshoring and layoffs, researchers such as Hira and Hira (2005) provide evidence which traces the offshore expansion of individual companies and links this expansion to corresponding downsizing in the west. This link is also perpetuated through media stories which very frequently report on offshoring in the context of layoffs or joblessness in the US (Mordecai 2005: 102; Nadeem 2011: 15). Notions of patriotism are also often evoked in the antioffshoring side of the debate. Lane provides an example of a hi-tech job-seeker in Dallas who compares computer programming with baseball and apple pie, that is, a quintessentially American occupation. Offshoring, in this context, is unpatriotic, with the potential long-term ill effect of encouraging future generations of Americans from entering this profession. Lanes study reveals that most unemployed tech workers in fact support the offshoring of lower-end computer programming. However, this too is based on the assumption of the superiority of their nation as they see the offshoring of lower level work as allowing Americans to perform high-end work only (Lane 2004). The anti-offshoring side of the debate is also actively promoted by politicians through speeches and bills introduced in state legislatures as discussed earlier in this section. On a
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day-to-day basis, however politicians simultaneously reconcile the contradictions in their anti-offshoring stance with the fact that US state policy also supports an explicitly opposite strategy of trade. During a presidential visit to India in 2010, for example, Obama dealt with objections from the Indian prime minister to his anti-offshoring rhetoric. Obama is quoted as telling business leaders in India that there still exists a caricature of India as a land of call centres and back-ofces that cost American jobs. But these old stereotypes, these old concerns, ignore todays realities (Alexander 2010). Not surprisingly, therefore, despite Obamas vociferous objection to offshoring during his 2012 election campaign, Indian business leaders welcomed his re-election. Gottipatti (2012) reports that most outsourcing industry leaders in India said they believed that much of Mr Obamas criticism of outsourcing was campaign rhetoric, and that it would not actually affect his policy decisions. These policy decisions have by and large been pro-business. While on one level, anti-offshoring sentiments are simply state propaganda to appease concerns about local unemployment, they are not benign. They legitimise a way of being and talking which is exercised daily during transnational customer service interactions. Billig (2009: 349) notes that the media often does not transmit a single, coherent message about the nation: there are continual controversies, debates and dilemmas. The construction of the issue of offshoring as debate suggests the neutral, balanced and useful working out of a complex issue which has pros and cons. Mordecai (2005: 85-86) summarises, a tremendous divide has opened up in the US between those who support offshoring and those who are staunchly opposed. Yet, while these debates rage in the west, Indian customer service agents are at the forefront of customer expressions of their position. Based on their ethnocentric bias, work experience, engagement with media, consumption of propaganda and participation in political processes, customers form their views on offshoring. They may participate in the debates on offshoring by contributing to blogs, writing responses to articles and talking to friends. Most importantly, however, customers respond by enacting their objections or support of offshoring during customer service interactions.
Anger at the Thieves: Expressing the Nation

Discussions of offshoring in the media and amongst politicians in the west suggest that the virtues of offshoring for the nation are debatable and part of a dialogue to be had in the spirit of the free exchange of ideas. Overall, the issue of offshoring is said to concern jobs which belong to the west but are being shifted to countries with lower labour costs. While bounded by a common interest in securing the economic sovereignty of the west, there are varying perspectives in the public discourse on offshoring on the best way to achieve this goal. Some argue that the west would benet from leaving routine, labourintensive service work to poorer nations, while others say that offshoring includes the loss of high quality jobs. Offshoring is constructed as an issue involving jobs, quality of life and service quality issues of deep concern to all citizens. In the
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absence of any ongoing, organised forum to air their views within the west customers voice their views on these issues on the telephone during customer service interactions. Accordingly, workers interviewed for this project note that not all customers are negative about offshoring. They explain:
There are some clients who are very good and they like the way [we] speak. They say, what US people couldnt do you guys are doing [so] even if [we] call at night [you] are there for [us]. Yes, their response is good but at times there are some people who dont like jobs being outsourced of India because they lose out the opportunity. You could nd all types of people there. Sometimes we come across people who are so good. They are like, oh India, okay. Its a nice place and all. They try to actually make us feel good. Some people are really good. And yes, we do come across people who abuse us a lot.

the piece: he is carrying suitcases and heading for India; kicking over boxes bearing the words UK jobs, UK economy, UK customers, UK revenues. In one poster...Pinky is seen answering a call while sitting in front of an Eastern cityscape from a tearful white woman who has lost her call centre job and wants to speak on the telephone to the job centre (pp 659-60).

The rhetoric of fear in relation to India and Indians is rampant. In a speech introducing a bill on offshoring in the Oregon legislature, Senator Ron Wyden notes, an off-shoring tsunami is bearing down on workers in the information technology and services sector (www.govtrack.us). Meredith (2005) similarly argues,
Over the next decade, offshoring will knock millions of white-collar Americans and Europeans out of work, blowing a hole in the middle class from Los Angeles to London, from Boston to Berlin, from Toledo to Tokyo, from Austin to Amsterdam...call it the revenge of the colonies, but any developing country with lots of English speakers and good Internet links is now a prime jobs magnet (pp 1, 5).

While experiences of pleasant customers were reported, almost all workers interviewed said that their work involves dealing with abusive and aggressive customers on a daily basis. Workers draw a direct parallel between political and public discourses on offshoring occurring in the west and their experience on calls, as one man explains, What happened is it was publicised and Bush didn't want outsourcing going on, so they all knew that jobs are being outsourced and their accounts are being dealt with in India, so they knew about. Another worker notes, Are you Indian? Theyll give me as many bad languages they have: Dont talk to me. What you did on September 11th, World Trade Centre...There was a bomb blast in UK...That day, not a single UK guy was talking with us. You did a bomb blast. Don't talk with us. Get lost. As one worker summarises, the minute you say India, I mean they use all kind of words that you cant even imagine. Manseld and Mutz analysis of Americans attitudes towards offshoring reveals that perspectives are shaped more by preexisting political or ethnic biases than by job experiences. Democrats, union members or those who are anti-trade tend to react negatively to offshoring compared to those who are pro-business or Republican. Maneld and Mutz (2011: 1) conclude that
attitudes are shaped less by the economic consequences of this phenomenon than by a sense of us versus them. In general, the term offshoring triggers a sensitivity to nationalistic sentiments that encourages extremely negative views of outsourcing. Accordingly, one worker reports, because they ruled us they think were inferior. [They] dump the phone when they nd out that they [are] calling India.

Poster (2007: 297) draws parallels between these efforts in fearmongering and the Bush rhetoric on the war on terror. She notes,
The rhetoric of empire is apparent in Indian call centres not through an explicit language of racial superiority but through the mediating language of terror and the denigration of South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Muslim identities. Globalized service work is providing a new forum for everyday citizens to articulate this kind of nationalised rhetoric.

Customer Nationalists

Anti-offshoring debates enable customer expressions of patriotism. These expressions, however, can take on a decidedly racist character. In the context of power differentials between western customers and Indian service providers, customers have the power to express their objections to offshoring (and participate in the debate) through the exercise of racism. One worker, interviewed for a news report comments, when some callers are unhappy with the service, their frustration often turns racist... they would say, This is why you should not handle our work. Indians are not good enough (Lakshmi 2005: A22). Dealing with racism or cultural gap frustration is part of the job as one worker reports:
Since it's my job and I am in the service industry, I have to accept it. Andthey are like, yelling because of some kind of frustration. Whatever frustration it iswhether there is cultural gap frustration or bad temper, whatever frustration it is, my job is tocalm that person down.

Objections to offshoring in the west are, in this context, expressions of nationalism. Poster (2007) argues that turning outsourcing into a symbol of nationalism helps politicians obscure and evade larger issues like de-industrialisation, the withering state support for workers, sky-rocketing health costs, and declining real wages (p 283). Indeed, the link drawn between job loss and offshoring facilitates the notion that Indians are thieves. The discourses of stranger danger (Ahmed 2000) are vividly illustrated in the Communications Workers Union 2003 campaign called Pink Elephant Stop the Job Stampede to India, and described by Downey and Fenton (2007):
The visual centerpiece of the CWU campaign is an 18-foot inatable pink elephant, Perky, aided by a person dressed as a pink elephant, Pinky. Pinky appears variously on campaign material as the villain of

In line with politicians who depict offshoring companies as traitors to the nation, customers who do not support offshoring sometimes refuse to talk to agents in India, or express their anger on the telephone. One man says, If they come to know that you are [in] India, then they get wild, because they dont want people from India taking calls for them, they ask you to transfer the calls to the US. Another reports, They may ask you, I bought a [product] and I should get support from an American, why should I get support from an Indian?. Indians are required to maintain silence in the face of negative constructions of their nation. One young woman reports: Many of the customers when they call, and you say the welcome
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phrase, they just ask one single [question] am I calling India? If you say yes, they just ask I want to talk to someone in the US, I dont want to talk to Indians, and at that point of time, we have to tolerate and we cannot say anything because it is our job responsibility as well as it comes under our customer satisfaction parameters. A recent recruit summarises customers perspectives: UK customers and USA customers, they really did not want to speak to Indians. Obviously being an Indian... we had to put [up with it]... We have to give good service for the customer. Indians are required to suspend their own national pride as part of their jobs:
If the customers is irritated, he is abusing a lot, more than a limit, its something of course we cannot take as personal. To some extent we get really upset. If somebody is telling about you and your country, denitely you cant take those but you have to managewe have to manageif you don't manage you will lose your job. You have to manage. Consistently you have to perform.

Customers are well aware of their power both because of their location in the west and their role as service receivers; these hierarchies are enacted on a daily basis on calls. One worker reports, They would be like Indian people, cheap people. Working for less than what we earn in a day. Another reports that, sometimes they say, Ill sue you. Ill come to India and Ill complain against you. Ill complain to your supervisor. Ill complain to your operations manager. So sometimes, even if youre giving the right information, youre trying to apologise, youre trying your level best... the aggression wont come out. Indian call centre workers are also continually accused of personally stealing American jobs. One man discusses the negative response he received to a difcult and successful resolution of a computer problem
Americans are not really happy outsourcing the job to India. Because I still remember a call from a very old guy, and after doing all the things possible to satisfy his needs, he made one statement, You know V you did a great job, however, I hate you as I hate, because I hate all Indians. And my son is unemployed because of you, because the jobs are being outsourced to India.

Another worker shares her experience with a customer who called for no business-related reason: she used to work in a call centre. She just called up just to say that you people are just so scripted and I hate you people and I hate you Indians just because of that. Ahmed characterises hate as a passionate attachment closely tied to love as in love for nation (2004: 43). Hate as an affective economy sticks gures of hate together, transforming them into a common threat...the bodies of others are hence transformed into the hated through a discourse of pain. They are assumed to cause injury to the ordinary white subject (Ahmed 2004: 15, 43). Indeed, Indian customer service agents often report being shocked at the level of passion and aggression which customers express. Western customers anger serves not only to register their objections to offshoring but also as expressions of their passion and love for their own nation. Appadurai (2006) explores a similar dynamic in his study of the productive nature of violent conict. He notes that with the spread of globalisation, expansion of free trade,
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transnationalisation of work and universalisation of human rights, there has been a corresponding growth of ethnic cleansing and political violence. He argues that there is a link between violence and community building whereby those in power experience a surplus of rage against minorities, even those who may be small in number or hold little power. Global trends such as the physical migration of people, but also the virtual migration of work (Aneesh 2006: 44) gives rise to a deep anxiety about the national project and its own ambiguous relationship to globalization. And globalization, being a force without a face, cannot be the object of ethnocide. But minorities can. Accordingly, like minorities, customer service agents are the target of racial hatred, which serves both to build community in the west and clearly mark Indians as the collective stranger who are the ash point for a series of uncertainties that mediate between everyday life and its global backdrop (Appadurai 2006: 45, 44). Appadurais analysis explains how customers, who are most likely aware that it is not the workers on the line who have made the decisions which have led to the offshoring of work or the loss of their jobs, still hold workers responsible for these trends. He notes, part of the effort to slow down the whirl of the global and its seeming largeness of reach is by holding it still, and making it small, in the body of the violated minor (ibid: 47). Expression of anger against customer service agents is one of few publicly accessible forums for individuals in the west to express displeasure with corporate actions such as offshoring, or state inaction on the growing precariousness in the local economy. Workers are required to appease or accept racist comments as part of their work and are closely monitored and easily identied through telephone and computer technologies. In fact, their words are more closely and easily monitored than those of other workers in face-to-face service settings. In general, call centre workers are aware of the fact that they can be easily traced by customers, and that supervisors frequently listen to their calls. For customers calling in, there is little accountability because their responses remain largely anonymous and free from the normative requirements of public interactions as they are often calling from the privacy of their homes. They express the anger they feel when confronted by the prospect of their nation under attack, much in line with the passionate speeches on the issue in the public and private forums where offshoring is debated.
Conclusions

Offshoring debates often provoke anger amongst electorate who, in the absence of international anti-harassment legislation, vent their anger accordingly. This anger serves to protect their nation, and the jobs which are its citizens assumed to be under attack. Customer service workers in India provide the forum where this everyday expression of nation-building can occur. Workers hired to provide information sell products, and help with banking or technical support for computers nd that they are also targets of violent, abusive and explicitly racist attacks on a daily basis. While there has been a general recognition of the negative effects of customer anger on workers health and well-being,
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dealing with this anger has been constructed as part of service workers jobs. Dismissed as a normal part of their jobs, the productive nature of anger is masked. Organisations, politicians and public ofcials are absolved of their role in the generation and sanctioning of this anger. Despite the existence of anti-harassment legislation in many western countries, transnational service workers have little protection from aggressive or violent customers during telephone-based interactions. If debates on offshoring generate anger amongst the western public, which in turn leads to violent and racist expressions of national pride during customer service interactions,
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